James Hardiman Library: Highlights from our Special Collections (eds. Marie Boran & Olivia Lardner, 2016)
The James Hardiman Library of NUI, Galway has only recently launched an impressive new guide to some of its most rare and culturally valuable possessions. The university library has undergone tremendous development and expansion during the last few years, and it makes their most recent publication especially timely. The work of many people, but especially of librarians Marie Boran and Olivia Lardner, Highlights from Our Special Collections is a beautifully-illustrated guide to the university’s rare books collection. Moreover, it provides a fascinating guide to old printed material; how to interpret and how to make the best use out of such material. There are insights into the works of individual printers, bookbinders, and former owners. The book opens with a brief overview of the uniqueness of the Galway collection, and how it came together over the past 170 years through the foresight of librarians, antiquarians and academics; James Hardiman, William King and Valentin Steinberger were all impressive collectors. This led to NUIG accumulating a remarkably eclectic and diverse collection, reflecting subject areas that remain major areas of research in the university to this day; from Anatomy, Engineering, and Architecture to Astronomy, Zoology, Law and Languages. Along with the large number of books, NUIG’s Special Collections is also the home to many valuable drawings, map and photographs.
The library has also benefited much from the donation of individual collections, including those of Lord Killanin, the folklorist James Delargy and the library of Joseph Henry. The Henry Library is a collection of special interest to Tuam, as it was long based in of St. Mary’s Cathedral here, and was moved on permanent-loan to NUIG in 2006. Joseph was one of the Henry’s of Toghermore House and the ancestor of Bobby Burke. He himself spent much of his life as an Anglican chaplain in Peru. In 1881 at a meeting of the Tuam Diocesan Council he offered his own ‘large and well-stocked library and bookcases to the Diocese.’ Before his death in 1885 he left his books and £15 a year for the purchase of new stock. The collection contains numerous works on history, geography, topography and travel, with a small number of interesting titles on polar exploration. The library grew through purchase and some stock like bibles and prayer books were added to it over the years by the closure of Church of Ireland buildings locally. There is a near complete set of the Achill Missionary Herald, printed by the evangelical Irish Church Mission Society at their unique settlement on Achill, from the 1840s to the 1870s, which would be of great value to west of Ireland historians. It also contains the Protestant Tuam Diocesan Council Reports covering almost a century, from 1871 to 1951, the works of Dean Edmund Burton of Tuam, T.J. Westropp’s study of the fort of Dún Aonghusa (1910), Hubert Knox’s Notes on the early history of the dioceses of Tuam (1904), and Edward Sirr’s A Memoir of the Hon. Power LePoer Trench, Last Archbishop of Tuam (1845).
Tuam Herald, 29 June 2016