In the heart of Dublin, situated in the gardens of Dublin Castle, a treat for all book lovers awaits.
A library, rare book collection, museum and art gallery in one; this much lauded library offers treasures from all around the world for free. (Though the signposting is a bit feeble and you need to know where to look for it!)
The Chester Beatty Library holds the considerable collection of Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (1875-1968). A collector since his formative years when he gathered minerals, stamps and snuff boxes; as an adult, he expanded into all manner of artefacts. From Egyptian copies of the Qur’an, to Japanese and Chinese paintings and books from all time periods and locales, he developed a collection that is as impressive in its scope as in its preservation of treasures.
A. Chester Beatty – as he preferred to be known (he disliked his first name you see) lived by one mandate ‘quality, Quality, QUALITY’. He didn’t want to have the first of a set; he wanted to acquire the finest copy available. His goal was to ensure that his collection would protect and preserve for future generations. As a wealthy man, with resources and ties to America, the United Kingdom and Ireland, it is unlikely that modern day collectors will ever quite match the capacity and range Beatty did. He opened his library in Dublin in 1954. Three years later, he became Ireland’s first ever honorary citizen.
On display are some wonderful manuscripts, books, papyrus and prints – with explanations of the processes used and a brief history of each work (look out for the Egyptian piece worked on during World War Two – a fascinating history).
We visited the library in order to view the Art Books of Henri Matisse – an exhibition which runs from the 29th of May until the 25th of September this year. This – the first such exhibition in Europe – features four of Matisse’s illustrated books, including the much celebrated Jazz. The Chester Beatty Library also displays two Matisse books from its own collection – the illustrated Ulysses by James Joyce and the collection of poetry that Matisse released by Charles d’Orleans. Matisse was a friend of Beatty and is believed to have presented the latter book inscribed to him in 1950.
His bold use of striking colours and deceptively simple images instantly capture the eye and the imagination. If you’re visiting Dublin in the near future, do pop in!!