Dublin: City of Books

Book of Knell, Illustration by Emily Knapp

From the grand libraries that are full of wonder, to the small second-hand books stalls and independent libraries with cosy armchairs, book-lovers cannot dream of a better place than Dublin. Not forgetting the lovely people that welcome you with a smile and all the fun you will have in Ireland’s capital, my first impression of Dublin was sheer amazement at its fantastic books collection. It is no surprise then that Dublin has been a Unesco City of Literature since 2010.

It all started when my dear friend who studies at Trinity College, Dublin, opened the door of the Old Library for me. The visit starts with a permanent exhibition on the treasures it contains, with a strong focus on the Book of Kells, a richly decorated copy of the four Gospels of the life of Christ from the ninth century. The exhibition provides useful details about the making of the book and its exceptional aesthetic and symbolic characteristics in a very approachable manner. The enlarged colour reproductions are also useful to unpack the intricate arrangement of details that fill the pages. Unfortunately, the contrast with the two original manuscripts on display at the end of the gallery is slightly anti-climactic, due to the necessarily feeble lighting that preserves them, which does not do justice to their rich polychrome. Yet their aura is still very much felt. You then proceed to the library itself, an impressive high-ceilinged gallery flanked by dark wooden shelves with thousands of old and precious books. These include the official declaration of Ireland’s independence, which is currently on display, as well as a large collection of medieval manuscripts.