Twenty years of Irish Script On Screen

The 2020 Rare Books Group Annual General Meeting took place on Monday 8 March. Following the meeting Anne Marie O’Brien, School of Celtic Studies, DIAS, gave a presentation on ‘Twenty Years of Irish Script On Screen.’ The presentation is now available to view below. We would like to thank Anne Marie for a wonderfully interesting talk on this important project.

Rare beyond words – Special Collections and Access in 2020

The LAI Rare Books Group Annual Seminar took place on Friday 20 November and focussed on the  challenges special collections librarians faced during and after lockdown. In true 2020 style the seminar took place online and the videos are available to watch below. A big thank you to all our speakers and all who joined us on the day, we hope to see you in person for the next seminar!

Session One
Chair: Margaret Irons

Down the rabbit hole: moving library (and country) in lockdown / Amy Boylan, Marsh’s Library

Carry on regardless / Sophie Evans, Royal Irish Academy

A researcher’s perspective on closed libraries during lockdown: challenges, changes and collaboration / Chantal Kobel, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies

Session Two
Chair – Elaine Harrington

National Library Re-opening – Lessons in contingency planning / Gráinne MacLochlainn, National Library of Ireland

Reopening a university library: politics, persuasion and persistence / John Cox, NUIG

Panel Discussion: What Covid-19 means for Special Collections.
Chair – Evelyn Flanagan

Online Exhibition: Mapping Cork: Trade, culture and politics in medieval and early modern Ireland.

Page with maps of four Irish cities (Dublin, Galway, Limerick and Cork) in Civitates Orbis Terrarum, Cologne, 1618, edited by Georg Braun, engravings by Abraham Hogenberg. Special Collections, UCC Library.


This week (beginning 18 May) The River-side will post a series of blog posts comprising a student-created online exhibition Mapping Cork: Trade, culture and politics in medieval and early modern Ireland. This online exhibition is curated and overseen by Dr Małgorzata Krasnodębska-D’Aughton, Senior Lecturer, UCC’s School of History and Elaine Harrington, Special Collections Librarian, UCC Library. Four MA in Medieval History students: Andrew Neville, Emmanuel Alden, Patrick McKee and David O’Mahony, created the exhibition as part of HI6091 Skills for Medieval Historians. Dr Diarmuid Scully, Lecturer in Medieval History in the School of History has written an introduction to Mapping Cork.

This online exhibition uses a map of Cork from the early seventeenth-century Civitates orbis terrarum housed by UCC’s Special Collections to explore the themes of urban and national identity with a particular focus on Cork city as a centre of trade, culture and politics.

The exhibition celebrates the ongoing collaboration between Special Collections and the MA in Medieval History programme; this collaboration has already brought about three other online exhibitions inspired by the Library’s rare books and facsimiles: The Luttrell PsalterThe Book of Kells and Viking Cork. We thank Dr Hiram Morgan and Dr Diarmuid Scully for their comments and advice on the text of the blog, and Peter Finnegan for his talk on the Blackstone Launchpad facilities available to postgraduate students.

Many thanks from all in the project for the generosity in providing images free of charge from the National Library of Ireland, Trinity College Dublin Library, Utrecht University and the Cork Historical & Archaeological Society. Our thanks also to the National Library of Ireland, Ghent University Library, the British Library, the Library of Congress and Cambridge University in providing fair use or Creative Commons images.

More importantly, the project has been completed during the COVID-19 crisis and its completion is a great testimony to the value of teamwork and collegiality, and the commitment of the MA students to produce high quality research during challenging times.

All posts may be accessed via Please share posts as #MappingCork.


Herbert Dobbie’s cyanotypes of New Zealand ferns

Alexandra Caccamo (Librarian, National Botanic Gardens) discusses a remarkable book of cyanotypes from the special collections of the National Botanic Gardens.

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New Zealand Ferns. 148 Varieties  by Herbert Dobbie

One of the first tasks I undertook when I started working in the National Botanic Gardens in 2007 was to review the open access collection.  During this audit, I found a number of items that were later moved to the special collections.  One of these items was a thin volume by Herbert Dobbie, entitled New Zealand Ferns. 148 Varieties (1880).  It caught my eye, as it was an unusual book, consisting entirely of cyanotypes.

I had never come across a cyanotype book before so, I was quite excited to find Dobbie’s book on the shelves. Immediately I removed it for safekeeping to the more secure storage of the special collections and started to do some research, finding two articles on Dobbie written by John D. McCraw.

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RBG Annual Seminar 2018: ‘Curating Special Collections Exhibitions’

The Rare Books Group is delighted to announce that registration is now open for this year’s Annual Seminar, Curating Special Collections Exhibitions.

With many libraries now involved in producing physical and online exhibitions, this seminar aims to discuss the steps involved, opportunities for collaboration and education, and care of the collections themselves. It will feature speakers from a range of institutions engaged in exhibition-making including Anne Hodge, Curator of Prints and Drawings, National Gallery of Ireland; Susie Bioletti, Keeper of Preservation and Conservation, TCD; Lucy Collins, Assistant Professor, School of English, Drama & Film, and Evelyn Flanagan, Head of Special Collections, UCD.

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Rare Books in the Sir Denis Mahon Library at the National Gallery of Ireland

Sir Denis Mahon (1910-2011) was one of the foremost art historians and collectors of his generation. Born in London of Anglo-Irish descent, he studied at Eton and Oxford before embarking on a life of collecting, writing and campaigning for the arts. In 2010 Sir Denis presented his entire personal library and archive to the National Gallery of Ireland, a collection which represents decades of research and scholarship.

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Reading Renaissance Marginalia in a Digital Environment: ‘The Archaeology of Reading’ Project

mariegcullenMarie Cullen, Assistant Librarian at Maynooth University Library, talks about a recent seminar organised by The Digital Repository of Ireland (DRI), the Digital Arts and Humanities (DAH) PhD programme, Marsh’s Library and the School of History at UCD which took place in the Royal Irish Academy on Wednesday, 7th September 2016. Dr Marc Caball (UCD School of History), Professor Earle Havens (Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore) and Dr Matthew Symonds (University College London) spoke at the event.

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