Ireland, Travels

Travels for a rainy day – Trinity Long Room

On the shelves of Trinity College’s library, The Long Room, you can admire 200 000 copies of Ireland’s oldest books under a sombre, barrel-vaulted ceiling. The Trinity library began in 1592, almost at the same time as Queen Elizabeth I opened the university, although the Long Room itself dates from the early decades of the 18th century, being Ireland’s oldest library with over 5 million books.

Bearing in mind Dublin’s literary history, it is no wonder that this 65-metre long room filled with books is one of Dublin’s most visited attractions. Nevertheless, the library manages to maintain its prestigious sublimity that the centuries passed have vested in it. Here you can loiter around in peace, whereas downstairs, during the summer holiday season, the tourists circle in a small and dimly-lit room around a glass vitrine holding the famous celtic manuscript Book of Kells – ruthlessly deploying subtle academic elbow maneuvers to get closer to the glorious book. Luckily nowadays you can inspect the Book of Kells on the internet, where you can turn the pages and zoom into the details which is impossible in the exhibition room.

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In 1801, the Library was given the right to claim a free copy of every book published in Britain and Ireland, which today means about 100 000 copies a year.

Originally the room had a plaster ceiling which was raised in the 1850s to allow an upper gallery to accommodate all the new books. Apart from books, visitors can also see Ireland’s oldest harp – not Molly! – which is also the symbol of Ireland, and many marble busts of famous writers, philosophers and politicians. Iron staircases lead the staff to upstairs, and wooden ladders assist getting to the upmost shelves.

A visit in the The Long Room is a good choice for a rainy day, when you can listen the rain rattling against the windowpanes and sense some of the brilliance of all these geniuses, now dusting on the shelves in peace.

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