The Rarest Books in the World
This is an exhibition of exceptionally rare books. They exist in only one copy in the world: ours.
Visitors to Marsh’s Library often ask about our most valuable books. They usually expect us to mention ornate, expensive or particularly striking books such as our early editions of Dante’s Divine Comedy, or the first edition of Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica (1687).
The real treasures of Marsh’s Library are our ‘ugly ducklings’: cheap items, which frequently show severe signs of wear and tear. Produced for a mass market, they tend not to survive as they were often read or worked ‘to death’.
‘Sole Survivors’ displays 32 of the most interesting unique items in our collection. This is less than 10% of the 387 books in Marsh’s Library which survive in just one copy in the world.
Exhibition curated by Jason McElligott and Lindsay Doyle
Online version curated by Lindsay Doyle
Jason McElligott is the Director of Marsh's Library and Adjunct Professor in the School of History, University College Dublin.
Lindsay Doyle is a Masters student in the Public History programme at University College Dublin. She graduated in 2015 from Ursinus College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After graduation she worked as the Education Coordinator at the Fort William Henry Museum in Lake George, New York. She spent the beginning of 2018 interning at Marsh's Library, assisting with the Sole Survivors exhibition.
Marsh's Library gratefully acknowledges the scholarly assistance of the Universal Short Title Catalogue (USTC) at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, the English STC at the British Library in London, and the Dutch STC at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in the Hague.
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