Marsh’s Library, built by Archbishop Narcissus Marsh (1638-1713), was the first public library in Ireland. It was designed by Sir William Robinson, 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 scholar’s library. The library contains some 25,000 printed books relating to the 16th-18th Centuries.
The library’s official website has some interesting online exhibitions (e.g. “Sole survivors: the rarest books in the world”).
Tues to Fri: 9.30am – 5pm
Sat: 10am – 5pm
Closed on Sundays, bank holidays and Dec 24 – Jan 1.
Guided, VIP and group tours are available on request, for an additional fee.