The Irish in America

By Sarah Larkin, All Hallows Archivist

All Hallows College was established as a missionary college in 1842. Its motto, ‘Go Teach All Nations’, reflects its worldwide missionary aims. However, with the onset of the Irish Famine in 1845, its focus adapted to ministering to the Irish diaspora.

The Mission Collection within the All Hallows College Archive is a large collection of published books dating from the early nineteenth century up to the twenty-first century, which made up part of the College’s library. These books would have prepared the trainee priests for the lives they would lead in the missions. One of these books is John Francis Maguire’s ‘The Irish in America’ published in 1868. This work documents the social, political, financial, and religious positions of the Irish community in North America.

The Irish people described in Maguire’s book would have for the most part emigrated to escape the harshness of the Irish Famine:

‘The mass came because they had no option but to come, because hunger and want were at their heels, and flight was their only chance of safety. Thus the majority landed from the emigrant ship with little beyond a box or bundle of clothes, and the means of procuring a week’s or a month’s provisions – very many with still less.’ (Maguire, p.4)

Maguire describes the main motive for the Irish emigrant as being the desire ‘of improving his condition, of obtaining the certain means of a decent livelihood – in a word, of making a home and a future for himself and his children.’ (Maguire, p.4)

This sentiment is reflected in a letter in the All Hallows College archive. In 1849, Fr Henry Lennon wrote a letter to Dr Bartholomew Woodlock, Vice-President of All Hallows College. In his letter he described the conditions of the Irish people in the town of Newburyport, Massachusetts:

‘There is not in the town nor within the whole range of the mission one Irishman or Catholic who is not utterly dependant for his support on his day’s wages or who owns land, keeps shop, or anything of the kind. Many cannot even find employment owing to the crowds that there come from Ireland this year and many of the latter arrive in such a needy, helpless, utterly destitute state that it requires the utmost effort which their friends or countrymen can make to keep them from starving even in this land of reputed plenty.’

Letter from Fr Henry Lennon to Dr Bartholomew Woodlock, 22 October 1849

Fr Lennon’s letter does not paint an optimistic picture for those emigrating from Ireland in the hope of a better life in America. However, later in his letter he states that he believes that time ‘will improve the temporal condition’ of the people. Fr Lennon’s hope can be seen manifest to some degree in Maguire’s book, written two decades later. While describing the dire circumstances of Irish people’s arrival in North America, he notes how many of these people settled and eventually thrived in all areas of society. Maguire describes accounts of successful Irish people, ‘all illustrative of the manly vigour of the Irish race, and of what great things they are capable when they have a fair field for their energies.’ (Maguire, p.127)

Studying with Electronic Resources; A Mature Student Experience in Literature Online

By Audrey Kinch, Library Assistant, Collections and Content

I returned to education somewhat later in life to fulfil a long-held ambition to study for a BA in Humanities which I have been undertaking part-time through distance learning – writing assignments, attending tutorials and submitting content to class forums online.  In study sessions, I mostly opt for reading physical books and enjoy the dual experience of studying online and reading print material. 

In July 2020, my assignment for a literature module ‘Literatures of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries’ was in progress.  Previously I had consulted articles, biographies and dictionaries online to support my studies however, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, subsequent limitations accessing university libraries and restrictions on travel meant my hand was somewhat forced to solely use electronic resources for the assignment. 

Figure 1 connected to MU Library A-Z databases remotely

My reading list recommended a specific book required for my assignment, an 18th century text, that was available to access from a database called Literature Online which is available through the MU Library website.  The database contains ‘more than 350,000 works of English and American poetry, drama and prose, biographies, bibliographies, key criticism and reference resources.’ I located the e-book version and downloaded a PDF copy to my laptop.  As I read through the e-book I highlighted paragraphs of interest and used the draw feature to add brief annotations.  I could also switch to and from specific page numbers to check passages, adjust the page view from one to two pages, search by keyword and expand the page size to fit the screen.  There were also additional features  such as, the text-to-speech option ‘read aloud’ and to print (sections).  Other databases I accessed to support my learning included the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Oxford English Dictionary, Early Eighteenth Century Collections Online and Irish Newspaper Archive.

Figure 2 partial group of pre-1850 books, Russell Library, St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth

The Literature Online database is only one of the vast MU Library collection of 332 databases, 100,000 e-journals and over 700,000 e-books, all accessible from the Maynooth University Library homepage  (just remember to login with your MU credentials when off campus). 

It is possible to also access the A-Z of Databases within the Collections tab on the library homepage. Click on Collections, scroll down and on the left click Electronic

Figure 3 Electronic Resources, MU Library

Another option is to scroll down the library homepage and click on A-Z of Databases (on the left under Quicklinks).

Figure 4 ‘Quicklinks’, MU Library

There you will find 332 electronic databases across all subjects and information on newly acquired and trial databases which are evaluated for potential subscription.  

To search and discover all of MU Library’s electronic and print resources, go to the Maynooth University Library catalogue called LibrarySearch where you can search for books, journals, articles and databases – all from one location.

You can learn and develop your knowledge about using electronic resources from Maynooth University Library, the library website is great for information and guidance in these areas.  The LIST (Library and Information Skills Tutorials) sessions were developed to support learning and cover a wide range of skills and topics to assist students. These sessions can be accessed from the Guides and Tutorials bar on the MU Library homepage.  Specifically, LIST Online is a suite of interactive tutorials which can be accessed both on and off campus.  Check out this brief video about using eBooks:

Figure 5 Library & Information Skills Tutorials, MU Library

At present my MU Library colleague Helen Farrell, Academic Engagement Librarian is delivering short online training sessions until the 29th of July about using MU Library resources.  Booking is now open and a session ‘Maximising the use of Library e-resources in online learning’ will take place online on Monday 24 May 2021 from 11:00am – 11:45am.  You can register to attend this and other sessions under ‘Our Events’ direct from the MU Library homepage.

Figure 6 Using MU Library Resources event, MU Library

So, although I was previously familiar with electronic content, I typically chose to read a print copy of a book instead of an electronic version.  The experience of studying more with electronic resources certainly broadened the learning experience for me.  I am motivated to continue to explore electronic books and databases and to access the online guides available through the MU Library website.  Overall, I gained more confidence using electronic resources and I look forward to discovering more as my course continues!

A tome of controversy: Richard Twiss’ A Tour of Ireland, 1775

Nicola Kelly, Archivist, OPW-Maynooth University Archive and Research Centre

The OPW-Maynooth University Archive and Research Centre recently acquired a copy of Richard Twiss’ “A Tour in Ireland in 1775”, published in the following year, which was one of the most controversial books of its period. The book is bound in fine morocco, all edges gilt, and contains the full printed text, the folding map of Ireland and the plate facing page 94 illustrating the salmon leap at Ballyshannon. It was based on his experiences of a five-month stay in the country, however, it enraged the Irish public through its unflattering representation of Ireland and inhabitants. Since its publication it has been widely quoted as a contemporary source for Irish life, though generally cited in a negative context.

Figure 1 Richard Twiss’ A Tour in Ireland in 1775, in a morocco binding with gilt edges.

Richard Twiss (1747-1821) was a highly experienced traveller when he set out from London in May 1775 to make a tour of Ireland. The son of an English merchant who left him an ample fortune, he was sufficiently well-off to be in a position to indulge his enthusiasm for travel, and following a successful visit to Scotland, he then journeyed through Holland, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, and Bohemia, in a series of tours that involved fifteen sea voyages and numerous journeys over land totalling more than twenty-seven thousand miles by the mid-1770s. Twiss’ major expedition prior to his visit to Ireland was to Iberia, arising out of which he wrote an account of his experiences that was published as Travels through Portugal and Spain in 1772 and 1773 in London in 1775.

Figure 2 Title page including a fold out illustration of ‘The Salmon Leap at Ballyshannon’.

Twiss travelled to Ireland with stereotypical images and impressions, he was predisposed to praise scenery and caricature Irish mores. He acknowledges early in his narrative that in ‘his opinion that the inhabitants were addicted to drinking, given to hospitality and apt to blunder’. However, since by his own definition of what constituted high culture, fine art and music were little cultivated he concluded that nothing is to be expected in making the tour of Ireland, writing ‘The outskirts of Dublin consist chiefly of huts, which are termed cabins; they are made of mud dried, and mostly without either chimney or window; and in these miserable dwellings, far the greater part of the inhabitants of Ireland linger out a wretched existence.’

Figure 3 A fold out map of Ireland which includes illustrations of various sites mentioned by Twiss.

He observed that, outside of what was to be found in some aristocratic homes in Dublin, there was no painting of quality ‘in the whole island’; he maintained that the standard of Irish artists was ‘detestable‘; he deemed the orthography of shop and street signs ‘faulty‘; and frowned upon the standard of table etiquette. His observations that the people of Connaught were ‘savages’, and that from the perspective of ‘natural history…the Irish species…are only remarkable for the thickness of their legs, especially those of the plebian females’ were crass as well as quasi-racist.

Twiss included some (albeit scarce) positive descriptions of Lough Erne, the Lakes of Killarney, writing of the salmon leap at Ballyshannon; ‘The next day I arrived in Ballyshannon and was so pleased by its beautiful situation that I remained there four days. It is a small town situated near the sea with a bridge of fourteen arches, over a river, which a little lower falls down a ridge of rocks, about twelve feet, and at low water forms the most picturesque cascades I ever saw. It is rendered still more singular and interesting by being the principle Salmon Leap in Ireland” and a selection of Ireland’s country houses most notably his description of Castletown House, Celbridge; ‘The grand stair-case is magnificent, and is ornamented with brass ballustrades. This, I believe, the only house in Ireland to which the term palace can be applied.’

Figure 4 Twiss describes many of Ireland’s country houses, including Castletown House, Celbridge, Co. Kildare.

However, his conclusion that the Giant’s Causeway was not worth the long journey necessary to visit it, that the Irish were a people of little learning and that everything worth seeing could be experienced in a month made it abundantly clear that in Twiss’s judgement Ireland had little to offer the experienced and cultured traveller. Twiss’s controversial and ill-informed views ensured his narrative sold well, but it also generated a degree of animosity that the author neither anticipated nor welcomed. Much of the critical comment that was forthcoming was carried in the regular press, Lady Ann Clare ‑ one of many contemporaries who wrote an anti-Twiss squib which made use of the rhyme:

Here you may behold a liar
Well deserving of hell-fire:
Every one who likes may p—
Upon the learned Doctor T—-

The future Lady Clare was referring to the many chamber pots manufactured during the anti Twiss fervour and which featured a likeness of him on the inside. Irish opinion retained a sharp memory of the man and of the insults he had perpetrated for many years after he had departed the country. One visitor to Ireland some years later wrote that he was frequently presented “with a picture of the late tourist at the bottom of the chamber pots, with his mouth and eyes open ready to receive the libation” and as late as 1811 a dictionary of the “vulgar tongue” gave Twiss as a slang term for chamber pot.


Richard Twiss, A Tour in Ireland in 1775, (Dublin, 1776)

Martyn Powell, Piss-pots, Printers and Public Opinion in Eighteenth-century Dublin : Richard Twiss’s Tour of Ireland (Dublin, 2009)

Rachel Finnegan (Ed.) A tour in Ireland in 1775 by Richard Twiss, (Dublin, 2008).

Lockdown, Lord Westport and Leather Pantaloons

Listing the Marquess of Sligo letters during a pandemic 

Ciara Joyce, Archivist, Special Collections & Archives

How, as an archivist, do you work from home? Reports, meetings, e-mail and all aside, how do you continue listing your collections without having them with you? In short the answer is, with some difficulty and with a lot of help from technology.

Howe Peter Browne, Marquess of Sligo (1778-1845)

Howe Peter Browne (1778-1845) 2nd Marquess of Sligo. Source: Wikipedia

When lockdown was announced in March 2020, I had just begun work on a fascinating new collection of letters from Howe Peter Browne, Lord Westport, 2nd Marquess of Sligo, to his mother the Marchioness of Sligo. This collection of 126 letters covers a period from 1809-1811 when Sligo was enjoying his Grand Tour and plundering Greek antiquities and a later period from 1813-1814 as a tourist on the fringes of the battlefields of the Napoleonic war and as a witness to the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in Paris.

Sligo was everything a wealthy young aristocrat of the period was expected to be. Educated at Eton and Cambridge, he moved within Royal circles and counted Lord Byron as one of his friends. He led a carefree, hedonistic existence and was a terribly extravagant spendthrift. His time abroad was initially seen as a way for him to live less extravagantly but his interest in socialising, clothes and living well continued throughout his travels. He even convinced his mother to hire him a brig and crew so he and his entourage could travel at their ease while also occasionally engaging in chasing down pirates in the Mediterranean.

As with all antiquarians of the period, Sligo’s attitude to the acquisition of the classical world’s treasures was that they were there for the taking. He writes on the 17th of June 1810 that he is ‘up to his eyes in delight’ and although the Parthenon has already been excavated by Lord Elgin, he hopes to ‘prize for myself’ the remains of a bas relief on the temple. He also hopes to

carry away with me one or two of the Caryatides from the Pandroseum, a bit of the Cornice, a hollow stone that is in the Temple of Theseus covered with a Greek inscription and a few other little curiosities I have fixed my eyes upon’.

He complains of his fellow traveller Lord Byron who has been there for three months,

‘kicking up the Devils delight doing nothing on earth but riding full gallop and firing pistols. He has not scarcely been once to see the antiquities. In short you never heard of such a system of folly as they have been carrying on here’.

Lord Byron in Albanian Dress, by Thomas Phillips, 1813. Source: Wikipedia

His letters also contain matters of business regarding his Irish estate, his financial affairs and long lists of clothes he wants sent out including; silk cravats, uniforms and on more than one occasion his ‘leather pantaloons’.

His later letters are no less interesting. Covering a period during 1813-1814 they include details of the final stages of the campaign against Napoleon and give unique and detailed descriptions of the atmosphere in Paris at the time of his defeat. Regarding his arrival in Paris, Sligo writes

never did any revolution take place so completely good humouredly and with such universal consent….The substitution of the white for the tricoloured cockade and perhaps an extraordinary number wearing the former in their hats are they only symptoms of this most wonderful change’ (11 April 1814)

Sligo thinks that he has arrived in Paris at the most interesting time in twenty years and perhaps ever. He writes that France has returned to what it was after twenty-four years of ‘continual bloodshed’ and that it is a good lesson for other nations.

Processing the Collection

Listing of this collection recommenced in October 2020. With limited access to the physical documents, making surrogates was really the only practical option. Luckily this is a small collection with only one document type – a standard sized letter. The collection is also clean and in relatively good condition. The documents were photographed in the reading room using a Canon camera, without any attempt to arrange or organise the material. They were imaged just as they appear in their original folders. The images were then transferred to a laptop as JPEGs and were given a temporary number for identification.

The Pros and Cons

Letter from the Marquess of Sligo, At Sea off Gibraltar to his mother the Marchioness of Sligo, London. 2 February 1810 MU/PP/33

Having a digital image of handwritten 19th century letters is certainly useful for zooming in on Sligo’s problematic handwriting. A number of the pages are a little dogeared and with Sligo’s tendency to write to the very edge of the page, the occasional word is obscured or missing altogether, but this should be easily remedied when back in the presence of the original documents. Having to go to and from digital image to word document or database and back again was tedious, especially when quoting passages, so I resorted to taking some handwritten notes while looking at the images. This made the process a little longer but will hopefully assure its accuracy. Each description will be checked against the original document when restrictions are lifted and we return to site. The collection will then have to be cleaned, arranged, numbered and boxed and the finishing touches added to the finding aid.

Other difficulties of working from home during a global pandemic are not unique to archivists or other library professionals. They generally consisted of constant interruptions with questions like, ‘Can I help you with your letters Mammy?’ while you try to carefully transcribe names like Hieronymus von Colloredo-Mansfeld from a 19th century document and ‘Can I press that button?’, while sticky pudgy fingers were held over a brand new laptop keyboard. Again difficulties that will soon ease with the opening up of society again.

Work on the collection continues and when finished it will be available to researchers in the Special Collections and Archives reading room in the John Paul II Library at MU.

For more information please contact

Further reading:

Chambers, Anne. The Great Leviathan, The Life of Howe Peter Browne 2nd Marquess of Sligo (1788-1845), New Island Books (2017)

Chambers, Anne. “‘CHAMPION OF THE SLAVES’—: Howe Peter Browne, 2nd Marquess of Sligo (1788–1845).” History Ireland, vol. 26, no. 1, 2018, pp. 22–24.

Saibhreas Gaeltachta: Cartlann Ráth Chairn

le Liam Mac Cóil, Cartlann Ráth Chairn

Áras Fiontraíochta agus Leabharlann Phoiblí Ráth Chairn áit a bhfuil an Chartlann

Tá Gaeltacht Ráth Chairn 5km soir ó dheas ó Bhaile Átha Buí i gContae na Mí agus 10km ó thuaidh ó Bhaile Átha Troim. Tá sé 38km ó Mhaigh Nuad. Bunaíodh an Ghaeltacht nua nuair a tháinig 27 teaghlach as Conamara chun cónaí i Ráth Chairn, ar dtús, in 1935 faoi scéim de chuid Coimisiún na Talún.Sa bhliain 1967 aithníodh Ráth Chairn ina Ghaeltacht oifigiúil. Sa bhliain 1972 rinneadh ionchorprú ar Chomharchumann Ráth Chairn.

Cóip de phóstaer Choimisiún na Talún ag fógairt scéim an aistrithe, 1935


Bhreathnaigh an Comharchumann i ndiaidh cúraimí agus riachtanais mhuintir na háiste. B’institiúid ann féin í, lárionad aitheanta a labhair thar ceann phobal na Gaeltachta agus a raibh caidreamh leanúnach aici le hiomad eagraíochtaí agus institiúidí eile, Ollscoil Mhá Nuad agus Comhairle Contae na Mí san áireamh.

Ghin an obair an Chomharchumainn go leor páipéarachais: comhfhreagras (cúrsaí airgid, dlí, soláthar seirbhísí, cúrsaí Gaeilge), páipéir pholasaí, pleananna, cuntais airgid, miontuairiscí cruinnithe, dialanna coinní, billí, admhálacha, foirmeacha, bróisiúir, póstaeir, teastais, cártaí ballraíochta, ticéid crannchuir –  doiciméid de gach saghas agus de gach cineál. Chomh maith leis sin bhí roinnt téipeanna fuaime ann agus dlúthdhioscaí chomh maith le grianghraif.  

Teastas a ghnóthaigh Ráth Chairn in 1975 i Scéim de chuid Gaeltarra Éireann
Póstaer faoi thógáil éanlaithe clóis, 1945

Tá an t-ádh linn gur shocraigh an chéad Bhainisteoir, Pádraic Mac Donncha, formhór mór na ndoiciméad sin a choinneáil. Nuair a bhíodh comhadchaibinéad lán thugtaí amach as an oifig é agus chuirtí ar stóras é. Doiciméid nach raibh aon ghá leo in obair reatha an Chomharchumainn, chuirtí in ionad stórais iad. Saibhreas mór Gaeilge agus Gaeltachta atá iontu sin anois.

Cuireadh leis an gCartlann, go háirithe ón mbliain 2015: doiciméid a bhain le Bunscoil Ráth Chairn ó tógadh í i 1936; ábhar idir dhoiciméid agus fhíseáin a bhain leis an gcomhlacht teilifíse Scun Scan; lámhscríbhinn a bhain le haistriúchán an Bhíobla; cuid de pháipéir an Athar Fiachra (Donnchadh Ó Corcara OFM), ina measc clóscríbhinn an leabhair fealsúnachta, ‘An Bheatha Phoiblí,’ a bhí le teacht i ndiaidh An Bheatha Phléísiúrtha (1955) ach nár foilsíodh riamh.

Leathanaigh tosaigh ‘An Bheatha Phoiblí’ leis an Athair Fiachra

Go dtí 2015 is i seomra san áiléar os cionn an stáitse sa halla mór a bhí na caibinéid agus na boscaí á gcoinneáil. Tosaíodh ag cur cuid den ábhar isteach i mboscaí gan aigéad. Tamall ina dhiaidh sin tugadh an stóras ar fad go dtí seomra beag in aice le Leabharlann Phoiblí Ráth Chairn agus cuireadh na doiciméid ar fad i mboscaí gan aigéad. Bhí an chéad dá chéim in obair na cartlannaíocht tógtha: bhí an t-abhar curtha ar thaobh sábhála. Tá beagnach dhá chéad bosca stóráilte ar sheilfeanna miotail i seomra na Cartlainne anois.

Le cúnamh ó Éire Ildánach agus Chomhairle Contae na Mí agus le comhairle ó Leabharlann Ollscoile Mhá Nuad agus daoine eile tosaíodh ar an dara mórchéim i bpróiseas na Cartlannaíochta: an obair ghlantacháin. Faraor ghearr Covid-19 trasna ar an obair sin; agus de bharr na srianta níorbh fhéidir teacht ar an gCartlann. Tá súil againn nuair a bheidh an ghéarchéim thart agus an t-airgead ar fáil go mbeimid in ann tosú ar an obair sin arís.

Cóipleabhar Dalta i mBunscoil Uí Ghramhnaigh, Ráth Chairn

Indiana Campbell and the Ancient Seal of St. Augustine

By Yvette Campbell, Assistant Librarian, Special Collections & Archives

As Assistant Librarian working on the Russell Library Cataloguing Project, I am often in the fortunate position of becoming intimately familiar with the historical collections of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. Whilst carefully describing each book, pamphlet, or manuscript, I have found that it is often the little things that can surprise and delight.

From time-to-time, I have unearthed pieces of ephemera hidden within the pages of an early printed book; a hand-pressed flower, personal photographs, handwritten letters, poetry, mysterious inscriptions, squashed insects, and even a four-leaf clover preserved within the pages from long ago!

Cataloguing the personal collection of Father Corkery, former librarian of St. Patrick’s College, was no different in this regard. It was such a joy to re-discover a personal handwritten letter in the pages of a booklet marking the centenary of John’s Lane Church in Dublin.

An appeal for the Seal – Irish Independent 21 November 1962

The letter in question was written by a friend of Fr. Corkery in 1962 enquiring about the lost Seal of St. Augustine by the Liffey that was used for marking documents in Dublin almost 650 years ago. It had apparently survived in Dublin until circa 1902 after which there doesn’t appear to be any further mention of its existence. It moved to the Protestant Church of St. Nicholas Within and after the closure of this church in the late eighteenth century, all the possessions including this seal passed to St. Audeon’s Church in Dublin.

The author wishes to know if Fr. Corkery had ever come across it in his extensive travels. After enquiring about his recent trip to America, the author writes as follows:

“Did you ever in your travels around museums, churches, libraries etc. & in meeting with collections of antiquities come across th[is] ancient seal…”

He asks Corkery further if it ever reached Maynooth, as it may have been found in libraries or museums. This letter was re-discovered in a booklet which helpfully includes an image of the seal itself, accompanied by a brief article regarding its history at the time of publication (1962).

Church of St. Augustine and St. John the Baptist : centenary 1862-1962, Dublin (1962)

The seal was a plaque of brass measuring almost two inches across. It has an engraving of four Augustinian figures, two on each side facing inward, and gazing reverently with uplifted hands at a crescent moon, above which hangs a star. 

The style of lettering and punctuation indicate that it was made circa 1300, possibly in the early or middle period of the reign of Edward III. It was most likely made by the King’s coiner and brought by the Augustinians from England to Dublin. The outer inscription much abbreviated reads: 

Sigillum capital provincialis heremitarum ordinis sancti Augustini in Anglia

which means: 

‘Seal of the Provincial Chapter of the Hermits of the Order of St. Augustine in England’

The four figures represent the four Definitors of long ago. The crescent moon represents Our Lady, while the star represents St. John the Baptist. The article concludes with sadness that the seal survived in Dublin 119 years ago and cannot now be found.

Further appeal – Irish Press, 22 November 1962

This interesting letter naturally provoked my curiosity and I immediately went about investigating. I searched through our copies of ‘St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Museum of Ecclesiology’ and the Tóstal catalogue from 1955 but unfortunately found nothing.

Perusing through our various newspaper databases that we subscribe to at Maynooth University, I found a reference to the seal through the Irish Newspapers Archive from the same year that the letter is dated, which includes an appeal on the missing seal, thought to be in private hands.

We would love to know how Father Corkery replied to this intriguing request, and if he indeed came across this seal whilst on his travels. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the seal ever made its way to Maynooth. Despite it all, it was wonderful to have the opportunity to scroll through our fantastic newspaper database. It was even more fun to play a detective/archaeologist while it lasted!


  • Augustinian Order. (1962). Church of St. Augustine and St. John the Baptist : centenary 1862-1962, Dublin. Dublin: Augustinian Community, John’s Lane, Dublin.
  • Breen, P. J. (1995) St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Museum of Ecclesiology. Maynooth University
  • Frazer, W. (1879). ‘Description of the Brass Matrix of an Ancient Seal Belonging to the Augustinian Hermits, with an Account of the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, near Dublin, and Observations on the Symbolism of the Crescent Moon and Star’ Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Polite Literature and Antiquities, 2, 465-471. Retrieved January 27, 2021, from
  • ‘Missing for 60 Years’, The Irish Independent, 22 November 1962. Retrieved: 12 February 2021, from Irish Newspapers Archive.
  • St. Patricks College Maynooth (1955). St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth museum. An Tostal display 1955. Maynooth University.
  • ‘Search for a Seal’, The Irish press, 21 November 1962. Retrieved: 12 February, 2021, from Irish Newspapers Archive.


Mitchelstown, Mexico and Maynooth: a story of exploration, discovery and triumph

By Susan Durack, Special Collections and Archives

Image: Antiquities of Mexico (Detail) – Russell Library

Bequests, donations and key purchases make up the rich print collections of the Russell Library at Maynooth College.  The collection dates from 16th to the mid-19th century.  A delightful and surprising discovery in the historic collection is a substantial nine volume work titled the Antiquities of Mexico by Lord Kingsborough. The longer title gives us more insight as to its contents:

“The Antiquities of Mexico comprising fac-similes of ancient Mexican paintings and hieroglyphics, preserved in the royal libraries of Paris, Berlin and Dresden, in the Imperial Library of Vienna, in the Vatican Library, in the Borgian Museum at Rome, in the Library of the Institute at Bologna, and in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, together with The Monuments of New Spain by M. Dupaix, with their respective scales of measurement and accompanying descriptions.”

Title-page: Antiquities of Mexico – Russell Library

Edward King, Viscount Kingsorough, was the author of this monumental work comprising 9 volumes produced between 1831 and 1848. Volumes 1-7 were published in 1831 with two supplementary volumes appearing in 1848 after Kingsborough’s death. The first 4 volumes contain facsimiles of paintings and hieroglyphics, the remaining volumes contain the explanatory texts that accompany the images.  Texts are in English, Spanish, French and Italian. They were published in London by Robert Havell (Oxford Street) and Colnaghi, Son, and Company, Pall Mall East and printed by James Moyes.

Edward King (Viscount Kingsborough) (1795-1837), antiquarian, was born in Cork on 16 November 1795 at Kingston House, Mitchelstown, Co. Cork. He was the eldest son of George, 3rd earl of Kingston (1771–1839), and his wife Lady Helena Moore (1773–1847), only daughter of Stephen, 1st earl of Mountcashell. Edward King was educated at Eton; he entered Exeter College, Oxford in 1814, gaining a second in classical studies in 1818, but did not proceed to a degree. In 1818 he entered parliament as MP for County Cork and was re-elected in 1820. He resigned his parliamentary seat in 1826 in favour of his brother Robert, later 4th earl of Kingston (1796–1867).

Elephant Folio: Vol.2 of 9: Antiquities of Mexico, held in the Russell Library

Having consulted manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, King became interested in the antiquities of Mexico and travelled extensively to examine the collections of the libraries mentioned above. He sought to prove that the indigenous peoples of the Americas were a Lost Tribe of Israel. His principal contribution was in making available, illustrations of Mexican field antiquities and facsimiles of ancient documents and some of the earliest explorers’ reports on pre-Columbian ruins and Maya civilization. His work remained a key text until the early twentieth century and inspired further exploration and research by John Lloyd Stephens (1805-1852) and Charles Étienne Brasseur de Bourbourg (1814-1874) in the early 19th century.

Image: Antiquities of Mexico – Russell Library

With the support of Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872), many of whose manuscripts are described in the Antiquities, King employed the Italian painter Agustine Aglio (1777-1857) to visit Europe’s greatest libraries and private collections for Mexican manuscripts, which Aglio sketched and later lithographed for publication. The work includes Dupaix’s Monuments of New Spain, taken from Castañeda’s original drawings, and descriptions of sculptures and artifacts from several private collections. It was the largest print making project that Agostino had undertaken. The content of the volumes include – Codex Telleriano-Remensis, Codex Fejérváry-Mayer, Codex Vaticanus, Manuscripts Nahuatl, Boturini Benaducci, Lorenzo, 1702-1751 — Art collections, Biblioteca apostolica vaticana, Bibliothèque nationale (France), Bodleian Library, Königliche Bibliothek zu Berlin, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Ethnology of Mexico, and Nahuatl language and literature.

Image: Antiquities of Mexico (Detail) – Russell Library

Four copies of Antiquities of Mexico were printed on vellum at a cost of over £3,000 which King gifted to the Bodleian Library, the British Museum, the Louvre and the Royal Library of Berlin. The publication of the Antiquities had cost over £30,000 in total and King found himself with massive debts, compounded by those of his father.  In February 1837 he was arrested for debt for non-payment of a small debt to a printer and was lodged in the Sheriff’s debtors’ prison in Dublin.  He died 27 February 1837, as a result of typhus contracted while in jail. He was buried in the family vault in the chapel of Kingston College, Mitchelstown, Co. Cork. He never married.

 In July 1842 his collection of antiquities and the contents of his library were auctioned, including Mexican and Chinese manuscripts. A catalogue of his library contents is held in the Royal Irish Academy.

Image: Antiquities of Mexico – Russell Library
Image: Antiquities of Mexico – Russell Library

“Catalogue of the rare and valuable library of the late Rt. Hon. Edward Lord Viscount Kingsborough, comprising his collection of printed books and manuscripts in various languages … Chinese books, which formerly belonged to the Jesuits’ College at Pekin: which will be sold by auction, (by order of the administrator,) by Charles Sharpe, at his Literary Sale Room, Anglesea Street, on Tuesday, 12th July, 1842, and following days, …”

Image: Antiquities of Mexico –
Russell Library

The provenance of the Maynooth volumes require further investigation. When Covid 19 restrictions are lifted we can access our archival collections which may yield further information on their acquisition.

Agostino’s dedication to Viscount Kingsborough in volume five speaks to the scale of the endeavour and completion of this monumental project: “Five years have now elapsed since your Lordship has directed me to commence this work.  Interesting as the progress of such an inquiry, I little anticipated the ample range of its boundaries, or the magnitude of its result; and I terminate it with the full conviction that no one but Your Lordship, whose mind had been accustomed to trace and explore the Monument of Mexican Grandeur and Greatness could have estimated the extent to which it would be reached.”

Image: Antiquities of Mexico – Russell Library

A 550-year-old book comes to Maynooth!

By Dr Elizabeth Boyle, Department of Early Irish; Hugh Murphy, Head of Collections Maynooth University

A page from the 1471 printing of Orosius, bought by Maynooth University

Maynooth University has acquired a 550-year-old book, which contains one of the earliest discussions of Ireland in print. The book is the so-called editio princeps or first printed edition of an influential Latin work of Christian history, the Seven Books of History Against the Pagans by Paulus Orosius, who wrote it shortly after the year 400. Orosius’s text circulated in vellum manuscripts and was widely-read and highly influential, so it is not surprising that it was amongst the first works to be published during the first decades of print production in Europe.

Orosius describes Ireland – in Latin called Hibernia – as “an island situated between Britain and Spain”. He gives the name of a river – Scena – thought to be the Shannon, and two population groups, the Velabri and the Luceni, who lived in what is now Co. Kerry. Orosius notes that, although Ireland is smaller than Britain, Ireland is richer “on account of the favourable character of its climate and soil”.

Thus, Orosius was one of the first Christian writers to mention Ireland. Dr Boyle’s research has shown that his work had certainly been read in Ireland by the seventh century at the latest, and it became fundamental to how people in medieval Ireland understood the past. Orosius believed that nations rose to, and fell from, power according to God’s favour. He saw political power as moving through history from one dominant empire to another: the Assyrians, the Persians, the Greeks and, at the time he was writing, the Romans. This framework of history became standard in medieval Ireland, where Orosius was highly regarded as a historical authority.

With the advent of moveable type printing methods, seminal works such as those of Orosius began to be published in printed form. Sixteen years after the production of the Gutenberg Bible, a German printer named Johannes Schüssler, based in the city of Augsburg, produced the first printed copies of Orosius’s history. Nearly a hundred copies are known to survive, mostly preserved in national and university libraries around the world. With the support of our academic colleagues in both Maynooth University and St. Patrick’s College, the Library was able to acquire this copy, which, while incomplete (with 5 of the 7 ‘books’ complete) preserves the critical discussion of Ireland, which is found near the beginning of the work.

Page showing the print block which is of carbon ink, with annotations which are iron gall. The red capital letters would have been hand painted after the printing was completed.

As has been noted by our colleague and rare books specialist Penny Woods, Maynooth’s library collections are “rich in printed works that mention the island of Ireland or its saints and its people”. Indeed this has been a key collections strategy for decades. While there is a 1483 copy of Orosius in the library of Trinity College, for Maynooth, our earliest copy was until now an edition published in Paris in 1510. Those editions are both interesting in their own right, particularly in terms of the early history of print, but the acquisition by Maynooth of the 1471 printing means that there is now a first edition held in an Irish library, available for consultation by historians and researchers.

Professor Salvador Ryan, professor of Ecclesiastical History at St Patrick’s College Maynooth says that “Orosius is a hugely important figure in the study of Christian historiography and what was traditionally termed Historia Sacra [‘Sacred History’]. This is an area on which many Maynooth scholars have published over the years. It is particularly fitting, and a cause for celebration, then, that this early printed edition of Orosius’s work has been acquired for our Library’s Special Collections”.

This book will join our 59 other incunabula (the technical term used for books printed before 1500) and will be available for consultation as a priority. We are fortunate that Dr Boyle is a key member of the International Orosian Network (a group of scholars devoted to studying the transmission and reception of Orosius’s work in the medieval and early modern periods), and we look forward to providing them and others with the opportunity to engage with this remarkable work.

Turning Down the Volume: Writing a Paper on the Teresa Deevy Archive during Lockdown

By Róisín Berry, Archivist, Maynooth University Library

Active Speech Seminar Call for Papers

Over the last few weeks I have been working on a paper for an upcoming seminar on Waterford playwright, Teresa Deevy (1894-1963), entitled Active Speech: Sharing Scholarship on Teresa Deevy. The seminar will take place on 12 and 19 February 2021, and will be a virtual event. Its aim is to focus on Deevy’s work and provide a forum to bring together ongoing scholarship examining her work. The conference is being hosted by Waterford Institute of Technology, with the support of Maynooth University Library. It is the first conference of its kind and will take place twenty-five years after the silver jubilee issue of the Irish University Review  ‘Teresa Deevy and Irish Women Playwrights’, and on foot of a great revival of interest in her work. The event was supposed to take place in June 2020 but like many other cultural events, it had to be postponed due to Covid restrictions.

Photograph of playwright Teresa Deevy

I was fortunate enough to catalogue the Teresa Deevy Archive in 2012, and still remember my excitement as I trawled through the documents for the very first time. The archive was donated to Maynooth University Library by the playwright’s grand-niece, Jacqui Deevy in 2011, with the assistance of Deevy scholar Professor Christopher Morash. This important collection had been residing in a suitcase under a bed in Teresa Deevy’s family home in Waterford, for many years, before being transferred to its new home in Maynooth. Consisting of letters, scripts, short stories, essays, articles, theatre programmes and newspaper cuttings, it is a treasure trove for any literary scholar. Its move to Maynooth University Library’s Special Collections & Archives Department ensured the long-term preservation of this fascinating body of material for future generations to come.

Ordinarily, I would thoroughly enjoy the challenge of putting together a presentation, particularly when it addresses a collection that I have worked on. However, throw a Pandemic and its accompanying restrictions into the mix and you have a very different situation. In normal circumstances, I would pour over the original documents in the comfort of my office without a second thought. This is currently not an option as staff are being asked to work from home due to the ongoing restrictions. Without access to the collection, I have had to become a little more creative. Working with scanned images, a copy of the catalogue for the Deevy archive and an extensive collection of reference material, the fog is beginning to lift. It is not ideal, especially if you want to examine a selection of documents simultaneously, however, a great deal of information can still be gleaned.

Selection of Documents from the Teresa Deevy Archive at MU Library

One thing that I have noticed is that due to the current constraints, I am less concerned about what others have written about Deevy and more focussed on my own experience of the archive, how I approached cataloguing it, what documents stood out for me, and how the collection continues to resonate with me both personally and professionally nearly ten years later. This experience is something that I hope to capture in my presentation, the intimate journey that an archivist undertakes when working on a literary collection and how powerful than can be.

Sometimes it takes a Pandemic to make you turn down the volume and enjoy the stillness of your own thoughts and experiences, even in your professional life.

For further information on the Teresa Deevy Archive please contact:

Details on the online Active Speech (free) seminar can be found on Facebook: Active Speech: Sharing Scholarship on Teresa Deevy 2021

Conserving a Caxton

By Gretchen Allen, Library Conservator, Special Collections & Archives

William Caxton printer’s mark

William Caxton was an English printer and translator active in the latter half of the 15th century. He is thought to be the first printer in the English language, and his work had an enormous impact on English literature and the wider book trade. Born in 1422, Caxton traveled to Belgium and then later to Germany where he learned how to operate the newly invented printing press. As all of Caxton’s editions were printed before the year 1500, they are classed as “incunabula”, the oldest and most highly prized class of early printed work. While there are many surviving Caxtons in the UK, there are vanishingly few in Ireland.

One of his later printed works was a 1483 edition of the poet John Gower’s “Confessio Amantis”. The poem tells of a lovesick poet “Amans”, who confesses his misadventures in love to Genius, the chaplain of Venus, in an effort to be cured of his infatuation. The work is dedicated to Gower’s friend and contemporary, Geoffrey Chaucer.

The recto and verso of the framed print, showing the letter taped to the back

When Maynooth University acquired the Otway-Maurice collection of early printed works on long term loan from St. Canice’s Cathedral in Kilkenny, there was a single framed page of Caxton’s “Confessio” found in the collection. However, the page was in poor condition: it was heavily discolored with evidence of past water damage, and the paper had tearing and losses along the bottom edge. The most pressing concern was that only one side of the page was visible–due to the method of framing it was impossible to tell if there was text on the other side. It was not even possible to dismantle the frame as the back was covered by a taped-on letter of authentication. It was clear a conservator’s intervention would be necessary.

The letter of authentication was removed from the frame, then the remaining sellotape was removed from the letter, which was then surface cleaned and flattened. The frame was carefully dismantled, revealing that the print was encapsulated between two panes of glass. This can be a risky form of encapsulation to remove due to the strong static cling between glass panes, but it was even trickier in this case since one of the panes was broken.

The dismantled frame and the print encapsulated in glass

The tape along the edges was removed and the glass was safely lifted away from the object. The label was also lifted away, and the print was free of its enclosure. It was also finally possible to view the text on the back! The print was photographed, then both sides were gently and carefully surface cleaned. The substrate and media were spot-tested to check for solubility, and the print was then washed using a capillary wetting method which allowed water to slowly travel through the paper, taking discoloration and dirt with it.

The treatment is still ongoing: a light consolidant will be applied to return some structural integrity to the page, then the torn edges will be repaired and reinforced using a very light Japanese tissue paper. The finished print will then be rehoused and stored in Special Collections where it can be safely accessed by readers.

The recto and verso of the print pre-cleaning
Discoloration leaving the print during a capillary wash