Trinity College Library, Dublin

by Unknown

1851

Trinity College Library, Dublin.—This library owed its establishment to a very curious incident. In the year 1603, the Spaniards were defeated by the English at the battle of Kinsale; determined to commemorate their victory by some permanent monument, the soldiers collected among themselves the sum of £1800, which they agreed to apply to the purchase of books for a public library, to be founded in the then infant institution of Trinity College. This sum was placed in the hands of the celebrated Dr. Usher, who immediately proceeded to London, and there purchased the books necessary for the purpose. It is a remarkable coincidence, that Usher, while occupied in purchasing these books, met in London Sir Thomas Bodley engaged in similar business, with a view to the establishment of his famous library at Oxford. From this commencement, the library of Trinity College was, at different periods, increased by many valuable donations, including that of Usher's own collection, consisting of 10,000 volumes, until at length its growing magnitude requiring a corresponding increase of accommodation, the present library-hall, a magnificent apartment of stately dimensions, was erected in the year 1732. Since that time numerous additions have been made to the library: amongst others, that of the library of the Pensionary Fagel, in 20,000 volumes, and the valuable classical and Italian books which had belonged to Mr. Quin; so that, altogether, the library of Trinity College now forms one of the first order, at least in this country.

The five libraries thus briefly described are the principal ones in the United Kingdom, and they are all entitled to receive a copy of every new work on its publication; so that they are continually on the increase, and enabled to keep pace with the activity of the press. Of the numerous other libraries in this country we have no space to give a detailed account, and must therefore content ourselves with merely indicating the names of the more extensive ones. In London are the libraries of the Royal Society and the Royal Institution; Sion College Library; Archbishop Tenison's Library; and Dr. Williams's Library, belonging to the Dissenters. The Lambeth Library of the Archbishop of Canterbury is exceedingly rich in ecclesiastical history and biblical literature. At Oxford and Cambridge, all the different colleges have libraries more or less extensive and valuable. Chetham's Library at Manchester is also worthy of mention. The library of the Writers to the Signet at Edinburgh is an excellent and valuable miscellaneous collection of books in science, law, history, geography, statistics, antiquities, literature, and the arts. Finally, the Scotch universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, St. Andrews, and Aberdeen, all possess academical libraries of considerable size, and which are steadily on the increase. Many of the above receive an annual grant of money from government, as a compensation for the withdrawal of the privilege of receiving copies of every book published in the kingdom. All such, at least, ought to be thrown open to the public, and doubtless soon will be.