Book and Manuscript Collections
The Special Collections
The Special Collections of Dublin City Public Libraries contains a wealth of rare and beautiful material spanning centuries of Dublin’s history. The collections encompass a wide range of material; from the first Dublin newspapers to hand-tinted maps, from 18th century manuscripts to early editions of the works of Jonathan Swift, from propaganda leaflets of the Civil War period to exquisite examples of the craft of Dublin bookbinders. Highlights include a unique Yeats collection and the complete library of the historian John T. Gilbert.
View a digitised copy of the first edition of The Picture of Dublin for 1811.
Diary of the Weather and Winds can be viewed online. This 18th century manuscript is the meticulous record by an early Dublin meteorologist, who documented the weather in the city on a daily basis during the period 1716-1734.
Images from the Special Collections can be viewed in our Treasures from the Collections Image Gallery.
The Gilbert Collection
John T. Gilbert's valuable library of mainly 17th and 18th century books and manuscripts relating to Dublin and Ireland was purchased by Dublin Corporation after his death in 1898. It forms the nucleus of the special collections of Dublin City Public Libraries.
Born in 1829, he was author of the influential three volume History of the city of Dublin, published from 1857-59. He was a firm advocate of documenting the history of his native city using primary sources. His work on manuscripts relating to the city alerted him to the need for the preservation of Irish public records, many of which were in a neglected and vulnerable condition. He commenced a campaign, which eventually led to the setting up of the Public Records Office in the Four Courts. He calendared the records of Dublin Corporation, which date from the twelfth century, and began the series of printed volumes The calendar of ancient records of the city of Dublin.
The printed catalogue of the books and manuscripts of the Gilbert collection compiled by Douglas Hyde, LL.D & D.J. O'Donoghue is available for consultation in the Reading Room.
Listen to or download the 15th Annual Gilbert Lecture: 'Sir John T. Gilbert (1829-1898): Life, Works and Context' by Brendan Twomey.
The Dix Collection
This collection was donated to the city by the Irish bibliographer E. R. McClintock Dix. It contains some 700 books and pamphlets, mainly 17th and 18th century Dublin and Irish imprints, along with a number of fine bindings.
Irish Writers, Artists and Publishers Collections
The Yeats collection contains books and other material relating to the poet William Butler Yeats, mainly first editions of his work, and to the Irish Literary Revival, together with a collection of items, including hand coloured broadsides, printed at the Dun Emer Press by the Yeats sisters.
The library also holds extensive collections of editions of the works of writers and artists such as Jonathan Swift, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Seamus Heaney, Brendan Behan, John Millington Synge, Jack B. Yeats and John Montague. Publishers such as Dolmen Press, Gallery Press and the Three Candles Press are collected in their own right.
[Right: John Millington Synge leaflet. Click on image to see larger version]
Children's Book Collection
The library has amassed a collection of children's books, both textbooks and books for pleasure. Irish authors include L.T. Meade, Rosa Mulholland, Padraig Colum and Oscar Wilde. Illustrators include Maud Gonne, Jack B. Yeats and Harry Clarke. Schoolbooks held range in date from the 18th century to the present day.
Irish Language Collection
The earliest Irish volume in the collection dates from 1616, while Irish typeface examples range from the 17th century to the end of the 20th century. Early devotional books in Irish were published on the continent and sent back to Ireland such as a Teagasg Croisdaidhe of Bonabhentura O Eodhasa, published in Rome in 1707. From the 1920s it has been a policy of the library to buy a copy of any book published in Irish. Some early examples from the Irish Language Collection.
View a slideshow of old and modern Irish language books held in the collections of Dublin City Library & Archive.
Irish Texts Society
The Irish Texts Society was founded in London in 1898. There are 64 volumes published in the main series by the Society. Texts include Cath Maige Tuired (the Second Battle of Mag Tuired), Geoffrey Keating’s Foras Feasa ar Éirinn (History of Ireland), the poems of Dáibhí Ó Bruadair and Aogán Ó Raithille, and Cinn Lae Amhlaoibh Uí Shúilleabháin (Humphrey O’Sullivan’s Diary). One of the Society’s most famous publications is Dinneen’s Irish-English dictionary. It first appeared in 1904, an enlarged edition came out in 1927, and it was reprinted as recently as 1996. The catalogue of the Society represents a remarkable achievement, particularly as it’s the work of a voluntary body.
Leslie Shepard Bram Stoker Collection
This valuable donation of books by and about Bram Stoker, gathered over a lifetime of interest by the late Leslie Shepard, is a treasure-trove for researchers and enthusiasts. The collection, generously donated by his daughter, Jill Shepard Glenstrup, includes books and tracts relating to the life, career and associations of Bram Stoker. Its various volumes will appeal as much to the person with general interest in the life of Stoker as to those with a more intensive enthusiasm for the background - literary, historical, geographical, and cultural - to Dracula.
More about the Bram Stoker Collection.