Post by Saoirse Reynolds, Special Collections & Archives
On August 21, 23 & 24 the Russell Library took part in Heritage Week with an exhibition exploring nature through the historical print collections of the Russell Library. Books on gardening, botany, agriculture, husbandry and medicinal plants were on display some of which referred to the local area.
One of the most visually interesting and beautiful books which was on display was William Hanbury’s, A complete body of planting and gardening published in London in 1770-71. Hanbury was a Church of England clergyman and horticulturist, was born at Bedworth, Warwickshire in 1725. He matriculated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford in 1745 and graduated in 1748. The degree of MA was subsequently conferred on him by St Andrews University on 11 November 1769 in recognition of his achievements in planting.
A Rare Book from the Russell Library which was on display was Scenery of Ireland: illustrated in a series of prints, of select views, castles, and abbeys, in this kingdom by Jonathan Fisher. The book was printed in Dublin in 1792 and has beautiful illustrations of castles and abbeys of Ireland. Fisher was an Irish painter and was born in Dublin in 1740. He is first recorded in 1763 when he was awarded a premium by the Dublin Society for a landscape. He is best known for his fine engravings and aquatints of Irish scenery. He travelled all over Ireland and published views of Killarney in 1770 and 1789. He lived at Great Ship Street, Dublin, from about 1778 until 1805, when he moved to Bishop Street, Dublin, where he died in 1809.
Another beautiful book we had on display from our Special Collections was Ireland’s wild orchids /orchid portraits by Susan Sex with accompanying text by Brendan Sayers. It was printed by Nicholson & Bass in Belfast in 2004 and is a limited edition of 700 signed and numbered copies.
Two volumes of Charles Henry Dessalines d’Orbigny’s Dictionnaire universel d’histoire naturelle were on display also. D’Orbigny was a French botanist and geologist
specializing in the Tertiary of France. He was the younger brother of French naturalist and South American explorer, Alcide d’Orbigny. At the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, d’Orbigny identified many of the flowering plant species returned to France from his brother’s natural history collecting journeys through South America.
For more information on any of these items please contact us:
Many unique and wonderful treasures are found among the Russell Library’s Bible collection. ‘TheNew Testament of our Lord and Redemptor Jesus Christ’ by Joao Ferreira de Almeida (1628-1691) is a Portuguese language Bible that was damaged during the Easter Rising of 1916. Printed in London in 1819 this Bible is part of the Hibernian Bible Society (HBS) collection. This collection of c. 2,500 Bibles was deposited by the Society to the Russell Library in 1986 and is represented in 593 languages. The sheaf catalogue of this unique collection lists the Bibles first by language, then chronologically. TheNew Testament of our Lord and Redemptor Jesus Christ is number 740 in the catalogue.
Some books of the Bible were first translated into the Portuguese language in the 13th century. Joao Ferreira de Almeida, a converted Protestant pastor, began translating the Bible when he was just 16. He was also an ardent religious writer mostly protesting against the Catholic Church with the Portuguese Inquisition publicly burning some of his writings and sentencing him to death for heresy. He studied Greek and Hebrew in order to perfect his Bible translations as his first publication of the New Testament (1681), was criticised due to the amount of errors. He spent ten years revising this and the new edition was published posthumously in 1693.
The Hibernian Bible Society (now the National Bible Society of Ireland) was established in 1806 to encourage wider circulation of the Bible throughout Ireland. The Society is now located on Dublin’s Dawson Street but was previously situated in the heart of Dublin City in Bible House on 10 Upper Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street). Bible House bore witness to many historic times including the Dublin Rebellion of 1916 and the Irish Civil War.
Ninety seven years after Almeida’s Bible was published, it was damaged by gunfire during the Rising. Although we do not know the circumstances, the damage, which resembles bullet holes is clearly visible on the top right foredge of the front cover, the textblock and on the backboard. The sheaf catalogue entry testifies to the damage from the rebellion. Despite the impairment the Bible remains mostly intact and is in overall good condition.
Front cover with damage
Back cover with damage
Disaster struck the Hibernian Bible Society in 1922 when Bible House was destroyed during the Irish Civil War. One of the greatest losses to the Society was the library, which was devastated during the conflict. Upon relocating to the premises on Dawson Street, the Society replenished the library to its former glory.
Maynooth University currently have two exhibitions on display to commemorate the Easter Rising of 1916. The Russell Library has Maynooth College and 1916 on view and Domhnall Ua Buachalla: an Exhibition is on display in the JPII library building. Visitors are welcome.
As part of the annual Maynooth University Library Publications Festival, the Russell Library is hosting a one day exhibition entitled Medicine and Natural History, showcasing some of the Library’s oldest works relating to the sciences. Here is a brief history of some of the items on display which include The Works of the Honourable Robert Boyle vol. IV which contains Memoirs for the Natural History of Human Blood (1744). This was once praised as ‘the most important of Boyle’s medical writings’ but upon publication the general reception was less enthusiastic suggesting Boyle presented findings that were outdated and already published. Born in Lismore, Co Waterford in 1627, Boyle was the 7th son of the Earl of Cork and one of Ireland’s most important scientists. He is most known for devising Boyle’s Law and many experiments with air and discovering the necessity of it for combustion and the transmission of sound.
Also on display is the appendix to Sir John Sinclair’s pamphlet The Code of Health and Longevity which describes, with images, eight very elderly persons
from the age of 112 to 185 years. Petratsch Zortan, at 185 years, had ‘…little sight and his hair and beard were of a greenish white colour, like mouldy bread…’ The secret to his long life involved ‘Being a Greek by religion, the old man was a strict observer of fasts, and never used any food but milk and cakes…together with a good glass of brandy’. An Irishwoman, Catherine the Countess of Desmond, apparently lived over 140 years, dying in the reign of King James I.
She ‘retained her full vigour in a very advanced period of life’ having ‘…twice or trice renewed her teeth’.
Continuing the theme of longevity, the 1683 text by Francis Bacon, Sylva Sylvarum or A Natural History in Ten Centuries, discusses ‘the history, natural and experimental of life and death or the prolongation of life’. Among the chapter headings include Length and Shortness of Life in Man, Medicines for Long Life, the Operation upon the Bowels for the Extrusion of Aliment and The Porches of Death. Bacon proposes ‘Islanders are, for the most part, longer-liv’d than those that live in Continents: for they live not to [sic] long in Russia as in the Orcades…and the Japonians [sic] are longer-liv’d than the Chinese…’ He goes on to suggest ‘the countries which have been observed to produce long-livers are: Arcadia, ᴁtolia…Brazil, Britain, Ireland, with the islands of the Orcades and Hebrides.’ If one would appreciate a long life, one thing to do is look after the stomach ‘which as they say is the master of the house…’
The stomach should be ‘clean, not surcharged with foul humours and yet not altogether empty or hungry: …it is to be kept ever in appetite, because appetite sharpens digestion’. However, a long life can be shortened by sudden death with a list of possible culprits including, not surprisingly ‘…a great blow on the head induceth sudden death, the Spirits being frightened within the ventricles of the brain….also extreme drunkenness or extreme feeding sometimes cause sudden death…’ and ‘…joys, excessive and sudden have bereft many of their lives’.
Among the natural history titles on display is Giovanni Alfonso Borelli’s De Motu Animalium or On the Movement ofAnimals which was first published posthumously in 1685. Borelli was an Italian physiologist and physicist acquainted with Galleo Galilei. While in the post of Head of Mathematics at the University of Pisa, Borelli met the Italian anatomist Marcello Malpighi and in 1657 they co-founded the short-lived Accademia del Cimento, a scientific academy. At this time Borelli began a fascination with the science of animal movement or biomechanics, eventually earning him the title the Father of Biomechanics. In De Moto Animalium, Borelli compares animals to machines and employs mathematics to prove his theories. The anatomists of the 17th century were the first to suggest the contractile movement of muscles. Borelli, however, was the first to suggest that ‘muscles do not exercise vital movement otherwise than by contracting’. Borelli recognised that forward motion entailed movement of a body’s centre of gravity forward, which was then followed by the swinging of its limbs in order to maintain balance. His studies extended beyond muscle and locomotion. In particular he likened the action of the heart to that of a piston. For this to work properly he derived the idea that the arteries have to be elastic. Forced into exile in 1668, for suspected involvement in political conspiracies, Borelli lived his remaining years in poverty, teaching basic mathematics at a convent school.
Giovanni Alfonso Borelli (1608-1679)
De Motu Animalium
The exhibition includes many more treasures on medicine and natural history. The oldest on show is Principia Philosophiae by René Descartes. Printed in 1650. It includes 4 of Descartes works including the essay Dioptrices. In it Descartes uses various models to understand the properties of light. It was his greatest contribution to optics.
The exhibition will run on Wednesday 27th January from 10am to 1pm and from 2pm to 5pm. A guided tour will be held at 12pm.
By Yvette Campbell and Barbara McCormack, Special Collections & Archives
In August 2013, a collection of fifty Gaelic manuscripts from the Library at St. Colman’s College, Fermoy were relocated to the Russell Library, which has one of the largest and most important collections of Gaelic manuscripts in Ireland. In October last year, cataloguing was completed on the manuscripts which act as a further consolidation of collections relating to the religious and social history of Ireland in the early modern period (from the late 17th to the mid-19th centuries particularly) such as the Murphy, O’Curry and Renehan manuscript collections, also housed in the Russell Library.
By Barbara McCormack, Special Collections & Archives
We are currently hosting a very interesting exhibition in the Russell Library to mark the anniversary of World War I. ‘Maynooth College 1914-1918’ was developed to commemorate the role of Irish Catholic army chaplains in the First World War while also documenting the history of Maynooth College during this period.
Welcome to the brand new MU Library Treasures Blog – an insight into the early print, manuscript and other special collections of the Russell Library and John Paul II Library at Maynooth University.
Why another blog you ask? Can’t I get this information from the MU Library Website? Well the answer is yes and no. We hope to provide you with a range of highlights and interesting facts about the 40,000+ works in Special Collections & Archives. Stay tuned for exhibition sneak peeks, staff picks and focus features!