Dublin Castle, Dublin 2, Ireland. Tel: (+353 1) 407 0750
Fax: (+353 1) 407 0760. email: firstname.lastname@example.org. October-April: Tuesday-Friday 10.00a.m.-5.00p.m. May-September: Monday-Friday 10.00a.m.-5p.m.
Saturday, 11am - 5pm. Sunday, 1pm - 5pm. (Closed 1 „
Introduction ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ The Chester Beatty Library is now located in a new extension to the old “Clock Tower” building in the grounds of Dublin Castle. It moved here in November, 1999, from its old home in a large house in Shrewsbury Road (one of the the MOST expensive property locations in Dublin) where it first opened its doors in 1954. ~ ~ The Library is a treasure trove for anyone who is interested in the great religions and cultures of the world, and houses one of the very best collections of its kind. The artefacts and exhibits include ancient manuscripts, prints, miniature paintings, icons, early editions of printed books, and objets d’art from countries and Continents all around the world, such as Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and North Africa. More on these later, but first lets take a look at the man who was responsible for Ireland housing such a magnificent collection. Chester Beatty ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Alfred Chester Beatty was actually an American, born in New York City in 1875. Beatty was a respected mining engineer, who travelled the world on the various projects undertaken by his company. In 1911 he left America, and set up home in London, in 1912 buying a property, Baroda House, in Kensington Palace Gardens. Since his early childhood he had been an avid collector of all sorts of various objects of interest, including stamps, minerals, and such diverse things as Chinese snuff bottles. On his travels around the globe he began to collect more widely, buying, in particular, a wide selection of both European and Persian manuscripts. In 1914, he visited Egypt, where he purchased some beautifully decorated copies of the Koran in the bazaars, and a visit to Asia in 1917 added Chinese and Japanese painting to his growing list of interests. He was primarily attracted to these manuscripts by their fine bindings and the rich illustrations, as
well as the magnificent calligraphy, but he was also concerned to preserve the texts for posterity and for their historic value. ~ ~ During the Second World War he was responsible for supplying the Allies with many strategic war materials, and he was later to receive a Knighthood from the British government in recognition of this valuable contribution to the war effort. He moved to Dublin in 1950, and built his library on Shrewsbury Road specifically to house his collection, and in recognition of this he became Ireland’s first ever Honorary Citizen in 1957. Upon his death in 1968, he bequeathed his whole collection to the Irish people, and thanks to the generous and on-going support given by the Irish Government, it has since become one of the country’s national institutions. The Library ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ In 1999 the Library moved to its new custom-built home in the precincts of Dublin Castle. Access is through the Castle’s gardens, and there is a lovely glass-roofed entrance hall that links the new exhibition centre with the old 18th century Clock Tower. On the ground floor there is a lecture theatre, small souvenir shop, and a restaurant, and here visitors can also avail themselves of a good audio-visual presentation on the life of Sir Chester Beatty and his great art collection. The actual galleries and collection itself are situated on the first and second floors. First Floor Gallery ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ As you enter the First Floor Gallery there is a display dedicated to Sir Chester Beatty and his collection, and a fine bust of the great man himself by the celebrated sculptor Carolyn Mulholland. This section contains many beautiful works of art from the Islamic, East Asian, and Western worlds. You can gaze upon the intricate detail on the Japanese “inro”, which were tiny boxes used in olden times to store seals and medicines, or study o
ne of the world’s finest collections of Chinese jade books. There is also a collection of fine miniature paintings from the old courts of the Mughal Emperors of India, illuminated Persian manuscripts, fine European printed books, bindings and drawings, and a whole range of exquisite calligraphy from all round the world. Audio-visual presentations are available here to explain in more detail all the intricate techniques of print-making, paper-making, and book production. Second Floor Gallery ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ The Second Floor Gallery is wholly dedicated to all the great religions of the world, including Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism. There are again audio-visual presentations exploring such topics as the history of the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, the lives of Buddha and Christ, and the rites of passage – birth, marriage and death – in the different belief systems. One of the outstanding exhibits in this gallery is a collection of illuminated copies of the Koran, dating from as early as the 9th century, and going all the way to the 19th century. There are ancient papyri from Egypt, including the famous Egyptian love poems from around 1100 BC, and also some of the very earliest Gospel and New Testament texts, dating back to 200 AD. These Christian texts are a fundamental source of information for all serious scholars of early Christianity, and the ancient texts of the Koran represent the very best expressions of Islam in terms of calligraphy and illumination. There are also fine displays of fine scrolls and other religious artworks from Japan, China, Tibet, and South and Southeast Asia. The Reading Room ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Serious scholars can apply to the curators for a reading ticket, which will allow them to avail of the facilities of the Reading Room, where it is possible to examine the ancient artefacts at close quarters. This
room is situated on the first floor of the original Clock Tower building, and contains a huge collection of reference books, as well as a reproduction of a fine lacquered Chinese ceiling, that Chester Beatty originally had commissioned for his London home. The bookcases here are magnificent, and are hand made in mahogany by famous Dublin carpenters from the 1950’s, Hicks of Dublin. ~ ~ Next time you find yourself in Dublin, be sure to pay a visit to this truly magnificent Library and Museum. It is open every day except Monday, and admission is free.