Book Lovers at Kevin St Library, 1918

For all of my librarian and library-loving friends… The following is recorded in The Irish Book Lover in 1918.

Bibliographical Society of Ireland

(National Library of Ireland)

(National Library of Ireland)

The Society visited the Public Library, Lower Kevin Street, Dublin, on Saturday, the 22nd June, 1918, and were heartily welcomed by Mr. J. P. Whelan, the librarian; who showed them a number of rare works at present in the Library, including a volume of Malton’s views of Dublin, old catalogues, rare pamphlets, manuscripts, maps, etc.

Mr. Dix, the Chairman of the Society, warmly thanked Mr. Whelan for the very kind reception he had given them at their visit, and pointed out what valuable material the Library contained for Students of Irish History, Antiquities, etc, and stated that Mr. Whelan had for years welcomed additions to the Library of that kind, had carefully preserved them, and fully appreciated the value of even the smallest pamphlet dealing with Dublin or Irish subjects generally. In commemoration of the visit he presented an old map of Ireland, and said he hoped the members of the Society would, from time to time, visit this Library and make use of its resources, and added that he was sure that Mr. Whelan would welcome gifts to the Library.

Mr Whelan suitably replied, acknowledging with pleasure what had been said, and gave some particulars of the foundation and development of the Library, which now contains some 10,000 volumes, but owing to limited resources at present available to the Corporation for the purpose; and the necessary expense of upkeep of five Municipal Libraries and Art Galleries in Harcourt Street, further progress was at present slow. He hoped that the Members would come again to visit the Library, where they would be always welcome. He then took Members of the Deputation around the Library, pointing out the classes of books and stated that the system of classification followed what was known as the “Dewey” system.

He then brought he deputation into the fine large Reference Room, where they examined the case of specimens of Dublin book-binding, etc, and views, etc, round the wall. Mr Whelan also opened the presses along the length of the room and showed the members some of the rare books useful to Students, both relating to Ireland and other places. Here are kept the books not only on antiquity but also on Irish music, Irish language, Irish magazines, etc. The members of the Society enjoyed a most pleasant afternoon, and hope that their visit will testify to their appreciation of Mr. Whelan’s work and efforts in developing this Library and also make it better known to students of various Irish subjects. It is hoped that the next visit of the Society will be to the Royal Irish Academy.”

The Irish Book Lover is available to read in the National Library of Ireland and Trinity College Library Early Books collection. I’ll be revisiting Kevin Street Library, currently undergoing extensive restoration, soon.


A shop on Castle St

This gorgeous receipt from Sept 1845 is one of many among the Powerscourt Papers at the National Library of Ireland. The archive contains lots of receipts with details of shops long gone in Dublin. I especially like this one because not only does it include the quite typical business logo, but it also includes a picture of what the front of the shop looked like. We can see that this one is for Morrisons, No. 42 Castle St, which was a Hat Warehouse. The receipt text proclaims that Morrisons is a Waterproof Beaver & Silk Hat Warehouse, with a great variety of beaver bonnets, children’s hats, caps, etc. Under the drawing of the shop, there is a very polite statement: “No credit given”.

Receipt for Morrisons of Castle St ((C) National Library of Ireland)

Part of a receipt for Morrisons’ of Castle St (© National Library of Ireland)

The only remaining original house on Castle St is No. 4, which Dublin Civic Trust have restored to its original glory as a Merchant’s Townhouse, and the Trust website gives some more information about Castle Street. Hugh Morrison and Sons themselves mustn’t have lasted much longer; a street listing in 1862 states that No. 42 was occupied by Michael Walsh, and was a provision warehouse for hide, feather, and wool merchants. But bravo to the Morrisons for leaving the legacy of this gorgeous receipt.


The Way that I Went

praegerRobert Lloyd Praeger’s The Way That I Went has just been reprinted by Collins Press. The book charts Praeger’s treks through Ireland and the natural history he recorded along the way. Praeger lived at 19 Fitzwilliam Square when he wrote the book, and the preface, written from number 19, opens with some lines from James Thomson:

Let my voice ring out and over the earth, / Through all grief and strife / With a golden joy in a silver mirth: / Thank God for Life!

Praeger set about full time fieldwork and academic work after stepping down as Head Librarian at the National Library of Ireland in 1923. He became President of the Royal Irish Academy in 1931. After his wife died in 1952, he moved back north and died the following year, 5th May 1953, at his sister’s house—an event also commemorated by a plaque.

The Irish Naturalist’s Journal, which Praeger co-founded and edited carried an article to mark the unveiling of his plaque on Fitzwilliam Square in 1987. The plaque was unveiled by Professor David Webb of Trinity College in a ceremony involving representation from the Dublin Naturalists Field Club, the Royal Irish Academy, the National Botanic Gardens and the Belfast Naturalists Field Club, which Praeger joined aged 11.

19 Fitzwilliam Square (Google Streetview)

19 Fitzwilliam Square (Google Streetview)


Patrick Reilly (1988), Unveiling of Plaque to Robert Lloyd Praeger, The Irish Naturalists’ Journal, 22(10), 456-457