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 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

And there was Light – Day Four

Shedding light on … Christianity

Trinity College Library holds a huge number of pamphlets on various subjects. Many of the early ones are religious as it was common for preachers to publish their sermons. These are often bound together, but some were bound by their owners with completely unrelated subjects. These volumes sometimes have a handwritten index which can be as interesting to researchers as the content of the tracts. This volume, from the Crofton Collection of about 2,000 items, contains a mixture of mainly political and religious material bound in an apparently random order.

Shelfmark: Crofton 34

Shelfmark: Crofton 34

In the Gospels, Jesus refers to himself and his disciples as ‘The Light of the World’. Clergymen and missionaries took on the task of enlightening those who did not have faith in Christ and were therefore considered to be in darkness, which is often reflected in the titles and text of their pamphlets. Audiences in the seventeenth century were quite diverse – from the Members of the House of Commons to ‘Indians’ in the Americas and beyond.

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Other forms of Christianity were also targeted. Quakers broke away from the Church of England in the middle of the seventeenth century and tried to convert people to their beliefs. Giles Firmin, a popular physician turned pastor, wrote that he had let them alone when they came to nearby towns but changed his mind when they distributed books in his parish and preached to his parishioners; this pamphlet is an annotated version of a sermon he preached in response. Firmin also complained about disruption by Separatists, but in 1662 was himself ejected from the Church of England with over 2000 other Puritan ministers for non-conformity.

Giles Firmin: Stablishing against shaking: or, a discovery of the prince of darknesse (scarcely) transformed into an Angel of Light, powerfully now working in the deluded people called, Quakers, (London, 1656) Shelfmark: P.hh.46 no.9

Giles Firmin: “Stablishing against shaking: or, a discovery of the prince of darknesse (scarcely) transformed into an Angel of Light, powerfully now working in the deluded people called, Quakers” (London, 1656) Shelfmark: P.hh.46 no.9

George Charles Smith, known as ‘Botswain Smith’ or ‘Bosun Smith’, was apprenticed to a bookseller in his teens but then spent seven years in the English navy. After studying under a Baptist minister in Devenport, he dedicated his life to providing religious teaching for soldiers and sailors, by both the spoken and the written word, and setting up benevolent institutions on their behalf. This pamphlet draws on writings by others, notably George Young, a Presbyterian minister with only one hand who wrote extensively on such diverse subjects as geology, garden plants and Captain James Cook as well as religion.

Rev. G. C. Smith: “The light-house” (London, [1823]) Shelfmark: OLS B-4-839 no.29

In seventeenth-century London, St. Paul’s Cathedral was one of the focal points of the city, with shops set up in the churchyard and surrounding streets. A shop might have consisted of as little as a board protruding from a wall, with some form of roof. The stall-board often folded away at night or might have had a lockable storage space below. Street numbers were not introduced until the eighteenth century, so at this time shops, houses and even individual rooms in buildings were identified by pictorial signs. Examples can be seen in the imprint of these pamphlets: ‘R. Harford at the gilt Bible in Queenes-head Alley in Pater-Noster Row’; ‘the Gilt Cup neer St. Austins gate in Pauls Church-yard’; ‘at the black Beare in St. Paul’s Church-yard neer the little North-dore’; ‘at the Black Spread-Eagle at the West end of Pauls’.

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And there was Light – Day Three

Shedding light on … Music

Thomas Tallis and William Byrd: Cantiones quae ab argumento sacrae vocantur (London, 1575). Shelfmark: OLS 192.n.40

Thomas Tallis and William Byrd: "Cantiones quae ab argumento sacrae vocantur" (London, 1575) Shelfmark: OLS 192.n.40 no.2The representation of Christ as the light of the world is a recurrent biblical image which has inspired a multitude of devotional texts, many of them set to music by composers in all eras. Thomas Tallis’s well-known motet ‘O nata lux de lumine’ (O light born of light) is a setting of stanzas from a Sarum hymn for the Feast of the Transfiguration, and was first published in Tallis and Byrd’s ‘Cantiones quae ab argumento sacrae vocantur’ in 1575.

imageThis set of six part-books was a landmark publication, displaying a new sophistication in music printing in England, largely due to the skills of Huguenot refugee printer Thomas Vautrollier. It is not known who instigated the publication: it may have been the composers, or the printer, or perhaps their common patron, the Earl of Arundel. The idea may even have been suggested by Elizabeth I, to whom the publication was dedicated. The Queen had recently granted Tallis and Byrd a monopoly in the publication of printed part-music in England for a period of 21 years, and the collection was certainly designed to honour her by promoting the music of England’s two most notable composers. The preface makes clear that the publication was intended to reach an international audience – an objective which was facilitated by the use of Latin texts. The evident care taken in preparing the publication resulted in high production costs which initial sales failed to offset, leading the composers to petition the Queen for financial aid in 1577.

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The TCD set of part-books is complete, but of mixed provenance: in the sixteenth century four of the part-books belonged to William Rokeby, but the remaining two come from a separate set. Some of the part-books contain a few pages of blank staves which the original owners filled with additional compositions in manuscript: Elizabethan songs, motets and instrumental pieces. This makes the set an important primary source in its own right.

– Roy Stanley

And there was Light – Day Two

Shedding light on … Science


Dr. O. Bernhard: “Light treatment in surgery” (London, 1926) Shelfmark: 77.e.88


Centuries before the identification of SAD (seasonal affective disorder), scientists and medical professionals were convinced of the beneficial effects of sunlight on humans. As long ago as the fifth century BC, Hippocrates, the ‘Father of Medicine’ recommended sun-baths for people with symptoms of tuberculosis. Indeed, in English we have the word heliotherapy which is derived from the Greek helios (the sun) and therapeia (healing power) and the word solarium (sun room) from the Romans. The Swiss Doctor, Oscar Bernhard, founder of a clinic in St. Moritz in 1899, sent patients outdoors, sometimes almost naked, to benefit from the healing power of the sun.

Edgar Mayer: “The curative value of light: sunlight and sun lamp in health and disease” (New York; London, 1932) Shelfmark: 143.f.97

It was not until the late nineteenth century, however, that major research began into the use and benefit of artificial light in patient treatment, although lenses, sometimes coloured, had occasionally been used to direct sunlight onto wounds in the past. Far more recently, scientists have discovered that too much unprotected exposure to UV light can cause cancer.


Stuart H. Rowe: “The lighting of school-rooms” (New York, 1904) Shelfmark: 53.f.54

Of course, lack of light can be equally problematic for different reasons. In 1904, Stuart Rowe, supervising principal of a school district in Connecticut published a small but extremely detailed illustrated manual on the lighting of school-rooms, stating in his preface that ‘there is no … more excuse for a poorly lighted school-building than there is for an unsafe bridge’. Section III, entitled ‘The Teacher’s Duty’, includes the recommendation that ‘poorly lighted desks must be condemned and removed’.

Later twentieth-century texts in Special Collections cover the lighting of industrial buildings, churches, the stage and the home as well as street lighting.

William Moon, himself blind as a result of scarlet fever at the age of 21 and a teacher of blind children, created a system of raised characters based on the Latin alphabet which he considered easier to use than Braille. His 1873 book was entitled Light for the blind as his alphabet enabled people living in physical darkness to ‘see’.

In similar fashion, Robert Meldrum, another teacher of the blind, named his handbook, aimed at all who seek to be ‘eyes to the blind’, Light on dark paths. Meldrum recommends starting blind children with Moon’s alphabet; then, when they can read that with confidence, moving them on to Braille. For beginners in arithmetic, he recommends a system developed by Rev. W. Taylor.

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In 1816, Sir Humphry Davy was awarded the Royal Society’s Rumford Medal for his papers on combustion and flame which described the experiments leading to his invention of a safety lamp for use in mines and other dangerous areas. Although hand-held lights were already in use, they had open flames, which tended to explode.


Sir Humphry Davy: “On the safety lamp for preventing explosions in mines, &c.; with some researches on flame” (London, 1825) Shelfmark: RR.h.41 no.1

In contrast, an 1842 paper by the Irish scientist Sir Henry Marsh describes and tries to explain examples of sick humans giving off light shortly before their death, similar to the ‘corpse light’ occasionally seen in graveyards. He cites amongst others ‘an authentic report of this interesting phenomenon’ by Dr. Daniel Donovan of a patient in Glandore, Co. Cork, published in The Dublin Medical Press, January 15, 1840.

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And there was Light – Day One

Shedding light on … Our Collections

As 2015 has been declared the International Year of Light by UNESCO, Trinity College Dublin has chosen ‘Light’ as the theme for Trinity Week (11th-17th April) this year. To highlight the wide range of material in the care of the Department of Early Printed Books and Special Collections, a display in the Berkeley foyer of the items shown here, and a series of blog posts over the week, will focus on different aspects of ‘light’.

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