History

Marsh’s Library, built by Archbishop Narcissus Marsh (1638-1713), was the first public library in Ireland. It was designed by Sir William Robinson (d.1712) the Surveyor General of Ireland, and is one of the very few 18th century buildings left in Dublin that is still being used for its original purpose. Many of the collections in the Library are still kept on the shelves allocated to them by Marsh and by Elias Bouhéreau, the first librarian, when the Library was opened.

The Library was formally incorporated in 1707 by an Act of Parliament called An Act for settling and preserving a public library for ever. The Act vested the house and books in a number of religious and state dignitaries and officials and their successors as Governors and Guardians of the Library.

The interior of the library, with its beautiful dark oak bookcases each with carved and lettered gables, topped by a mitre, and the three elegant wired alcoves or ‘cages’ where the readers were locked in with rare books, remains unchanged since it was built three hundred years ago. It is a magnificent example of a 17th century scholars’ library.

 

Keepers (or Librarians) of Marsh’s Library

Elias Bouhéreau DD 1701

Robert Dougatt MA 1719

John Wynne MA 1730

Thomas Cobbe LLD 1762

William Blachford MA 1766

William Cradock MA 1773

Thomas Craddock MA 1776

Thomas Russell Craddock MA 1815

Thomas Russell William Craddock MA 1841

William Maturin DD 1872

George Thomas Stokes DD 1887

Newport John Davis White DD 1898

Newport Benjamin White MA 1931

Robert Ormes Dougan MA 1957

Robert Brendan McDowell FTCD 1958

John Gerald Simms FTCD 1974

John Simpson Brown MA, BD 1979

Muriel McCarthy MA, LLD 1989

Jason McElligott MA, MA, PhD 2011

The history of the library and a number of its famous books are discussed in Marsh’s Library: All Graduates and Gentlemen by Muriel McCarthy, €10.