by Yvette Campbell, Assistant Librarian, Russell Library Cataloguing Project
Father Seán [John] Corkery was a graduate of St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth and held a BSc and an MA. His appointment to the post of Librarian to St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth from 1951-1973 afforded him the opportunity of bringing a professional approach to the organisation and development of the library and its collections. In developing these collections in line with the challenges posed by the introduction of lay students in 1966, he worked long hours and sought the collegial support of professional librarians in Ireland.
On a personal level, Corkery was a bibliophile at heart, a collector of books and pictures. In a professional context, he was an authority on the rare items within the Maynooth College collections. His passion for this is evidenced in his many publications.
Corkery was a priest of the diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise and was Parish Priest of Aughnacliffe in Co. Longford. The collection was purchased from Father Corkery’s friend Fonsie Mealy in 1994 and features a variety of pamphlets and rare titles in history and literature as well as a collection of items relating to book history, libraries, printers and travel magazines. His small collection, which was the last collection to be fully catalogued in the Russell Library before the closure due to Covid-19, consists of 585 items from his personal collection.
It is clear from documenting his material that Father Corkery had an immense interest in libraries, travel, art, literature, architecture and the environment. Both well-read and well-travelled, he was undoubtedly held in high esteem among authors and publishers alike both in Ireland and overseas. Many of his books were received as gifts with compliments as demonstrated through the letters and personal messages in the books from his collection. While not all of his collection feature early printed books, his eye for detail on rare duodecimo [a size of book in which each leaf is one twelfth of the size of the printing sheet] and elegant books dating from the early 1900s-1970s is noted.
Below is a beautiful selection of imagery from this collection for you to enjoy:
The cataloguing of this small collection will enable all to glimpse the diversity of Father Corkery’s interests and the breadth of his expertise in Irish bibliography, of early printed books and their history, and of his particular interest in books as an art form. It adds significant value to the history of St. Patrick’s College Maynooth and to the Russell Library. It will also be of great interest for library professionals as it paints a profile of a librarian whose scholarly contribution to the field was held in high regard as he was elected to the highest office of the Library Association of Ireland, that of President and one of the first recipients of the Fellowship of the Library Association of Ireland.
Ellis-King, Deirdre E. (2015). The Presidents of the Library Association of Ireland 1929-2014. Dublin. Library Association of Ireland.
Neligan, A. (Ed). (1995). Maynooth Library Treasures: from the Collections of Saint Patrick’s College. Dublin. Royal Irish Academy