Libraries Big and Libraries Small [3]

Dublin is a City of Words, a UNESCO City of Literature and a city with some great libraries. On my visits in May I managed to get to two of these. I’m looking forward to future trips when I may visit other literary locations across the city.

Most highly recommended to me was The Chester Beatty Library right in the centre of the city and within the walls of the grounds of Dublin Castle itself.

Dublin Castle 1

Dublin Castle

“For over 800 years Dublin Castle has been at the heart of Irish history. From the founding of the first Celtic settlement in the 1st century A.D. to every Presidential inauguration since the foundation of the state, the site has stood witness to some of the most pivotal events in the country’s history.” So it’s interesting enough just walking through the Castle precincts.

about the cbl

Chester Beatty (1875-1968) was an American mining engineer. He had been an avid collector since childhood – stamps, Chinese snuff bottles, rocks and minerals. During the first decades of the 20th century Beatty moved to Europe and began to collect European and Persian manuscripts and decorated copies of the Qur’an. He took an interest in Japan, the Orient and Egypt. He actually bought a house near the Pyramids.

CB library

He later bought modern editions but had very conservative taste. He preferred books where the text and image formed pleasing compositions. Such as here a Gregynog Press issue of The Fables of Esope, 1931.



No photography allowed but I found the above pictures here

He loved books for their own sake as opposed to having a love for literature. He was attracted to decorated books/illustrations/iluminations and fine bindings. He didn’t like modern art and avant garde book designers, illustrators and binders are not represented in his collection. His mantra was “quality, quality, quality”. He was probably the last of the great book collectors after J. Pierpoint Morgan and Henry E. Huntington. Beatty also appreciated the 18th and 19th century print cabinets essential to the gentleman’s library.

In 1950 Chester Beatty decided to move to Ireland and he built a library for his art collection on Shrewsbury Road which opened in 1954. Upon his death, the collection was bequeathed to a trust for the benefit of the public and his priceless collection lives on as a celebration of the spirit and generosity of Chester Beatty.

I enjoyed studying the short videos demonstrating print techniques : woodcuts, engraving, etching, lithography and chromolithography. And a trust fund allows the Library to continue buying works today which complement the original collection. It was during my visit to The Chester Beatty Library that I realised that I’m really much more interested in printed books and printing methods than in the beautiful and exquisite manuscripts.

Charles Beatty summed up his life “It has all been a great adventure”.

Dublin Castle 2

The Castle Grounds and Grass Maze

Moving on from the Chester Beatty Library I headed back through the Castle precincts and after a quick lunch in the lovely Avoca store found my way to The National Library of Ireland. A friend, and fellow member of the Leeds Library, recommended to me after a recent visit “YEATS: the life and works of William Butler Yeats” [1865-1939]. It’s an almost permanent exhibition (ongoing since 2006) but it is particularly relevant this year as 2015 is the 150th anniversary of Yeats’s birth.


The National Library of Ireland’s collection of Yeats manuscripts is the largest collection of Yeats material in a single institution anywhere in the world. This collection is at the heart of the exhibition which you can visit for yourselves here.

I was particularly interested to discover more about the life of Ireland’s national poet. He came from a family of artists and creatives. He played a huge role in the establishment of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin which he founded along with Lady Augusta Gregory in 1904 with the main aim of promoting Irish writers and artists which is still incorporated in its charter today. He had a great interest in the occult and Celtic mysticism. Many of his poems are about places in Ireland, and elsewhere.

places 1 places 2 places 3

By coincidence during my trip in May HRH The Prince of Wales and his wife The Duchess of Cornwall also visited Ireland and planted a tree at the grave of William Butler Yeats at Drumcliffe, Co. Sligo.

RTE picture of Charles and Camilla









Libraries Big and Libraries Small [2]



There’s a regular two-page spread in the Independent Traveller section of Saturday’s Independent called “Travel Agenda : Where to Go, What to Know” that gives a few pithy lines about what’s going on in the world of travel.


Approaching dlrLexicon


The ‘back’ of dlrLexicon

A few months ago I spotted a brief mention of the dlrLexicon, the newly opened Dun Laoghaire public library. The library was said to greet drivers as they disembarked from the Holyhead ferry. In fact there is no longer a ferry terminal at Dun Laoghaire but I knew exactly the location of the Library as many times in the past I’ve arrived at Dun Laoghaire from North Wales.

in dlr

Light and airy for studying and browsing

DLR stands for Dun Laoghaire and Rathdown. On my visit we started the day with coffee and delicious cake in Brambles Cafe on the ground floor. Later in the day we explored the other floors, looking at the views and the stock.

beautiful libs

The Beautiful Librarians – dlrLexicon book stock

inside dlr

Popular with all ages

The massive building is shaped like a liner, which is rather apt since a partnership has been struck between dlrLexicon and Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company in order to promote the town as a leading cruise destination. Indeed, on the day of our visit an Irish cultural variety show – music, song and dance – was laid on in the garden area. Not for cruise passengers only; free access is also offered to the public.

cruise ship

Dun Laoghaire Marina, East Pier and Cruise Liner

The Bolton Library, Cashel

On my first visit to Cashel as I travelled from Co. Waterford up to Co. Kildare I stopped off in Cashel. As I was leaving The Rock of Cashel I noticed this poster :

BL poster

Well, how could I resist when a couple of days later I found myself heading back down to Co. Cork? What an amazing treasure trove! I could hardly believe this place existed. Upstairs is even fitted out as an exact replica in miniature of Trinity College Library in Dublin where the famous Book of Kells is now housed. Bolton Library Upper Floor [Picture source]

BL sign

I think they mean William Caxton!

I parked up in Cashel and headed for the Tourist Office where a very helpful young lady rang Martin, the curator, who said he would be happy to show me around the library so drove straight to the St John’s Cathedral and was met by the enthusiastic Martin.

The bolton lib

The Bijou Bolton Library

You can read more about the treasures Bolton Library Document but I was amazed to see the world’s tiniest book – The Lord’s Prayer in German; an early Caxton printing of Chaucer; the earliest use of the word Zero; the 1493 Nuremburg Chronicle and many more treasures besides.


The Upper Floor [source]




The Leeds Library Summer Day Out in Whitby

whitby view

The weather on this year’s annual Leeds Library Visit to Whitby could not have been more different from last year’s The Lake District trip. The sun shone all day and the sky was blue as blue. Perfect weather for a day at the seaside. But first stop on our journey was in Pickering where after tea and toast in the Poppies Tearoom we visited the parish church of St Peter and St Paul where medieval wall paintings have been extensively restored. Originally discovered in 1851 they were almost immediately covered over again. In the 1870s they were restored and, as the leaflet tells us :

Nikolaus Pevsner, in his series of books The Buildings of England (1966), wrote that the church has “one of the most complete series of wall paintings in English churches, and they give one a vivid idea of what ecclesiastical interiors were really like”.

Pickering church

Pickering Church

George and dragon

St George and The Dragon Wall Painting

east window

The East Window

Our day out was  primarily to visit the Whitby Literary & Philosophical Society Library and Museum housed in a purpose built art gallery in Pannett Park above the town and with views of the Abbey opposite and the sea beyond.


The Society had been founded in 1823 by a group of Whitby citizens led by The Reverend George Young, a minister of the Presbyterian church. It’s chief object was to set up and maintain a museum specialising in fossils since “Whitby is a chief town of a district abounding with petrifications and containing not a few Antiquities”.

in library

The Society’s Library Today

Initially opened in two rooms over a shop in Baxtergate it subsequently moved to several other locations in the town but finally, by the end of the 19th century the Society decided it needed more space and a new building which opened in 1931 and adjoins the Municipal Art Gallery : The Pannett Art Gallery.

pannett park and abbey

We had an introduction to the collection in a new wing added 10 years ago with funds from The Heritage Lottery Fund. The volunteer curators, Stephen and Fiona, spoke enthusiastically about the collection and the Whitby Merchant Seaman’s Muster Rolls which are an important part of it.

The Muster Rolls are a unique series of historical documents which are the surviving paperwork for the Whitby Merchant Seamen’s Hospital’s regulation of the “seaman’s sixpence”, an eighteenth century pension provision. This pension provided financial support to injured seamen and to the widows and children of seamen who died while serving on merchant ships.


Example of Muster Roll from the Library website

They record a wealth of information about crews and ships, and offer a particularly rare insight into working men’s lives : age and place of birth; port where and when enlisted; where and when leaving the ship; name of the ship and its owners.

The Library holds on microfilm the Whitby Muster Rolls from 1747 to 1795 and also some Whitby Muster Rolls from 1800 to 1850. The Museum passed 7,000 Rolls to the Society in 2010. These require careful repair and conservation and much of the cost of this is being defrayed by The Thomas Roe Trust.

The main specialism of the Library is the Whitby local area :

Local History – collections of books, pamphlets, journals, maps, prints and manuscripts for Whitby and the surrounding area (approx. 15 miles radius)

oblique sailing

Maritime History – collections of books, Lloyds registers, and records including muster rolls, and ships’ account and log books


Geology – extensive collection of books and journals relating to the history of geology and the internationally important discoveries of Jurassic fossils made in the 19th Century in the Whitby area

Industrial heritage – sources for the development of the alum, jet, ironstone, and potash industries and the railways in the area

Family History – many sources including printed parish registers, lists of monumental inscriptions for many local churches, wills, and indexes to wills in the York Registry

Literature and language – a small literature collection focussing on novels, poetry and plays that are either by Whitby writers or are about Whitby, and a small collection on Yorkshire dialect

After tea and biscuits we were free to visit the Library and the Museum and Art Gallery.

After a picnic lunch in the lovely Pannett Park and a final look round the Museum a fellow library member and I headed into town. After a walk along the quayside we climbed the 199 steps to the church and the Abbey for more stunning views before returning to the coach pick-up point and the return journey to Leeds.

Whitby church

Whitby Church


Whitby Abbey

view from steps

View from the Top of the 199 Steps

Northern Irish Gate Lodges

Gate lodge, or gatelodge, seems me to be an Irish term for what we, over here, would just call a Lodge. In amongst the majority of what I could only call dross (although there was one excellent shelf of local (in the sense of Northern Irish) books [see photos below]) in the Library at The Barbican, an Irish Landmark Trust property on the coast of Antrim in Northern Ireland, I found a most interesting book. “The Gate Lodges of Ulster : a gazetteer” by J A K Dean; Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, 1994. Book The book came about as a result of research carried out by Dean 30 years earlier. Another look at the topic during the early 1990s revealed much demolition and decay had occurred and a comprehensive renewal of study lead to the publication of the gazetteer. I’m wondering whether a similar study has been carried out in the South – a much greater project. Gate lodges had much to teach about developing awareness and ambitions of their patrons, and the changing skills of builders and architects. There’s a huge variety- from vernacular tradition to architectural sophistication yet they had a single simple purpose – to house the gatekeeper and his family. The Gazetteer is a fascinating study of individual gate lodges. Here I’ve abstracted details from the book and added my photos. CC Lodge

Gate Lodge at Castle Coole – Weir’s Bridge Lodge

Built c1880 i.e. after the Weir’s Bridge was built to carry the Enniskillen-Florence Court-Belcoo line of the Sligo, Leitrim and Northern Counties Railway. It’s a fine building in the Lombardie style [sic]. Built from the highest quality ashlar sandstone with immaculately carved detailing. Single-storey on a T-plan. It has a raised stepped platform to form a “porte-cochere” with semi-circular headed arches. CC twins

Gate Lodges – Castle Coole Twin Lodges

These were even recorded as being dilapidated in 1834. They not even mentioned on OS maps until 1857. Now they’re presented as Georgian Gothick. Built so close together a family carriage could hardly pass through. The chimney stacks have now been lost. Armar Lowry-Corry (1st earl of Belmore) the builder died in 1802 and his son Somerset had an energetic building programme for 40 years. He built up a lasting relationship with architect Sir Richard Morrison. CC single

Single gate Lodge at Castle Coole

Crom GL

Gate Lodge at Crom

The main entrance lodge at Crom was built in 1838 by Edward Blore, architect. Blore was responsible for many other buildings on the Crom Estate. It’s an irregular Tudor picturesque cottage on one and a half storeys. Dean’s book also contains interior plans. It has two main gables and pretty serrated bargeboards plus finialed hipknobs. On Wikipedia I found that a Hip-knob, in architecture, is the finial on the hip of a roof, between the barge-boards of a gable. The small gabled hall/porch has the only remaining lattice panes. GL Springhill

Gate Lodge at Springhill

The Gate Lodge at the National Trust property Springhill in County Londonderry is now the secondhand bookshop. It stands at the original main entrance (which is now now the exit) and was built not long after George Lenox-Conyngham succeeded to the property in 1788. It is the sole survivor of a pair of Georgian Gothick porters’ lodges. Their gables faced each other across the avenue entrance. It is a simple rectangular two roomed structure, has steeply pitched gables with a wide door opening and a minuscule lancet opening above to light a bed loft. Well Read

The Well Read Bookshop

Glenarm Barbican

The Glenarm Barbican

Built in 1824, the Barbican’s architect was William Vitruvius Morrison. Dean writes : “Beloved of photographers and Victorian illustrators for its dramatic architecture and romantic setting. Approached across a two-arched bridge spanning the Glenarm River the Barbican is a three-storey castellated gatehouse. An ancient sandstone coat of arms was inserted.” This had originally graced the front of the castle when it had been built by the first earl in 1636, while the other side of The Barbican was also given a commemorative plaque: THIS GATEWAY WAS BUILT AND THE CASTLE RESTORED BY EDMUND M’DONNELL, ESQUIRE, AND HIS WIFE ANNE KATHERINE, IN HER OWN RIGHT COUNTESS OF ANTRIM AND VISCOUNTESS DUNLUCE A.D. 1825. Attached to one side is the two-storey porter’s accommodation – one up and one down.

barbican rear

Rear of the Barbican

Books 3

Books 2

Books 1

Books 4

The Barbican Bookshelf

Walking and Talking on Hampstead Heath : The Garden of the Finzi-Continis

Walking Book Group

This post is not a discussion or review of the book in question: Emily does that so much better than I could.

Rather, I’d like to tell you about how a Walking Book Club works.

Daunt Shop

 Inside Daunt Books South End Road

You may remember that I mentioned  Daunt Books‘ Walking Book Group in a previous post. Well, at last I have managed to coincide my visit to London with a Sunday meeting of the group. Only a couple of weeks ago did I discover that the group was back in action after Emily’s baby, Vita, was born just 4 months ago.

A group of about a dozen or so keen walker-readers gathered together at the shop on Sunday 22 February to walk on Hampstead Heath to talk about the chosen book – The Garden of the Finzi-Continis by Giorgio Bassani. As I’d only discovered this about a week before and as it wasn’t available from my library ordered a copy directly from Daunts. I just managed to finish reading it on the train down from Leeds. This was good as it meant that the book was fresh in my mind. Also, the evening before I had just watched the dvd version of the 1970 film.


At 11.30 we left the shop, crossed the road and before setting off Emily introduced herself : some of the group were regular reader-walkers, some occasional and others, like me, were there for the first time. The only man was later joined by a couple more; we were delighted to have two Italian nationals amongst us who had read the book in its original and were able to offer us other insights into Italian life and culture relevant to our discussions.

Emily Left

Book talk with Emily [left]

We set off walking and talking in pairs or small groups and every ten minutes or so Emily would bring us all together to sum up, ask questions, provide answers and suggest further topics for conversation. We would then find we started discussion with someone else. The formula works very well. At the highest point of the walk, with long views over London, Emily shared her home-baked cake with us.


Highgate from The Heath

London from Heath

View from the Heath

Somehow after about an hour we found ourselves back where we started and Emily summed up the discussion, distributed copies of the 2015 2nd Daunt Books Festival programme (there’ll be a walking book group from the Marylebone shop on 20 March) and told the group the next date and book for the regular Sunday Heath walk : 19th April “the Living Mountain” by Nan Shepherd :

“Shepherd wrote a short nonfiction book, The Living Mountain, during the 1940s. The Living Mountain is a reflection her experiences walking in the Cairngorm Mountains. Having completed it, Shepherd chose not to publish the book until 1977.” (Source)

If you’d like to hear a Walking Book Club session in progress you can listen here to Clare Balding who joined Emily on one of her walks in February two years ago.

Writers’ Gardens

In these the dull, grey February days it’s been a great pleasure for me to read two coffee table-style books back-to-back with glorious photographs but also very informative text. VW's Garden The first was Virginia Woolf’s Garden by Caroline Zoob. There’s lots of nice background information about Leonard and Virginia Woolf but also about the author. Caroline Zoob and her husband were the National Trust tenants in the house for about 10 years. They also took responsibility for the garden. Endpaper VW's

Endpaper Collage

Really the book should be called Leonard Woolf’s Garden since it was almost entirely his creation and Virginia admits to doing little more than a bit of dead-heading and, of course, being inspired by gardens in general for her writing.

VW Bedroom Garden
VW bedroom garden
Virginia Woolf’s Bedroom Garden May 2014
Reading it and studying the lovely photos I was reminded of my visit to Monk’s House last May. I preferred it to Charleston as it had a very much more relaxed atmosphere. I’ve written here already about my visit to Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s home and garden at Rodmell in East Sussex.
The writer's garden
The Writer’s Garden : how gardens inspired our best-loved authors is by Jackie Bennett.
Writer's garden
Title Page – Near Sawrey in the Lake District with Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top in the Bottom Left Corner
Contents Page
Contents Page
Many of the gardens mentioned I have already visited – Jane Austen’s in Chawton in Hampshire long before the digital photography; same goes for Ruskin’s Brantwood which we approached from Lake Coniston by Gondola; Agatha Christie’s Greenway in 2009; Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top in 2005 or 2006; Laurence Sterne’s Shandy Hall the topic of one my first posts here and, of course, Virginia Woolf’s garden mentioned above.  I do hope I can get to the ones I haven’t visited some time as all were inspiring, not to say, beautiful.
Agatha Christie’s Greenway overlooking the Dart Estuary in Devon
I borrowed both books from the library but also by coincidence my current audio listen is Christina Hardyment’s The Pleasures of the Garden: an anthology. It’s selected and introduced by Christina and includes passages by Pliny The Younger, Francis Bacon, Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden, of course), Thomas Jeffereson, Jane Austen and Gertrude Jekyll.
Having said all this – I am not, myself, a gardener! I love to visit gardens and read about them but I know nothing at all about plants and their care.
My title for this photo on Flickr is “You won’t catch me gardening!”

Germany : Memories of a Nation

Over the last couple of days I’ve been reading the book of this title that accompanied the British Museum exhibition of the same name and the series of BBC Radio 4 talks by its author (and British Museum director), Neil MacGregor.

Memories of a nation

It’s a weighty hardback book, nearly six hundred pages long and with masses of photos and maps. There are 30 chapters. This is no conventional history of Germany. Instead, MacGregor chooses to focus (as he did in his ground-breaking History of the World in 100 Objects exhibition, talks and book which  has generated umpteen spin-offs) on objects and pictures which he feels relate to a “German history [which] may be inherently fragmented, but … contains a large number of widely shared memories, awarenesses and experiences”. Quotations here are all taken from the book.

8 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Each of the chapters was absorbing but several held particular interest for me. I studied German for four years at school to A-level and have visited Germany a few times. So when I read the chapter “One Nation under Goethe” I was straightaway reminded of his “Urfaust” (the earliest form of his Faust work) which we studied for A-level. But most of the chapter presented a picture of the German equivalent of William Shakespeare which I did not recognise.

Goethe and Faust

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe by Johann Tischbein and my 1968 edition of Faust Part One

The object  MacGregor focuses on is the Tischbein portrait of Goethe (1786-7) which shows the playwright (and polymath) in a classical setting “out of these survivors of a dead culture, Goethe will make something living”. Interestingly, for his fourth birthday Goethe was given, by his father, a toy puppet theatre which can still be seen today in his birthplace museum in Frankfurt. Goethe later wrote that this gift was to change his life. He was to become especially interested in Shakespeare and it was the influence of his (Shakespeare’s) writing that led Goethe to write his first work “The Sorrows of Young Werther“. MacGregor declares “Werther established German for the first time as a European literary language”.

17 An artist for all Germans

Durer self portrait

Self-Portrait – Albrecht Durer (1500)

The artist Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) created the first and possibly the most celebrated logo of all German logos. I remembered visiting the British Museum as a student to see The Graphic Work of Albrecht Durer in late 1971 or early 1972. This was an exhibition of Durer’s prints and drawings in celebration of the 500th anniversary of his birth. I remember seeing his Praying Hands drawing and Young Hare etching in a beautiful dark room where only the pictures were lit. More recently I visited a show of his work at the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight on Merseyside, ‘Durer and Italy’, in the summer of 2010.

knight in armour

20 Cradle of Modernism



The cradle in question was designed by Peter Keler in 1922 and is still in production today and the modernist movement with which chapter 20 is concerned is Bauhaus. Elegant and simple sums up Bauhaus design established in Weimar in 1919 by Walter Gropius. Inspired by historic German values it was to “combine the medieval-guild traditions of communal working with the most rigorous principles of modern design and the enormous potential of industrial production”. Funding for the Bauhaus was cut in 1924 when the Social Democrats lost power in Thuringia. In 1925 it moved to Dessau. Although intending to be apolitical, when the Nazis took control of Dessau the Bauhaus moved again and to Berlin but was finally closed in 1933 when it had been “condemned by the Nazis as a centre of cultural Bolshevism”. There is now a Bauhaus Archive in Berlin which I have seen from a tour boat but not yet visited (it’s on my list!).

bauhaus archive

 Bauhaus Archive, Berlin

22 The Suffering Witness

Neue Wache

Here is my photo (2009) of the Neue Wache or “New Guard House” built by Karl Friedrich Schinkel in Berlin. The sculpture is an enlarged version of “Mother with her dead son” by Kaethe Kollwitz. The light is from the oculus in the roof. The memorial to the fallen of the war lies directly under the oculus exposed to all the Berlin weather.

mother and son

In this chapter MacGregor talks about the life and work of the sculptor and printmaker Kaethe Kollwitz (1867-1945). The sculpture above, within the Neue Wache, was chosen by Chancellor Helmut Kohl in 1993 as a “memorial to the Victims of War and Tyranny” to be placed in this “austere neo-classical building in the heart of Berlin”.

I also recommend the chapters on Gutenberg (16 In the Beginning was the Printer); on the Hanseatic city-states (13 The Baltic Brothers) and on beer and sausages (10 One People, Many Sausages)!