Marsh’s Library is located in the heart of Dublin, beside St Patrick’s Cathedral. The library building was commissioned and funded by Archbishop Narcissus Marsh and internally very little has changed since it first opened to the public in 1707. The books are still shelved on the original oak bookshelves according to the first librarian’s classification system. The building is a protected structure which retains a number of significant architectural features. For the first century and a half of its existence, Marsh’s was the only public library in Dublin. Today, it is an independent charitable trust open for tourism to the general public, and for research purposes to third-level students and scholars from across the world.
The core holdings comprise the 20,000 books and manuscripts of four scholars: Edward Stillingfleet (d.1699), Narcissus Marsh (d.1713), Elias Bouhéreau (d.1719) and John Stearne (d.1745). The library’s collections are strongest for the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in science and travel literature, but are also of particular interest for those researching Huguenot history and culture. In 2009, the magnificent library of Benjamin, 3rd Earl of Iveagh was donated to Marsh’s Library by the Guinness family. This collection is very strong in eighteenth-century Irish history and literature and boasts some of the finest examples of eighteenth-century bindings in the world.
The library is research-active and current projects include: Capturing all ownership marks in every book and manuscript, with a focus on female owners and readers; Providing accurate catalogue records of our Hebrew and Yiddish books, along with all associated ownership marks (in collaboration with the ‘Footprints: Jewish Books Through Time and Space’ project), and; Mapping the changing cultural geography of our readers, 1826-1926 (in collaboration with University College Dublin; funded by the Irish Research Council). The full catalogue is available at www.marshlibrary.ie. The library is an enthusiastic user of social media platforms to highlight the breadth and depth of its collections.