A few days ago I was delighted to be a guest on The History Show on Limerick City Community Radio, hosted by John O’Carroll. The two subjects who I talked about were:
- Sir Hugh Lane – art dealer, promoter, gallery director and patron of Irish Art ; and
- Jonathan Swift – scholar, writer, satirist, Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral and hospital patron.
Both of these men made immense and unique contributions to Ireland that we still enjoy and, no doubt, will the generations to follow.
Sir Hugh Lane
Dean Jonathan Swift
They say that ‘good things come in small parcels’ and a visit to the Edward Worth Library certainly proves the point. It is one of the city’s lesser-known gems and, after nearly three hundred years, is unchanged and offering a unique step back in time.
Worth (1678-1733) was born in Dublin, the second son of John Worth, Dean of St Patrick’s cathedral. He was educated as a physician in Oxford and Leiden University in the Netherlands. The collection of books reflects his training, in that as much as a third comprises works on medicine and science, with the remainder dealing with philosophy, literature, history and the classics. And although he has left us a priceless gift, it is surprising that we know almost nothing about his own life, personal or professional, as he left no correspondence. The closest we get are the notes he made on book- auction lists.
Dean John bequeathed a small number of books to Edward who was only ten years old when he died in 1688. However, the majority of the collection was assembled by Edward himself, buying ‘libraries’ from auctions in Dublin, London and Amsterdam. He was very selective in what he bought and the collection reflects this. There are almost 4,400 volumes on show, with the earliest dating from 1475 – a mere thirty-odd years since Guttenberg’s breakthrough!
HANDrail in the courtyard
Worth worked in Dr Steevens’ Hospital and he bequeathed his collection, and funds for shelving and bookcases, to the new hospital. And east-facing room was chosen to minimize the sun’s effect, and the library was the first to protect books through glass-fronted doors.
Original glass-fronted bookcases
Today, many conferences are seminars are held in the library that reference books in the collection. There will be an Open Day on Friday July 24 that will be of interest to those with a love of books and ‘all things Dublin’. Should you go along? Of course, because it’s Worth it!
Dr Steevens’ Hospital
Filed under Art, Dublin, Science