I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

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Neglected Children

Anne Markey
The Old Library Trinity College Dublin: 1712-2012, edited by WE Vaughan, Four Courts Press, 480 pp, €50.00, ISBN: 978-1846823770 The foundation stone of one of eighteenth century Ireland’s finest surviving buildings, Thomas Burgh’s Old Library in Trinity College Dublin, was laid on May 12th, 1712 and the tercentenary of the event was marked by the publication of a handsome, lavishly illustrated and informative volume. In a range of essays, some fifty contributors, including library staff, scholars concerned with the provenance and contents of the collections, and members of the college, investigate aspects of the building and its assets, providing intriguing insights into the development of the Old Library over time. In the opening chapter a former Librarian, Peter Fox, traces its expansion, noting that from a collection of fewer than fifteen thousand books in 1732 the holdings have grown to number more than five million printed titles. The library’s designation as a legal deposit, following the Copyright Act of 1801, which placed an obligation on publishers and distributors to supply copies, on request, of all their books to Trinity, accounts for much of its development as a world class research centre. No less than its contents, the remarkable architectural features, particularly the glories of the Long Room, enhance the library’s reputation and add to its aura of scholarly endeavour, appreciated by researchers and tourists alike. The reports of travellers show that as early as the 1820s the library featured on the programme of many visitors to Dublin. The English agricultural writer Arthur Young made Trinity College his first port of call on arriving in Dublin in 1776 and declared the library to be “a very fine room, and well filled”. Even the notoriously critical English traveller Richard Twiss, who found little to admire about Ireland, thought the library “large and handsome”. During the Irish Industrial Exhibition of 1853, over eighteen thousand people visited the Long Room. For the remainder of the nineteenth century, annual visitor numbers ranged between two and four thousand and over the course of the twentieth century rose to the extent that in 1984 it was decided to charge for admission. In 2011, 524,000 people visited the Long Room, generating €3.6 million in entrance fees. The primary purpose of a library, however, is to promote scholarship rather than attract tourists. Fittingly, then, contributors to The Old Library, Trinity College Dublin, continually draw attention to the richness and variety…

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