A fruitful enterprise

Elizabeth Blachrie was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, early in the eighteenth century but eloped with her doctor cousin, Alexander Blackwell, to London amidst doubts as to the veracity of his medical qualifications. Here, Alexander worked for a printing firm for a short time before setting up his own print shop. However, as he had not served an apprenticeship, he was fined heavily for breaking the trade rules and ended up in a debtors’ prison. In order to make ends meet, Elizabeth came up with the idea of creating a new herbal – a description of plants and their medicinal uses – to include more exotic, unfamiliar plants as well as those found in Britain.

Having a not inconsiderable talent as an artist, she would herself draw the images, make the copper engravings and colour the printed pictures and her husband would provide the Latin names and the medical information. Supported by a number of eminent physicians and aided by horticulturalists and visits to the Chelsea Physic Garden, Elizabeth produced a two-volume work containing 500 plates, which was published in London, the first volume in 1737 and the second in 1739. It was a great success, enabling her to secure Alexander’s release.

Blackwell’s Herbal was subsequently translated into German by Christoph Jacob Trew (1695-1769), a doctor – Head of the Medical Association – and botanist with a passion for books, who also added more information to the descriptions with a view to producing a five-volume set. The drawings were corrected according to the recent teachings of the Swedish botanist, zoologist and physician Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778); Nikolaus Friedrich Eisenberger (1707-1771) re-engraved the plates; a sixth volume was also added and this edition was published between 1750 and 1773.

Trinity College Dublin Library acquired this work (Shelfmark: Fag.GG.3.5-10) in 1802 as part of the Fagel Collection. This collection consists of around 20,000 items amassed by several generations of the Dutch Fagel family. Many of the family held high public office in Holland but during the Napoleonic wars they had to flee the country and their library was sold by Christie’s auction house. It is the largest private Dutch library still intact in the world. On display in the foyer of the Berkeley Library at the moment are the red rose (rosa rubra) in Vol.I and columbine (aquilegia) in Vol.V.

W.B. Yeats and the Cuala Press

Celebrations are taking place around the country this week to mark 150 years since the birth of the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, on 13th June 1865 in Sandymount in Dublin. We in Trinity College Library Dublin have a particular reason to celebrate as our holdings in the Department of Early Printed Books & Special Collections include important collections of material relating to the Cuala Press, the Irish private press where many of Yeats’s works were first printed.

Prospectus: “The Dun Emer Press” ([Dundrum, 1903]) Shelfmark: Press A Cuala ARCH Box 49A no.1

Prospectus: “The Dun Emer Press” ([Dundrum, 1903]) Shelfmark: Press A Cuala ARCH Box 49A no.1

The Cuala Press, originally the Dun Emer Press, was founded in Dundrum, Co. Dublin, in 1902 by Evelyn Gleeson and Yeats’s sisters Susan and Elizabeth (known as Lily and Lolly), as part of the Dun Emer Industries. The printing part of the Industries was renamed the Cuala Press after the Yeats sisters separated from Evelyn Gleeson in 1908, setting up their business at a cottage in Churchtown, just a mile away from the original premises in Dundrum. There, Elizabeth was in charge of the printing workshop while Susan continued with the embroidery work she had been doing at Dun Emer.

W.B. Yeats was closely involved with the activity of the Press from the time of its foundation. He acted as its literary editor, thereby ensuring that works of many of the leading Irish writers of the time were published by it. Several of his own books were among these. Indeed, the first book printed at the Dun Emer Press was his collection of poetry, “In the Seven Woods”, which included the first version of his play “On Baile’s strand”. This was followed by further books of poetry, essays and autobiographical works, such as “Reveries upon childhood and youth”, printed in 1915 and in which he described aspects of his life up to the deaths of his maternal grandparents in 1892.

W.B. Yeats: “The fiddler of Dooney” (Dublin, [c. 1942]) Shelfmark: Press A Cuala ARCH Box 12 no.23

W.B. Yeats: “The fiddler of Dooney” (Dublin, [c. 1942]) Shelfmark: Press A Cuala ARCH Box 12 no.23

Some of Yeats’s poems were also reprinted in the Cuala Press’s series of prints which usually combined a poem with an illustration. Shown here is a mock-up of the Cuala Press print of Yeats’s poem ‘The fiddler of Dooney’, from his 1899 collection “The wind among the reeds”, with an illustration by George Atkinson, R.H.A.


A selection of items relating to W.B. Yeats and the Cuala Press, from the collections of Trinity College Library, is currently on display in the Long Room of the Old Library.

In Tune at Dublin Castle

One of the aims of the ‘In Tune’ exhibition in the Long Room in 2013-14 was to draw scholarly attention to some of the significant music resources in our collections. It is therefore gratifying to learn that one of the more obscure items in the exhibition piqued the interest of a prominent musician, and has led him to mount what may be the first performance of this piece since its original outing in 1711.

John Sigismond Cousser, 'The Universal Applause of Mount Parnassus' (Dublin, 1711) Shelfmark: P.hh.16 no. 1

John Sigismond Cousser, ‘The Universal Applause of Mount Parnassus’ (Dublin, 1711)
Shelfmark: P.hh.16 no. 1

Peter Whelan is a music graduate of TCD (2000), and is now an internationally-acclaimed bassoon soloist and ensemble musician. In the Chapel Royal at Dublin Castle at 1.00pm on Friday 12 June he will direct his Ensemble Marsyas in the first modern performance of ‘The Universal Applause of Mount Parnassus’, a serenata by John Sigismond Cousser written to celebrate the birthday of Queen Anne at Dublin Castle on 6 February 1711.

Ensemble Marsyas

Ensemble Marsyas

Cousser (1660-1727) was the first significant European composer to settle in Ireland. Born in Pressburg (now Bratislava), he studied in Paris with Jean-Baptiste Lully before holding musical appointments in various parts of Germany. He moved to London in 1704 and then to Dublin in July 1707.

Between 1708 and 1727 Cousser composed an ode or serenata each year in honour of the reigning monarch’s birthday, usually performed at Dublin Castle. In almost all cases the music for these odes has been lost, so the word-books, several of which are preserved in TCD’s collections, provide the only remaining evidence of their content. Uniquely, the music for the 1711 ode does survive (in the collection of the Bodleian Library, Oxford), and this has enabled the performance by Ensemble Marsyas as part of the KBC Great Music in Irish Houses Festival.

An event not to be missed!

– Roy Stanley, Music Librarian

Event poster

Devils of the Deep: RMS Lusitania and Submarine Warfare

The loss of the RMS Lusitania one hundred years ago this week is one of the many World War I tragedies to resonate with war historians and the wider public. Uncertainties regarding the ship’s cargo and the role of its sinking in influencing America to enter the conflict have divided opinion.

Irishmen avenge The Lusitania

Shelfmark: OLS Papyrus Case 55a no.9

The impact of the disaster and the familiar image of the stricken ship were not lost on the Department of Recruiting in Ireland who quickly used it to appeal to Irishmen to join the ranks of the army and avenge this wrongdoing.

Less well publicised however is the history of the passenger ship before the conflict. When launched in June 1906 RMS Lusitania was the largest and fastest ship in the world. By 1915 it had crossed the Atlantic over 200 times carrying ca.240,000 passengers. The current display in the Berkeley foyer features a reprint from Engineering which is in itself a fascinating account of the ship’s construction in Clydebank from 1904 onwards.



Wesley Frost, Devils of the Deep. Shelfmark: PAM Mw.1.12 no.18

The display also includes two works by former US Consul, Wesley Frost. His role in Ireland during the war included the compilation of reports for the US authorities on submarine warfare in Irish waters. The prevalence of these attacks was noted by Frost –  ‘As Consul at Queenstown for the three years ending last June, I reported to our Government on the destruction by submarines of eighty-one different ships carrying American citizens’. Traveling the length of the Irish south coast, Frost devoted much time to recording the legal testimonies of survivors of such U-boat attacks. He was later recalled, unfairly, in 1917 from his post in Ireland following an alleged complaint by Admiral Sims of his reporting of British destroyers at Queenstown. Tragically, Frost was to lose his only brother Cleveland in 1918 to submarine warfare as the USS Ticonderoga was torpedoed with the loss of 213 lives.

The RMS Lusitania was hit on 7 May 1915, off the coast of Kinsale, by a single torpedo from submarine U-20, killing 1,197 of the 1,960 passengers and crew. Frost helped coordinate relief operations for the survivors as they arrived traumatised on the quayside of Cobh. This experience was to have a profound lifelong effect on him. SM U-20 was responsible for the fate of 36 other ships during the conflict before being grounded in late 1916.

99 Years On: Ireland and the Easter Rising

The birth of the Irish Republic- 1916. Shelfmark: OLS Samuels Box 4 no.112a

The birth of the Irish Republic- 1916. Shelfmark: OLS Samuels Box 4 no.112a

Today, the 99th anniversary of the start of the Irish Easter Rising, sees the launch of a new project for the Library. ‘Changed Utterly- Ireland and the Easter Rising’ is a weekly blog from our Research Collections departments. The aim is to highlight a particular item or collection each week which has relevance to Ireland during this troubled period. As the countdown to the 100th anniversary of the Rising draws near we hope that the selections will interest our readers and stimulate debate whilst affording us the opportunity to promote our holdings. We are delighted to announce that we will have some guest contributors along the way culminating in an online exhibition of the 52 items of interest in time for Easter 2016.

Our site can be accessed via www.tcd.ie/library/1916 where you can read the first entry – ‘The Howth Gun Running’. To discuss the weekly posts and to keep up to date with the project you can follow us on Twitter – @TCDLib1916, #TCD1916.

Librarian and College Archivist, Helen Shenton with Shane Mawe and Estelle Gittins at the launch of 'Changed Utterly'

Librarian and College Archivist, Helen Shenton with Shane Mawe (EPB) and Estelle Gittins (M&ARL) at the launch of ‘Changed Utterly’

And there was Light – Day Five

Shedding light on … Literature

 We are often asked why recent publications have to be consulted in the EPB reading room. The answer is that our full title is the Department of Early Printed Books and Special Collections and the modern material comes under the latter part of the heading.

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Novels, plays, poems and short stories written in English by Irish authors; signed books; limited editions of up to 500 copies and other vulnerable or particularly valuable items are all in our care. Examples include A small light by the Kerry poet Brendan Kennelly, Professor Emeritus of English in TCD; Light a penny candle by one of Ireland’s best loved novelists, the late Maeve Binchy; and a signed copy of the limited edition First light (the first chapter, originally published separately in a special edition of only 138 copies, of The infinities) by John Banville, as well as those shown here.

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Although much of our material is received through Legal Deposit, we also receive donations. One such is the Pollard Collection, comprising more than 10,500 books published for children, mainly girls, before 1914, amassed over 50 years and bequeathed to the Library by the first Keeper of Early Printed Books, Mary Pollard. Another is the collection of around 2,000 literary items donated by Seamus O’Sullivan (James Sullivan Starkey), founder and editor of the Dublin Magazine, and Estella Solomons (Stella).

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Disclaimer: attempts have been made to obtain permission to show images of the modern material. If you are the copyright holder and would like your image removed from this website, please contact epbooks@tcd.ie