The founder of Marsh’s Library, Archbishop Narcissus Marsh (1638-1713), was a clergyman and scholar. Before coming to Dublin, Marsh studied near-Eastern languages at Oxford, and developed an abiding interest in the Hebrew language and Jewish tradition.
A closer look at the books in the Library that bears his name points to Narcissus Marsh’s interest in Jewish books, as well as a broader interest in Judaism. Within the Library’s extraordinary collection of early modern works there are over 250 such volumes representing Hebrew Bibles, Talmudic texts, rabbinic writings, and Yiddish books. Of these, nearly 150 can be traced back to Marsh’s personal collection.
The images presented here give a sample of the wide-ranging collection of Jewish books in the Library. They also point to the surprisingly rich inter-cultural engagement that was taking place in 17th and 18th century Ireland.
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Exhibition curated by Brad Anderson
School of Theology, Philosophy and Music, Dublin City University
Dr Anderson’s teaching and research focuses on the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, as well as the use and impact of these texts down through the centuries. His research also explores how sacred texts are employed in the contemporary world, from iconic uses to the rise of digital culture. Brad is a former president of the Irish Biblical Association (IBA), and an active member of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL), the Society for Comparative Research on Iconic and Performative Texts (SCRIPT), and the Irish Society for the Academic Study of Religions (ISASR).
This project builds on important research done by two scholars who have explored the Jewish books in Marsh’s Library. Professor Shlomo Berger of the University of Amsterdam curated an exhibit for the Library in 2014–15 entitled, ‘From Lublin to Dublin (by way of Amsterdam)’, shortly before his untimely death. For this project we have drawn on some of the valuable collating and observations that were made by Professor Berger. In 2017, Dr Javier del Barco, a Senior Research Fellow at the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC) in Madrid, undertook three months of research on the Jewish books in Marsh’s Library, in conjunction with the international ‘Footprints’ project, which is tracing the history of Jewish books. Dr Del Barco made a number of significant discoveries and observations in his research, several of which have been noted in this digital exhibition.
Marsh's Library gratefully acknowledges the support of the Irish Research Council for this digital exhibition through its New Foundations funding scheme.
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