Presents of Mind IV

If anyone ought to be familiar with the library at Birr Castle, County Offaly it is the building’s present chateleine, Alison Rosse. Located to the immediate right of the entrance hall, this rooom has been the victim of no less than two accidental fires, the first in 1832 and the second ninety years later. But on both occasions the library was restored and its shelves restocked so that today it looks as though the place never suffered any damage. Like all good domestic libraries, it serves a multitude of purposes: not just as a repository for books, but somewhere to take tea or repose, a space in which to seek sanctuary or hospitality. All this is evident in the watercolour seen above which shows the castle library well able to fulfill these functions, and many others besides. It appears in a new publication, Room for Books: Paintings of Irish Libraries featuring twenty-five such spaces as captured by Alison Rosse, accompanied by William Laffan’s text. Most of those included, a mixture of public and private libraries, still exist but one that has since been dispersed is that of the late Maurice Craig, shown below. When Maurice and Agnes Bernelle lived in Sandymount, Dublin he maintained this room on the first floor of their house. Following her death and his move to a smaller residence, he brought a great many of the books with him: I remember them being crammed into shelves and heaped on every available surface along which a resident cat (Maurice loved cats) would step with such care that no volume was ever displaced. Despite the seeming disorder, he was familiar with the place of every work in the collection and immediately able to lay his hand on whatever was needed for consultation. Bibliophiles love books not just for their physical beauty but also for their content. And such will be the case with the present publication, recommended as a last-minute gift (although book lovers will appreciate receiving a copy any time).
Room for Books: Paintings of Irish Libraries by Alison Rosse and William Laffan is published by the Irish Georgian Society, €10.00

The Irish Aesthete wishes a Happy and Peaceful Christmas to all friends and followers.


11 comments on “Presents of Mind IV

  1. Penny Perrick says:

    A very happy Christmas to the Irish Aesthete too. His postings are particularly welcome since I left Ireland earlier this year. Please could he note my new e-mail address.

  2. Maureen Dunne says:

    A very merry christmas 🎄 to everyone at The Irish Aesthete….and thanks for a wonderful year or news 🎄🎅🏻🎶

  3. Bob Frewen says:

    Thank you Robert, A very happy Christmas to you too and thanks for all the entertaining and educational features (postings? musings?) during the past year.

  4. Peter Davidson says:

    Happy Christmas to the Irish Aesthete from Oxford, and sincere thanks for a year of enlightenment and delight.

  5. Michael Thomas says:

    Thank you for your fascinating postings.I saw your Instagram Library posts,you might have one of Ballyduff in Kilkenny.There are 2 false doors!.The bookcases were removed from Coolmore,next door in 1946 and cut down to fit.Wishing you a Happy Christmas and New Year

  6. James Canning says:

    I join in wishing Happy Christmas and New Year, to the Irish Aesthete and his followers.

  7. John Phelan says:

    Well done Robert, I have great admiration for your intellectual efforts and your work for which all our lives have been enriched and our understanding of culture multiplied.

  8. Susan Adler Sobol says:

    I thought you would like to know that my sister-in-law spent the last few shopping hours of Christmas Eve searching for a local shop that had your book, “Romantic Irish Homes”. She lives in Lake Forest, Illinois. Her search was successful (Paddy’s on the Square in Long Grove, Illinois) but the shop was closing and she couldn’t get there in time. The proprietor was kind enough to leave it on the doorstep for her!

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