Dublin can remain a city with secrets, even to those who’ve lived here all their lives.

One such secret (albeit one a little better known than most) is Archbishop Marsh’s Library in Dublin 8, situated directly beside St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Established over 300 years ago in 1701, and open since 1707, the library is home to over 25,000 rare books, manuscripts, maps, and literary curios dating from the 15th to 18th centuries.

Covering everything from medicine to folklore to Jewish texts, and in languages as diverse as Aramaic, Maori, and Cornish, the library’s collection spans not only the history of the countries and cultures found within its books, but the intellectual history of Dublin city itself.

Archbishop Narcissus Marsh
Home to frequent talks and exhibitions, the library prides itself on its accessibility to the general public, and children in particular – one exhibition currently aimed at a younger audience is the ‘Scary (and Hairy) Tales from Marsh’s Library’. Here, children are guided through the rooms of the library via comic book (€2, available at the front desk), where different spooky and historical tales relating to the library’s past are linked to different stations throughout the building.

Other upcoming events in the library include its participation in the Dublin Festival of History 2015, Culture Night 2015, and the Bram Stoker Festival 2015.

As part of the Dublin Festival of History, one of the library’s most famous past-patrons, Bram Stoker, will be discussed alongside his use of the library’s books and their influence on his work in the upcoming lecture ‘Puritanism, William of Orange, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula’. Taking place in City Hall at 12pm on October 3rd, the lecture will be given by the library’s Keeper, Dr Jason McElligott, alongside the author Paul Murray. No prior booking is required for this event.

Marsh's Library in Dublin 8
For the younger ones, as part of the Bram Stoker Festival 2015, the aforementioned Scary and Hairy comic book will cost just €1, and for the duration of the festival (23rd-26th October) entrance to the library will be free of charge. As well as prizes for best costume for the kids during the day, there will be nightly candlelit performances in the library by Tonnta musical ensemble. Tickets to this event cost €5, and can be booked through the event page.

The library will also be taking part in this year’s Culture Night on September 18th, with free tours from 5.30-8.30, every hour and half-hour. As is often the case with Culture Night events, these tours are sure to be in high demand, and groups will be limited to a maximum of 25 people – so make sure to get there early to avoid the queues.

However, if you don’t manage to make it on Culture Night, fear not – a trip to Marsh’s costs just €3 for adults, and €2 for students and senior citizens. Entry for children and those in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance/social benefits is free. Once inside, you can peruse the rooms of the library at your leisure, although there are always plenty of staff and guides on hand should you have any questions, or like to take a tour. You’ll also have a chance to try your hand at a spot of writing with quill and ink.

Like many of Ireland’s cultural institutions, Marsh’s Library is heavily reliant on public donations for the maintenance of its collections. As such, the library will be launching its first-ever crowdfunding campaign in September, with the hopes of raising enough funds to allow for the conservation of three books from its collection – a first-edition of Isaac Newton’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica dated from 1686, a copy of John Milton’s pamphlet on ‘The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce’ from 1644, and a copy of John Chamber’s ‘A Treatise against Judicial Astrology’ dated from 1601. Anyone interested in donating towards the conservation of these items can contact the library by email or follow @marshcampaigns on Twitter for updates and information.

The library is open Mondays, and Wednesdays to Fridays from 9.30-5.00, and 10.00-5.00 on Saturdays. It is closed Tuesdays, Sundays, and Bank Holidays. For more information you can visit the Marsh’s Library website, or follow them on Twitter, or on Facebook.

Marsh's Library shelving
Marsh’s Library
St. Patrick’s Close
Dublin 8

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the thin grey line

All photographs courtesy Marsh’s Library


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