Marsh’s Library, built in 1701 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 with rare books, remains unchanged since it was built three hundred years ago. It is a magnificent example of a 17th century scholars’ library.
Marsh’s Library is a charity. In recent years, however, thanks to an annual government grant and to the generosity of corporate and individual donors, we have created improved facilities for readers and visitors, built a Conservation Bindery and, most important of all, we have computerised the catalogue and made it available on the internet.
Donations to the Library are always welcome.