About the collections

On Government advice we are closed to readers and visitors due to Covid-19. During this period we will undertake a stock-check and cleaning of the historic books in our collection. We look forward to welcoming readers when the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.

Marsh’s Library was built at the expense of Narcissus Marsh (1638–1713) and established by Act of Parliament in October 1707.

To provide a core for the Library, Marsh purchased the library of the English bishop, theologian and controversialist Edward Stillingfleet (1635–99) from Stillingfleet’s son James. Arriving in Ireland in 1705, the books were classified and arranged on the shelves by Marsh’s first librarian, the Huguenot refugee Elie Bouhéreau (1643–1719), whom Marsh had met in late 1698 and described as ‘an ingenious and well-learned man’.

Bouhéreau’s books came to the library under the terms of his appointment by Royal warrant of June 1701. His collection shows his interest in chymistry, and medical topics, as well as theological controversy. As well as being a divine, he practised as a physician, having taken a medical degree at Orange. The library holds a large collection of his correspondence, his diary and some other papers, and a collection of prescriptions.

Marsh’s books were added to the library as provided by his will: his collection is rich in near-Eastern languages and the apparatus of biblical scholarship; and in natural philosophy, mathematics and astronomy.

The fourth core collection belonged to John Stearne (1660–1745), bishop of Clogher, and represents only a part of his extensive library, some books having gone to the curates of his diocese; some, including his manuscripts, to Trinity College Dublin; and the remainder to Marsh’s.

Marsh’s also owns the Benjamin Iveagh Library, which was gifted by the Guinness family in 2008/9. Still housed in the room created for it at Farmleigh House, this collection is rich in material of Irish interest, including many eighteenth-century gold-tooled bookbindings created in Dublin.