Sole Survivors: The Rarest Books in the World
‘Sole Survivors: The Rarest Books in the World’ is an online exhibition of exceptionally rare books. They exist in only one copy in the world: ours.
We are frequently asked by visitors to Marsh’s Library about our most valuable books. They usually expect us to mention expensive or particularly striking books. Yet, the real treasures of Marsh’s Library are our ‘ugly ducklings’: cheap, inexpensive items, printed on poor-quality paper, which frequently show severe signs of wear and tear. These books were produced for a mass market but tend not to survive as they were often read or worked ‘to death’.
Around 1,000 of the ‘ugly ducklings’ in our collection are very rare, by which we mean that they survive in three or fewer copies across the world.
387 of these 1,000 books are exceptionally rare because they survive in only one copy. ‘Sole Survivors’ exhibits 32 of these unique items.
Among the books and pamphlets seen here are schoolbooks, travel books, a poem produced for a bride on her wedding day in 1643, a declaration raising taxes for the army of Oliver Cromwell in Ireland, a description of the Dutch ‘silly ship’ of 1653, and details of the first ‘#metoo’ moment in the Irish theatre from 1747.
‘Sole Survivors’ opened to visitors on 17th May 2018 and ran until the end of the year. The printed catalogue is now sold out! Thanks to all who supported the library by purchasing a copy: you now own a collector’s item!