Work Placement: Historical Research Skills in Action

The River-side welcomes this guest post from Kian O’Mahony, a student on the 2021/2022 MA in History in UCC, that includes the HI6063: Work Placement and Portfolio module. Kian spent six weeks in UCC Library: in Academic Services, Special Collections & Archives listing small collections of maps, postcards and letters and in Digital Learning Services using the primary sources from Special Collections & Archives to create a book on Scalar, an open-source web-based publishing platform for creating networked multi-media online publications. 

Introduction

For six weeks from Monday 24 January to Friday 4 March 2022, I undertook my work placement module in UCC Library as part of my MA degree in History. I worked in four sections of the library which were Special Collections, Digital Learning Services, Academic Services, and Library Archives. I will discuss aspects of my work placement which caught my interest and the skills I developed which will be of benefit for my working life after completing my degree.

Postcard Collection

A task I undertook for work experience was listing postcards. A postcard which stood out for me shows an image of the Harbour in Crosshaven in County Cork. The date of the postcard is 17 September 1906 and was sent to Miss M. Fitzgerald, whose address is James Street in Mitchelstown, which is in County Cork. The written message on the back of the postcard is readable. The image on the front of the postcard depicts some boats at a port with a coastal area in the background and the sky is clear. I chose this postcard because Crosshaven is my hometown. Crosshaven is a town in the south of Cork and is located by the sea. I found it interesting to see an image of Cork on a postcard from over a century ago. Crosshaven is famous for its yacht club, which is the oldest in the world. This postcard also gives insight into the history of Crosshaven. Studying postcards from the past also highlights methods of communication in history, which gives insight into how people lived in the past. The postcard is in prime condition and has been successfully preserved in the Special Collections in UCC library. The postcard is part of a remarkable collection in Special Collections which also have been preserved and highlight the history of Cork and everyday life of its people throughout history. This aspect of my work placement has been beneficial as I have gained the opportunity to work with historical materials, which I would be interested in after completing my MA. I also acquired the skill of handling archival materials which would be essential for potential career options in the future.

Title in lower right: The Harbour Crosshaven, Co Cork. It's a historical view of Crosshaven harbour. On the right are lots of small boats and sailing ships tied up at the dock or berthed. A few small rowing boats are anchored in the sea. The sea and harbour are in the centre of the image. In the background are various houses on a peninsula.
“The Harbour Crosshaven Co. Cork.” BL/CV/PC/KN/ Special Collections, UCC Library.

St Fin Barre’s Cathedral Library: Map Project

Part of my work placement in Special Collections involved listing maps from the St Fin Barre’s Cathedral Library, which was acquired by UCC Library in the 1980s. For preservation reasons the maps were removed from A collection of voyages and travels: some now first printed from original manuscripts: others translated out of foreign languages, and now first publish’d in English, to which are added some few that have formerly appear’d in English… and are held separately. These maps date to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which was the time when European explorers embarked on voyages in search of new lands and wealth. These maps gave insight into the nature of exploration and cartography during this period in history. The maps were in good condition and are still readable. I am going to discuss an example of a map I listed and what it reveals about the history of this period.

City of Cochi (Kochi)

The map which stood out to me was depicting the City of Cochi (Kochi) in India in 1663. At the time Cochi was captured by the Dutch. The map gives detail of the city of Cochi with placenames, as well as illustrations of animals, people, trees, and mountains. This map highlights the broader history of European colonization in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and how explorers travelled at the time. This map along with the other maps in this collection are well preserved but are fragile and must be handled with care. Although I had studied maps before my work placement, listing these maps from St Fin Barre’s Cathedral Library has proven beneficial allowing me develop skills such as critical thinking and analysis. This task has also helped me gain greater appreciation for historical maps and their importance in research and analysis of history.

The majority of the map print shows a historical cityplan for the city of Cochin. Trees, people, animals, buildings and ditches feature on the townplan.  At the top of the map print is the Island of Vitypin and trees, buildings, boats and people are shown on the island. Between the city of Cochin and the Island of Vitypin is the mouth of the River Cochin. On the river and sea are five ships. On the lower left of the map print is a legend of 9 places for Old Cochin (1-9), 14 places in New Cochin(a-o) and 8 places in the Governor's Palace (1-8). All are numbered or lettered and the numbers and letters are present on the cityplan. There is a compass in the top right corner.
“The City of Cochin.” BL/SFB/CVT/U/2, Special Collections, UCC Library.

Scalar Project

For my work placement in the Digital Learning Services, I participated in a project for Scalar, which is an online resource that allows users to assemble media from multiple sources. The aim of this project was to identify and scan recipes from three different historical recipe books for Pi Day on Monday 14 March 2022: Historical Recipes in the Digital Age. These recipes will be made more accessible for contemporary readers. I researched and did some writing on the historical background of the recipes. While the recipe books do not give information regarding the time they were written, my research suggested that they date to the early to mid-19th century in Ireland. The mid-19th century is associated with the Irish famine and has resulted in the stereotypical view of the Irish diet at the time only consisting of potatoes. These recipes challenge pre-conceived notions of culinary culture in Ireland at the time. These recipes gave insight into the nature of culinary culture in Cork during the Victorian period and the role food played in the everyday lives of its people. The recipes primarily consisted of sweet recipes, for example puddings which were popular dishes in Britain at the time. These recipes highlight the British influence on culinary culture at the time as Ireland was a member of the United Kingdom. Another notable aspect of the recipe books to the prevalence of medicinal recipes. These recipes highlight the medical knowledge and concerns in Ireland in the mid-19th century. This area of my work placement was beneficial for my historical research skills, which I hope to continue after completing my MA degree in UCC.

The front paper has pasted newspaper snippets of medicinal recipes e.g. 'Burns on Scalds.' The facing page has a table of contents for culinary recipes. The table of contents starts with a recipe on p95. This is a typical example of a historical recipe book.
Front board and table of contents to U.59 showing both culinary and medicinal recipes. Special Collections, UCC Library.

Charlotte Grace O’Brien Letters

An activity for my work placement in the Special Collections involved listing a collection of letters by Charlotte Grace O’Brien, which were donated to UCC Library. These letters were written in Ireland between 1879 and 1889 and were donated to UCC in the 1910s. The letters have been preserved by UCC Library and are in good condition. These letters reflect the methods of communication and correspondence between Irish people at the time, which was a major aspect of everyday life. A notable feature of the Charlotte Grace O’Brien letters is that the recipients included are political Irish figures such as Charles Gavan Duffy and John Redmond and British political figures such as Prime Minister William Gladstone. These political figures played a key role in the battle for an independent Ireland. John Redmond is a significant figure in the Irish War of Independence. The letters were frequently sent to Britain and addresses of recipients such as the House of Commons also reflect the influence of the political climate on the writings of these letters. The letters were also sent to areas of political significance in Ireland for example, Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin. This task was beneficial because not only do the letters give an outline of Irish history in the late 19th century but also highlight the role letter writing played in people’s everyday lives.

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Pi Day and Historical Recipes

Pi and Pi Day

Pi is often represented by the lower-case Greek letter π and it is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.   Pi is an irrational number (a decimal with no end and no repeating pattern) that is most often approximated with the decimal 3.14 or the fraction 22/7. 

Many mathematicians including Archimedes, Fibonacci, Newton, Leibniz, and Gauss have explored π, calculated its digits, and applied it in various areas of mathematics. Until 1647, it didn’t have a universal name or symbol. The English mathematician William Oughtred began calling it ‘pi’ in his publication Clavis Mathematicae, and Leonhard Euler first used the symbol in 1737.  The reason for adopting this Greek letter is because it is the first letter of the Greek word ‘perimetros’ which loosely translates to ‘circumference.’

In 1988 Larry Shaw who worked in the San Francisco Exploratorium as a physicist organised the earliest known official or large-scale celebration of Pi Day to celebrate the mathematical constant π and it is now observed on March 14 (3.14 in the US style).  In November 2019 UNESCO designated Pi Day as the International Day of Mathematics.  

What’s a Pie?

A pie is a baked dish which is usually made of a pastry dough casing that contains a filling of various sweet or savoury ingredients. Sweet pies may be filled with apple, pecan, sugar, rhubarb, custard and cream.  Savoury pies may be filled with meat, egg and cheese, or a mixture of fruit and vegetables. All pies have a crust whether underneath the filling, layered over it or all around the filling. 

Pi Day in UCC Library

UCC Library has various manuscript recipe books. These are filled with cooking recipes, household recipes for cleaning products and medical recipes for when someone is ill.  We examined the recipes but found no recipes for pies with crusts. So we moved to pie-adjacent: cake and biscuits. To view some of the other recipes present in the manuscript recipe books visit Historical Recipes in the Digital Age on Scalar.

We decided to test the recipes but we quickly realised how they differed from modern cookbooks – no photos or sketches, no temperature given for heating the oven, imperial measurements and limited instructions. Each of us made different recipes. I will discuss Afternoon Tea Cakes & Lemon Filling, and Emma will discuss Elizabeth Pudding.

Afternoon Tea Cakes

The handwritten recipe for 'Afternoon Tea Cakes.;
“Afternoon Tea Cakes.” U.295, Special Collections, UCC Library.

I started with ‘Afternoon Tea Cakes’ and I converted 1\4 lb flour to 4oz flour (otherwise known as 100g). I readied my ingredients and my grandmother’s baking bowl. I placed the sugar and butter in the bowl and creamed them. It was much faster than it could have been as I used a handheld mixer. I added the egg, beat it and stirred it before it could curdle. There was no mention of curdling in the recipe nor what to do if curdling happened. I added the flour and folded it in with a spoon. 4oz of flour and 4oz of cornflour seemed a lot of flour products especially with one egg. I estimate that I added in 6 oz of flour products and then the mixture wouldn’t take any more flour. I cut out my rounds and placed them on the baking tray and an overflow tray! The recipe indicated they should be cooked until firm in a quick oven. Over to Google & BBC Foods’ recipe for Tea Cakes said that was 180C in a fan oven. 

I checked them after 15 minutes and by 18 minutes they were done and I laid them out on a  wire tray. 

Five images showing the progression of making the Afternoon Tea Cakes recipe. The first image shows all the ingredients laid out; the second is ready for creaming the butter & sugar; the third is ready to add the flour and corn flour; the fourth shows the mixture cut in rounds and the fifth shows the finished tea cakes.
Making ‘Afternoon Tea Cakes’.

Lemon Filling

The handwritten recipe for 'Lemon Filling'.
Lemon Filling.” U.295, Special Collections, UCC Library.

While I was waiting for the Afternoon Tea Cakes to bake I turned to the Lemon Filling recipe. I readied my ingredients – more corn flour. I rarely use it and now I’ve had two recipes with it in the one evening. I added the sugar to the water and brought it to the boil. I added the corn flour, stirred it and waited for it to thicken. Then I added the grated rind and the juice of a lemon, and stirred it in. I beat the egg yolk and once the lemon corn flour mixture was cool I added the beaten egg yolk to it. I thought the resulting mixture would be thicker, perhaps thick enough to act as a filling for the afternoon tea cakes if I wished to sandwich them. Most of the ingredients are also present in lemon curd but in different quantities and added at different points. My resulting mixture is good for using as a sauce on roasted fruit or could be included as a pie filling as described above. However it isn’t what I thought it would be – I miss photos of what finished recipes should look like.

Two images: one the ingredients laid out for making 'Lemon Filling' and the second showing the finished lemon filling in a saucepan ready for use in a pie.
Making ‘Lemon Filling’.

Elizabeth Pudding

“Elizabeth Pudding.” U.295, Special Collections, UCC Library.

For my Pi Day challenge, I decided to try the Elizabeth Pudding as it seemed to be a rather fancy bread and butter pudding, to which I’ve always been a bit partial!

The first challenge was to decipher the measurements. My archival training might help me in reading the handwriting, but pounds and ounces are another matter entirely. Enter- the Irish Mammy ™, who helpfully pointed out that it was unlikely the recipe was only calling for 2oz of bread….as that would be 1 ½ slices for an entire pudding……. I was inclined to agree. So we read it as 20 ounces, which is about 12 slices of white bread.

The bread quantity sorted, I put the pint of milk on to heat in a saucepan. Thanks to the honorary Irish Mammy ™, Mary Berry, I knew a pint is roughly equivalent to 600ml. Whilst the milk was heating, I turned to the margarine quantities in the recipe, determined to work out at least one aspect of the task myself. 5 minutes of humming and hawing later, and milk boiling, I decided it was 1 ounce of margarine. Added the marge pieces to the bread and poured over the hot milk. It then became very apparent that it was not 1 ounce of margarine……. it was 10 ounces. Whoever wrote this recipe was laughing at me somewhere!

At this point I decided to split the difference and chuck in the remaining 6 ounces of margarine and left the lot to cool, which took about 45 minutes. This step is important as I would end up with scrambled egg if I added the remaining ingredients too soon.  Once it was cooled, I began to stir with a fork as instructed. The concoction promptly turned to glue, almost breaking the fork and my wrist.

With the fork now firmly stuck, I decided to have a nice sit down and doublecheck the quality of the sherry for the recipe. I then recalled the Irish Mammy ™, who was of the opinion that a thick sliced loaf of bread mightn’t have been the best idea. After a further sherry quality check, I heated another 100mls of milk in the microwave and chucked that in. Once that cooled, and I resumed the stirring, and the mixture started to come together. I added the 2 whisked eggs, 2 tablespoons of sugar and the half wineglass of sherry. No specific quantities were given for the sugar or sherry, so I added the sugar gradually to taste and used a wine glass that belonged to my Great-Grandmother for the most accurate measurement. I omitted the nutmeg as I wasn’t able to get any in the shop, and only had cinnamon sticks in my cupboard. Which would just make it look like a Desperate Dan Cow Pie if I stuck them in.

Not trusting my own gas oven, the mixture was taken to the Irish Mammy ™’s electric oven for cooking. But not before she tasted the mixture first.

The remainder of the bottle of sherry poured in, it was into bake for 45/50 mins at 170 degrees Celsius. The recipe calls for low and slow but no more info than that, so we had to keep an eye on it. This was the responsibility of the house pudding expert- The Father.

Once cooked it was left to cool for 10 mins and then sliced. It had a lovely light spongy texture, and sweet (sherry) taste. I would definitely have it again, especially if someone else makes it!

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Seachtain na Gaeilge: Irish Language Manuscript Collections at UCC Library

UCC Library’s Special Collections & Archives has rich Irish language collections including:

  • The personal book collection of 20th century professor of Irish at UCC: Prof. Tadhg O Donnchadha also known as Torna.
  • Items in Irish from the Older Printed Books collection. This collection was created as Special Collections was formed in the late 1970s but many of the items were purchased between 1849 (when the University was founded) and 1900 whilst others were received from organisations such as the Royal Cork Institution. Many examples can be viewed on ‘Matters French.’ 
  • Séamus Ó Maolchathaigh: his printed collection and Ephemera Collection extracted from the printed collection. The ephemera include press cuttings, handwritten notes, letters, and bookmarks.
  • Seán Ó Ríordáin: his printed collection and Archival Collection.
  • The Papers of Daniel Corkery: Daniel Corkery or Domhnall Ó Corcora wrote the significant work The Hidden Ireland (1924), a study of the Irish-language poetry of eighteenth-century Munster and of the society and culture it reflected.
  • The Thomas MacDonagh Archival Collection: The letters deal mainly with MacDonagh’s activities within the Gaelic League, particularly with his fellow teacher and Gaelic League activist Padraig Mac Suibhne of Fermoy.
  • Tomás Ó Muircheartaigh Archival Collection: Ó Muircheartaigh was a seminal figure in Irish cultural life including Conradh na Gaeilge following the establishment of the Irish Republic until the 1960s. 

These collections stand along-side fine printing of Irish language and literature books and pamphlets from the Three Candles, Dun Emer and Cuala, and Dolmen Presses. 

This blog post gives an overview of how UCC Library’s Irish language manuscript collection was created and various entry points into the collection: provenance, scribes, age, size, binding, content, decoration and influences. The blog post is based on a presentation given at the Library Association of Ireland’s 2021 Rare Books Annual Seminar: ‘Scríbhinní i nGaeilge i mBailiúcháin Speisialta in Éirinn – Writings in the Irish Language in Special Collections in Ireland.’

A Call for Public Aid

In February 1925 Prof. Tadhg Ó Donnchadha published this appeal to form a collection of Irish language manuscripts.

One image: on the top left is the UCC logo from the 1920s and thereafter is a printed call seeking manuscripts for UCC Library from Torna. The call is dated February 1925 and is across one large page that is folded in two.
University College Cork: “Irish Manuscript Collection” BL/UC/CÓC/50(29-30), Special Collections.

He notes how manuscripts are scattered across the world and he appeals to those who have Munster manuscripts to cooperate in founding an Irish language collection. Torna places this call in the context of national regeneration following the foundation of the Irish Free State. He makes a special appeal to the clergy and to teachers to help with this work. The aim is for students in the college to have access to such manuscripts for literary development and to publish our manuscript materials.  Lastly Torna notes that non-UCC researchers would have access to the manuscripts as well. It’s telling therefore that the first number of collections acquired by UCC, bar Torna’s were from the clergy. The clergy were heavily involved in regional manuscript collecting, including through their work with local Irish language college. Non-UCC researchers continue to access our manuscript collections today.

Cnuasach Uí Mhurchú / Murphy Collection

The first collection, that of Professor James E. H. Murphy Professor of Irish at Trinity College Dublin (1896-1919) was acquired by UCC in 1926.

Three images: on the left is an extract from Cuirt an Mhean Oiche (Ms. 40); in the middle is a genealogy (Ms. 1) and on the right is an example of a dictionary (Ms. 20).
Three examples of manuscripts from the Murphy Collection: Ms. 40, Ms. 1, Ms. 20.

It comprises the first 77 manuscripts of the main Irish language manuscript collection. Professor Breandán Ó Conchúir produced a printed catalogue of the collection in 1991. Printed catalogues give descriptions of the creation and content of each manuscript.

Power Collection

In November 1941 UCC Library acquired Canon Patrick Power’s manuscript collection. He had been Lecturer in and later Professor of Archaeology at UCC from 1915-1932.

Two images: both manuscripts show the endleaves inside the front cover. The left image shows a ticket for a Gerald Fitzgerald of Main Street Tipperary and the stamped date UCC Library acquired the manuscript: 25 Nov 1941. The right image shows a letter stuck to the front pastedown and an inscription from Edmond (?).
Two examples of end-leaves inside the front cover of the manuscripts from the Power Collection: Ms. 78 and Ms. 80.

The acquisition comprised 28 manuscripts although another has since been acquired. When Canon Power owned the manuscripts he described some of them in the Gaelic Journal (1904-1905). Digital reproductions are available from Villanova University. Canon Power describes the manuscripts in Irish, printed in Cló Gaelach, while commentary is provided in English. This limits readability and understanding to a wider audience. 

Cnuasach Thorna / Torna’s Manuscript Collection

UCC acquired Professor Tadhg Ó Donnchadha or Torna’s manuscript collection following his death in 1949. Professor Pádraig de Brún produced a printed catalogue of the collection in 1967.

Two images of manuscripts. On the left is a decorated letter with swirly black and red design. On the right is a pasted in image of a mother looking at a child. This pasted in image is opposite the title page and is done to mimic printed books at this time.
Two examples of manuscripts from Torna’s Collection: T.xlix and T.i.

De Brún classifies 76 of the 111 manuscripts as ‘seanlámhscríbhinní’, or ‘traditional manuscripts’ using Roman numerals from T.i to T.lxxvi to identify them. The remaining 35 are classified as ‘Leabhair nótaí’ or ‘copybooks’ and are identified using Arabic numerals T.1 to T.35. T.i and T.1,

De Brún’s printed catalogue of the manuscript collection is available in two volumes has an explanation for the two types, a description of the age of the manuscripts, of the manuscript subjects and where known of the places where the manuscripts were written, where it was known in 1967 who had published on the collection including Torna himself, and an index of first lines.

Many of the scribes are of Cork City or County Cork and there’s overlap with the main Irish language manuscript sequence e.g. Donncha Ó Floinn, the Ó Longáin family, Pádraig Stúndún, Sean Ó Dreada. However there are other interesting things to note: T.xxxix was written by Chas O’Farrell in 1894 in Boston and T.xxxviii was written by Brian O Ruairc in 1841-1842 in Leitrim.

Smaller Manuscript Collections

In the early 1940s three other smaller collections came to UCC Library:

Three sets of images. On the left is a page from a Cohalan manuscript and behind it is a green cover. In the centre is a page 'Parliment na mBan' from a Lyons manuscript. On the right is a page from a O Donnchu manuscript and behind it is a black cover.
Three examples of manuscripts: Ms. 117 (Cohalan), Ms. 123 (Lyons) and Ms. 135 (Ó Donnchú).
  • 18 manuscripts were presented by Fr. D Ó Donnchú/Donoghue, CC Minane Bridge. These consist of 12 exercise books in pencil & 4 black notebooks in ink.
  • 6 manuscripts came from Canon Cohalan, St Mary’s Cathedral. 

11 manuscripts were collected by J. Canon Lyons, a PP of Kinsale, Co. Cork transferred to UCC Library. These had been presented initially to St Mary’s Cathedral in Cork by Lyons’ nephew and executor of his will the Rev. James O’Leary. Torna describes the Lyons manuscripts in the Journal of the Ivernian Society in different issues across 1914-1915 and Diarmuid Ó Murchadha has an account of Canon Lyons in the 2002 issue of Journal of the Cork Historical & Archaeological Society.

1940s – Present

UCC Library continues to collect Irish language manuscripts whether through acquisition such as:

Two images of manuscripts. On the left is a bilingual manuscript. The page on the left is in English and the page on the right is in Irish. Each page is framed by a decorative border. On the right is a decorated letter F around which is the text describing the manuscript.
Two examples of manuscripts received more recently: Ms. 198 and Ms. 202.
  • Ms. 198 written in 1898 by the scribe Edmond Barry from Youghal, Co Cork which contains a copy of Dáibhí de Barra’s original manuscript Fermoy Ms PB6 ‘Filíocht Chráifeach Dháiví de Barra’ dating from 1835.
  • Or by donation as with Ls 202 an English/Irish pocket dictionary with an ogham account and poem by the scribe Padraig Ó Stúndún in 1890. Prof. Mícheál Ó Sé, former lecturer in UCC’s Dairy Science faculty in the 1950s, acquired the manuscript and his son donated it to UCC Library in 2014.

Provenance and Scribes

Provenance or ownership can be indicated in different ways including colophons where a scribe signs and dates a manuscript, inscriptions, bookplates or spine-binding. 

  • T.1 inscription ‘Mr Flynn Cork 1832’ which appears twice. There are various other names mentioned throughout this manuscript.
  • Ms. 61: bookplate of George Augustus Hill
  • Ms. 128: spine binding of Canon Lyons’ manuscripts all show this gold tooling.
Three images: Top left is a signature on a flyleaf from a Mr Flynn Cork 1831. On the top right is a bookplate for a GAH. The bookplate shows a deer with antlers. On the bottom are the words 'Ms O Leighin 9' in gold-tooling on the spine of the leather bound manuscript.
Top left: T.i; Top right: Ms. or Ls. 61; Bottom: Ms. 128.

The scribes place their names in different ways throughout the manuscripts, some more readable than others and some in English. 

  • Ms. 80: Edmond Phealan on the end-leaves
  • Ms. 128: Seaghan (?) O Leighin at the end
  • Ms. 61: Seaghan O’ Murcughad na Raithineach (Seán Ó Murchú na Ráithíneach) on the title page
Three images: On the left is a signature before the text of the manuscript begins. On the top right is a signature at the end of the manuscript. On the lower right is a signature on the title page.
Left: Ms. or Ls.80; Top right: Ms. or Ls. 128; Lower right: Ms. or Ls. 61.

Age

Since the donation of The Book of Lismore by the Chatsworth Settlement Trust and the Duke of Devonshire to UCC in 2020, the oldest Irish language manuscript in the collection is The Book of Lismore. The only manuscript which is older is the Regensburg Fragment which dates from the last quarter of the 12th century. The Book of Lismore dates from the 15th century & ousts the previous oldest Irish language manuscript from the 1640s, Cín Lae Uí Mhealláin (Ms. 3), by some 200 years. Of the 300 manuscripts in UCC Library: the majority date from the 19th century, some are a mixture of 18th & 19th century, there are approximately 46 dating from the 18th century and approximately 10 from the early 20th century. The dates may be derived from the manuscript where the scribe dates a title as with Ms. 90 or a colophon as with Ms. 61.

  • Ms. 204 Book of Lismore – c.15th century (dated from the colophon)
  • Ms. 61 – 18th century 1753
  • Ms. 90 – 19th century 1856
Three images: on the left is a folio from The Book of Lismore. This folio has a decorated letter on its top left. On the top right is a scribal signature from 1753. On the lower right is a title page indicating the date was 1856.
Left: The Book of Lismore (Ms. or Ls. 204); Top right: Ms. or Ls. 61; Lower right: Ms. or Ls. 90.

Size and Binding

The size of the manuscripts really vary as both the Torna manuscript are 10-11 cm whereas Ms. 128 is quarto size and Ms. 1 is folio-sized.

Four images: On the top left and lower left are the leather bindings for two hand-sized manuscripts. In the centre is a quarter leather binding with cloth for a squarish manuscript. On the right is a quarter leather binding with marbled paper and this manuscript is folio sized.
Top left: T.lxxv; Lower left: T.lxxvii; Centre: Ms. 128; Right: Ms.1.

The binding ranges from no binding at all (T.xxxvii) which I’m assured is pretty common to scholar’s binding as with T.xliii where the scribe came from Rosscarbery in Co. Cork and bound the manuscript in seal skin or T.lxxv which is bound in leather with gold tooling on the spine and front board.

Three images: on the left is a manuscript which has no binding. In the centre is a binding made of seal skin. On the right is a highly decorated spine with leather and gold tooling.
Left: T.xxxvii; Centre: T.xliii; Right: T.lxxv.

Content and Decoration

The content of the manuscripts ranges from religious texts such as prayer books to historical tales to additions such as maps.

Two images: on the left is a handdrawn map of Europe by Donnchadh O Floinn of Cork. n the right is the colophon in an upside down triangle shape.
Left:Ms. 61; Right: Ms. 128.

Decoration varies from simpler line drawings to multi-flourished initial letters to coloured drawings.

Four images: on the top left and lower left are two different decorations on the upper left of each page. One is the letter A and the other is a bird. Both are done in black ink. In the centre are five decorated letters across two pages. All are in colour. On the right is a brown harp resting on grass and it it surrounded by coloured flowers. The harp is on the last page of the manuscript.
Top left and right: T.xliii; Centre: T.lxxv; Right: T.i.

The printed book influenced the manuscript tradition where two different coloured frontispieces have been added to the manuscript to enhance it. This is a notable phenomenon especially in the content of Donnchadh Ó Floinn of Cork who had a printing press and Irish type.

Two images: On the left is a pasted in black & white print of a landscape. The landscape has a tree on the left, two figures in the middle, a round tower on the right and a ruined abbey in the background. The print is opposite manuscript text with two decorated letters in black and gold. On the right is the title page 'Eachtra an Mhadra Mhaol' and opposite the title page a wild dog in a landscape setting.
Left: T.lxxv; Right: T.i.

Tradition to Contemporary

Since 1925 when Torna published the call, UCC Library has acquired over 300 manuscripts from the 15th to 20th centuries. Of course Irish language works are held in other collections such as Older Printed Books, Munster Printing, Torna’s book collections, newspapers and various personal collections such as Séamus Ó Maolchathaigh.

Two pages facing each other. On the left is an Irish language text ruled in dry point and on the right is its translation.
““The Ancient Topography of the Two Fermoys,” transcribed by Seosamh Ó Longáin. Ms. 90.

In the 1850s Seosamh Ó Longáin created manuscripts with traditional decorated letters, ruling and and an English translation to appeal to a then non-Irish speaking contemporary cohort. Nearly 100 years after Torna’s call for public aid, UCC Library continues developing the Irish language and manuscript collections for 21st century audiences.

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#ColorOurCollections’: Images from the Archives

When my colleague Elaine Harrington proposed UCC Library’s Special Collections & Archives contribute to the #ColourOurCollections colouring festival I wondered what would work from the archival collections. When you hear “archives” do you automatically think “old stuff…like letters”. These are not exactly something you can colour in, unless you are a doodler. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact doodling can give great insight into the person’s thoughts, but that is a story for another blog post. 

What to use?

So back to colouring. The short creative leap from letters is to a decorative letterhead from the 19th century. I checked through several items across our business collections. Again these did not really seem ‘the right tool for the job’. 

Decorative invoice letterhead of a sail ship on the sea with the company name of James Daly & Co. within a belt surrounding the image from the Buckley Collection, UCC Library Archives.

They were either too greyed in or shadowed over already, with little room for colouring in, and not much variety in the design. Putting away these images of transport and ships, I sat back and re-considered my options. 

Collection: BL/SC/B, Buckley Collection, UCC Library Archives

Sketchbooks, of course!

And then the most obvious material of them all dawned on me, sketchbooks! We are fortunate in UCC Library in having the Bantry Estate Collection. It has a selection of sketchbooks by several family members. This collection was donated by the Shelswell-White family who are still living in Bantry House, Bantry, Co. Cork.

Why this collection?

It was the first Earl of Bantry’s eldest son, Richard White, who in the 1830s-1840s while still Viscount Berehaven, laid the plans for the magnificent house and gardens extant today. Prior to and after his marriage he extensively toured the Continent, travelling as far as Russia and Poland. He sketched landscapes, vistas, houses and furnishing which he later used as inspiration in expanding and refurbishing Bantry House, Bantry, Co. Cork. These sketches can be regarded today as similar to the family sharing their holiday ‘photos’ or marking certain designs and colour inspiration for ideas on home improvements on Instagram.  

Images selected

The image ‘wall decoration’ is one of 134 images in a large hardback sketchbook with “Napoli 1843” embossed in gold on the spine. It contains pencil, ink and coloured drawings of landscapes, buildings, individuals, and ships. I chose this image because it gives you an insight into the style of that time. It obviously caught the eye of Richard and his wife, Mary for possible reproduction in their house. They took inspiration from their trips overseas and brought back ideas as well as artworks, furnishing, colour schemes and planting. These can still be seen to this day in Bantry House. The popularity in home décor doesn’t change with time, as evidenced today by long-running televison shows, glossy magazines and Insta’ posts on this subject.  

Elaborative design for a wall decoration with two mermen-like figures sitting astride a sea creature each at both ends of the design, and a face of a bearded figure in the middle. This is from a sketchbook (item number 10) in the Bantry Estate Collection: Ancillary.
Collection: BL/EP/B/A/10_wall decoration, Bantry Estate Collection: Ancillary, UCC Library Archives

The ‘Orchard’ image is one of 94 sketches in large hardback scrapbook. It contains images of country scenes from Ireland and Europe, and individuals in native costumes from around Europe. I liked this image of a simple and rewarding pursuit of gathering a home-grown harvest. Of course, it’s also a hard physical activity that many labourers did as part of their daily life. This image conveys, to me, an industry to their work. Regard their attire – All three figures are ‘sun-smart’ wearing wide-brimmed hats, conveying the long time they spent in the outdoors at this work. 

Three figures in a orchard. One figure is at the top of a ladder picking from the tree, another is at ground level nearby standing next to a barrel or container. A third figure, presumably a woman from her attire, is at ground level reaching to the foliage of a different tree, with another ladder leaning up against this tree. All three figures are wearing labourers clothing, and wide-brimmed hats. The paper is yellowed in colouration. This is from the Bantry Estate Collection. UCC Library Archives.
Collection: BL/EP/B/3303_orchard, Bantry Estate Collection, UCC Library Archives
Conversion to black & white and cropped closer image of an original sketch of three figures in a orchard. One figure is at the top of a ladder picking from the tree, another is at ground level nearby standing next to a barrel or container. A third figure, presumably a woman from her attire, is at ground level reaching to the foliage of a different tree, with another ladder leaning up against this tree. All three figures are wearing labourers clothing, and wide-brimmed hats. This is from the Bantry Estate Collection, UCC Library Archives.

As you can see the colour of the paper of the original is a dull yellow. I wasn’t sure it would work, but the conversion to a black & white image improves it for colouring. 

The last image is from the same sketchbook as the ‘orchard’ image. It is one of several of Glengarriff, an area in West Cork, near Bantry. This would have been close enough as a daytrip for the White family to visit relatives, friends and other families. This area is renowned for its beauty. The sketch offers sea, sky, and land colouring, which can be in whatever season you would like it to be. It’s up to your imagination.

Pencil sketch of a viewpoint from high of Glengarriff looking across at sky, rolling hills, coastline sea. There is small house in the distance on the coastline. This is from the Bantry Estate Collection.
Collection: BL/EP/B/3303_Glengarriff, Bantry Estate Collection, UCC Library Archives

This landscape has not changed much over the centuries. Anyone living near Glengarriff or planning to holiday in the area, take some of your time there to match that scene to today’s view. See what changes have taken place. Perhaps it does not match precisely, and we are seeing ‘artistic licence’ at work.  

Now start colouring!

I hope you have enjoyed our blog series on what and why we chose these images from our collections. Happy colouring! UCC Library’s colouring book (2022) is free to download here

Elaine, John, Emma and Emer 

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#ColourOurCollections: Images from the Cartographic Visual Collection

Following on from Elaine’s post yesterday, I am going to discuss two items I selected from our Cartographic Visual Collection for use in our #ColourOurCollections colouring book.

Napoleonic Print

The first image is from a collection of Napoleonic Prints and is based on an engraving of Napoleon Bonaparte by James Gillray (“the father of the political cartoon”) from 1806.

BL/CV/PolP/N/10 Tiddy-Doll, the great French-Gingerbread-Baker, drawing out a new Batch of Kings – his Man, Hopping Talley, mixing up the Dough [Original colour version]

The satirical print depicts Napoleon as a gingerbread baker, drawing the baked figures of three kings out of a stone baking oven with a large wooden peel. In the background Talleyrand can be seen mixing dough in a vat titled ‘Political Kneading Trough’ while a wicker basket in the foreground contains freshly baked figures (Napoleon’s relatives and allies) ready for delivery. The image is packed with satirical allusion and fun details, making it a prime candidate for the colouring book.

We hold two versions of the print, one in colour (above) and the other in black & white (below). It was the black & white version that was selected for conversion.

BL/CV/PolP/N/11 Tiddy-Doll, the great French-Gingerbread-Baker, drawing out a new Batch of Kings – his Man, Hopping Talley, mixing up the Dough [Original black & white version]

The process of converting the images was relatively straight forward. The print was first scanned and the image opened in Gimp. It was then cropped and resized to the required specifications before the threshold filter was applied. The filter provided a preview, allowing for the contrasting black and white areas to be adjusted as required. Despite some significant spotting on the original print, the end result (below) is remarkably clean.

BL/CV/PolP/N/11 Tiddy-Doll, the great French-Gingerbread-Baker, drawing out a new Batch of Kings – his Man, Hopping Talley, mixing up the Dough [Converted version]

Irish Topographical Print

The second image I selected is from a collection of Irish Topographical Prints. The print is of Ormiston House, a Scottish baronial-style residence in County Antrim, by R. Quiller Lane from 1896. It relates to a visit by Lord Cadogan, viceroy of Ireland, to the north of Ireland during which he stayed at Ormiston, then the residence of Alderman W.J. Petrie.

BL/CV/TP/Antrim/16 The Viceroy’s Visit to the North of Ireland: Ormiston, the Residence of Mr. Alderman W.J. Petrie Where Lord and Lady Cadogan Will Stay While at Belfast [Original version]

Its bold, clearly defined lines and limited shading made the image an ideal candidate for converting, as can be seen below.

BL/CV/TP/Antrim/16 The Viceroy’s Visit to the North of Ireland: Ormiston, the Residence of Mr. Alderman W.J. Petrie Where Lord and Lady Cadogan Will Stay While at Belfast [Converted version]

Other candidates were less successful when the threshold filter was applied. While I had hoped to include a location a little closer to home, the conversion of many of the topographical prints proved trickier than expected!

Unused images

The image below is from a print of the River Lee in Cork, providing a striking view of Blackrock Castle on the bank of the river. As can be seen, the detailed nature of the print didn’t translate appropriately, with the darker shades in the foreground appearing muddy and confusing while the lighter details in the background have faded or disappeared completely.

BL/CV/TP/Cork/12 The Cork River (from below the Glanmire Road.) [Converted version]

Another image I had hoped to include was from a collection of prints by William Hogarth from the Hawtin Collection. The print is part of a series of etchings titled Hogarth’s Tour (1781) and provides a view of Upnor Castle on the bank of the River Medway in Kent. A group of men, including Hogarth, occupy the shore in the foreground. While I was quite happy with the conversion, the image (below) was ultimately excluded for the purpose of space.

BL/Hawtin/HogarthPrints/Tour/3 Upnor Castle [Converted version]

Tomorrow our series of posts on the #ColourOurCollections campaign will continue, with Emma discussing her personal selection from among our Archival Collections. In the meantime, UCC Library’s colouring book (2022) is free to download here.

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#ColourOurCollections: Images from the Elizabeth Friedlander Collection

“Following on from John’s post yesterday, I am going to discuss a page I selected from the Elizabeth Friedlander Collection for use in our #ColourOurCollections colouring book.”

When it came choosing an image for the #ColourOurCollections event, the Friedlander Collection left me spoilt for choice! Elizabeth Friedlander was a 20th Century Graphic Designer. A pioneer in her field, she was the first woman to design and create a typeface, called Elizabeth. The accepted practice at the time was for typefaces to be named with their creator’s surname. However, Elizabeth was a German born Jew working in 1930s Berlin, and her surname was deemed “too Jewish”.  Having fled Germany at the outbreak of the war, she eventually settled in England, and began a career in Graphic Design. Most of her clients were businesses looking for logo and package designs. To pitch for these commissions, Elizabeth created many samples of her work, which were combined in four portfolio binders. This page is one such sample. I particularly like the dancing bull, and the intricate detail evident even in these rough sketches.

Draft Logo Sketches

Aside from the Logos, a series of pencil sketches were also considered. These were drawn by Elizabeth while she was studying at the Berlin Academy of Art. The scenes, which depict everyday life in Berlin, are wonderfully detailed and clearly demonstrate Elizabeth’s skill in her craft.

If you would like to see more of Elizabeth’s work and learn her story- check out the link https://libguides.ucc.ie/ 

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#ColourOurCollections: Introduction

What is #ColourOurCollections?

Colour Our Collections is an annual international colouring festival on social media where libraries, museums, archives and other cultural institutions share free colouring content featuring images from their collections. It was launched by The New York Academy of Medicine Library in 2016 and the number of participating institutions has grown since then.

Colour Our Collections logo. Date: February 7-11 2022. On the right are two Renaissance era men colouring using quills.
#ColourOurCollections 2022 banner.

UCC Library & #ColourOurCollections

In February 2022 UCC Library participates for the first time in #ColourOurCollections sharing images from Special Collections & Archives to spread awareness and better engagement with our collections by inspiring creativity and sparking curiosity. As the lead in this project I asked John Rooney, Emma Horgan & Emer Twomey for the widest range of items to showcase the variety of collections, subject matter and formats present in Special Collections & Archives. In addition, the images needed to adhere to copyright restrictions and avoid content that might be considered offensive or controversial. This resulted in:

Collections:

Curved wall decoration with two mermen on either end of the wall decoration and a classical Greek or Roman face in the middle.
Collection: BL/EP/B/A/10_wall decoration, Bantry Estate Collection: Ancillary, UCC Library Archives.

Subject Matter:

  • architecture
  • botany
  • country scenes
  • Irish history
  • Irish literature
  • Dutch cartography of Munster
  • political satire
  • street scenes
Two sketches: on the left is a N With a series of rectangles layered underneath the N. On the right is a bull leaping. Under the N is the word Nevada. Under the bull are the words super strong.
Subject matter: detail from portfolio sketches, BL/VC/EF Elizabeth Friedlander Collection, UCC Library Archives.

Formats:

  • prints
  • printed books
  • manuscripts
  • maps
  • sketches
On the left is a map of the coastline of Baltimore Bay showing Sherkin and Cape Clear islands. In the middle is the stylised framed title page of a late 19th century Irish language manuscript. On the right is a sprig of Festuca littoralis.
Different formats: map (van Keulen’s ‘Baltimore Bay’ inset), manuscript (Ls 150), printed book (plate 80 – Festuca littoralis’ in John Sibthorp’s Flora Graeca). All Special Collections, UCC Library.

Collaboration and Promotion

#ColorOurCollections provides a fun means for UCC Library to both to promote the institution and share its collections with a wide audience. To that end, I built on existing research in selecting the title page of Raphael Holinshed’s The … chronicles comprising the description and historie of England, the description and historie of Ireland, the description and historie of Scotland… [1586-87].  In 2016 Dr Edel Semple, in UCC’s School of English, identified the title page as being a collage of various other title pages and had blogged about it in “Culture Night: Shakespeare’s Sources & the Boole Library’s Resources”.

The title page to 'The Chronicles' by Raphael Holinshed. The page has an ornate border surrounding the printed title words.
Collage title page to volume 3 of Holinshed’s Chronicles, Special Collections, UCC Library.

To present the images in the best possible manner I asked Stephanie Chen, UCC Library’s Digital Specialist, and the Digital Learning student assistants, Cara Long and David Leen, to format the images using the #ColourOurCollections template. Over the course of this week to maximise the reach of UCC Library’s colouring book the Library’s Communications team will share the images from UCC Library’s social media: Instagram | Twitter | Facebook.

Over the course of this week my colleagues John, Emma and Emer will discuss how the process worked from selecting images, to creating the black & white images, to discarding possible images for a variety of reasons.

#ColourOurCollections: 2022

UCC Library’s colouring book (2022) will remain accessible year-round for free download. Access the colouring book:

Share your filled-in images on social media using the hashtags #ColourOurCollections #ColorOurCollections (as the campaign launched in the US many institutions use the American spelling of colour!). Tag us in @UCCLibrary @theriversideUCC – we can’t wait to see what you share! A gallery of the images is also available on Play!

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From 18th century Tipperary to 20th century Cork: Insights into Handwritten Records in a Private Residence and an Academic Institution

The Riverside welcomes this guest post from Úna Faller who in summer 2021 undertook an online work placement in Special Collections using digital surrogates of The Donations Book 1931-1955 and Library Book of Barne House (1774). Úna completed her undergraduate studies in English and French in University College Cork in 2021. In final year, she focused on representations of gender and women, as well as the environment in Anglo- and francophone literature. She is currently studying for a Master in Rare Books and Digital Humanities in the Université de Franche-Comté, Besançon, France. Her research interests include the future-based environmental demands of material conservation and preservation, as well as the future form of libraries and access to materials.

Handwriting over the Centuries

Modernity has changed the way we read and absorb information. We spend so much time engaging with the neat and uniform characters of typed print that the handwriting of previous epochs requires much focus and patience to decipher, at least to the lay transcriber. The disorientating loss of immediate comprehension that accompanies the hand-written texts of alien scribes of former centuries, does however reward the reader with intriguing insights into the past. Two items from UCC Library‘s Special Collections, namely the Donations Book 1931-1955 and the Library Book of Barne House (1774), offer these tangible glimpses into their respective timeframes.

Left: The rear recto endpaper with letter insert from the Donations Book 1931-1955. The letter is typed on white paper and placed on an orange & black marbled page.
Right: The front cover to the Library Book of Barne House. The binding is leather and there is a title sticker in gold showing 'Library Book 1774.'
Left: The rear recto endpaper with letter insert, Donations Book 1931-1955, Special Collections, UCC Library.
Right: The front cover to the Library Book of Barne House, U.388, Special Collections, UCC Library.

Receiving and Recording Donations

The Donations Book 1931-1955 is a hand-written catalogue of all items UCC’s Library received via donation in this time period. The donors vary, from private individuals from the Greater Cork area and lecturers attached to the university, to public institutions and international societies. The section pertaining to the years 1953-55 contains over 600 items with widely differing subject matter, such as science, local geography, committee reports, and examination papers.  

Two Scribes

The handwriting for the majority of entries becomes comfortingly familiar after the initial labour of character recognition. The section from 1953-55 contains 2 different hands and a short interlude completed with the use of a typewriter. ‘Scribe A’, who opens this section, uses a tidy letter formation and a consistent font size. This scribe makes up the majority of the entries,  making the 1953-55 section largely straightforward to transcribe to a version that is readable online.  

‘Scribe B’ appears halfway through page 291, an alluring opportunity to project a modern imagination onto the occurrences of the past. The items on this page and continuing to page 293 were donated over the June-August period in 1954, which allows the modern reader to wonder whether ‘Scribe A’ was on summer leave. Indeed, ‘Scribe B’ disappears after an entry on the 6th of September 1954, leaving behind an indecipherable donor listing and facilitating the return of the familiarity of ‘Scribe A’.  

Detail from two consecutive pages in the Donations Book 1931-1955. It shows two different sets of handwriting.
The appearance and disappearance of Scribe B, pp.291-294, Donations Book 1931-1955. Special Collections, UCC Library.

Ballylickey House Library

Transcribing from the pink pages of the typewriter, which starts halfway on page 275 and continues for most of page 277, provides a brief relief from the task of hand-writing decryption. What is most interesting about this section is the common donor. In 1953, a Mrs. P. Graves from Ballylickey House, Bantry, is recorded as donating 47 items, with texts in French appearing beside RIA material and Persian grammar manuals.

Typed donation on pink paper pasted into the Donations Book 1931-1955. The donation is from Mrs P Graves in Ballylickey.
Excerpt from Mrs P. Graves’ donation, p.277, Donations Book 1931-1955, Special Collections, UCC Library.

Internet research, unavailable to the scribes of this item, allows the modern user to uncover the donor’s history. According to this website, the Graves family assumed ownership of Ballylickey House sometime after 1800 and occupied it for at least four generations. Its modern status as a hotel residence intersects with this historic and dramatic dispersal of its library, allowing the modern observer to suspect that perhaps 1953 was the start of the end of the private occupation of Ballylickey House.  

Getting Lost and Finding Direction(s)

Using the tools of the internet to successfully decipher many entries was a rewarding aspect of this project. One such tool was Google Maps. Page 309 of the item contains a reference to two towns in the United Kingdom, with the donated item exploring the geology between them. Having figured out the name of one town, I was able to use Google Maps to see nearby townlands. By recognising just some of the letters of the second town, combined with a process of elimination, I could use the digital version of the word to uncover the hand-written mystery and successfully record the entry.

Two images: The upper one shows an arrow highlighting an entry in the Donations Book which has 'Rugeley' in the title. The lower image shows where Rugeley & Burton upon Trent are in England on Google Maps.
Top: entries as show by arrow p.309, Donations Book 1931-1955, Special Collections, UCC Library.
Bottom: Google Maps – Distance between Rugeley and Burton upon Trent

Other resources included academic and scholarly databases, where the donated item was cited by a more modern article. For example, the bibliography of this article (listings 85 and 87) helped me to identify the two items donated by an A. Pontvik on page 307. 

An arrow highlighting entries in the Donation Book where the author is Pontvik.
Entries as shown by arrow, p.307, Donations Book 1931-1955, Special Collections, UCC Library.

Library Book of Barne House, Tipperary

Moving backwards through the centuries to arrive at 1774 deposits the modern reader in an even more bewildering graphological setting than that of the Donations Book 1931-1955.  

Recording the contents of Barne House, Tipperary, the Barne Library Book offers a comprehensive insight into the preoccupations of the Moore family and their literary interests. It contains an alphabetised list of texts in English, French, Italian and Latin, with items touching on the sciences, poetry, local history and geography, as well as ancient classics and maps.  

The item reveals the presence of at least 2 distinct scribes, and possibly a third. One scribe was Thomas Moore, the son of Richard Moore who compiled the library’s collection. His signature can be found on the opening pages of the item, a definitive claim of ownership over the work. 

Signature of Thomas Moore on the upper left flyleaf in the Barne Library Book.
Thomas Moore’s signature on flyleaves to Barne Library Book. U.388, Special Collections, UCC Library.

17th Century Challenges for a Modern Transcriber

He opens the A listing and continues with his presence for the majority of entries. There is also the noticeable and sporadic inclusion of a second hand, who is responsible for many modern interpreting difficulties. For example, letter identification becomes increasingly difficult between the M recto, the M verso and the M(2) recto pages. This difficulty is largely attributable to the presence of this second scribe. 

Series of three images showing titles beginning with 'M' in the Barne Library Book. The handwriting changes as the entry progresses.
L-R: M recto, M verso and M recto(2), Barne Library Book, U.388 Special Collections, UCC Library.

Technology was also crucial in digitally recording this item’s contents. Many of the items from the Barne House library were auctioned over the years, with their lot numbers available online. Cross-referencing these online entries from auctioneers such as Fonsie Mealy’s and via online booksellers such as biblio.com was helpful in distinguishing unfamiliar letter patterns and ultimately deciding on the spelling for entries that were unclear.  

Special Collection Items and Their Inherent Liminality

The liminality of this kind of item is striking to consider in tandem to these handwriting intrigues. Its existence points to a different society, one that is unlikely to arise again, where a gentleman of a Big House collects such a wide variety of texts and records them in a hand-written document. The inherence grandiosity of this gesture belongs to its time period, and the preservation of this item by Special Collections is indicative of its liminality. While the items may be dispersed and no longer in their original setting, the existence of this catalogue binds them to 1774, eternally serving as a historical reminder of this epoch.  

Public vs Private Access to Information

A separate issue to hand-writing discourse that arises from considering the Donations Book 1931-1955 and the Barne Library Book is the divide between private and public access to knowledge. Contained in their own spatial and temporal setting, treating the items in conjunction with one other creates a discourse on the dissemination of knowledge.  

The numerous donations recorded by the UCC Boole Library in the Donations Book 1931-1955 represents the movement of knowledge and information from private hands to an institution that provides access to learners and students. The items received via donation have a far greater reach than those recorded in the Barne Library Book, whose existence is testimonial to the inequalities inherent in the ability of the wealthy to amass huge collections of knowledge that remain privatised. While this particular collection was facilitated by the societal realities of the late 18th century, inequalities in knowledge access systems still remain.  

It is also finally fascinating to reflect on the inverse nature of both items. The Donations Book 1931-1955 represents items that were decidedly unconnected to one another, and which are now contained in a singular collection, while the items of the Barne Library Book were attentively curated by one family but exist now as mere dispersed parts.  

The rear verso endpaper with letter insert from the Donations Book 1931-1955. The letter is typed on white paper and placed on an orange & black marbled page.
Rear end-leaves with letter insert. Donations Book 1931-1955. Special Collections, UCC Library.
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Beggars and Artisans: A Cultural History of Cork’s Franciscan Friary / Images as Narratives: Mosaics in St Francis Church, Cork

Student Exhibition, MA in Medieval History

Images as Narratives: Mosaics in St Francis Church, Cork

The figural mosaics in St Francis Church depict different scenes, yet they are all tied together by the unifying theme of life. This is most clearly illustrated in the apse mosaic, where the main image is divided into three zones: the first showing Christ in Majesty attended by angels and representing life in heaven, the second including eight saints, who connect their life on earth with the heavenly court, and the third zone with the images of the four elements of fire, earth, water and air depicted in the lower section of the apse. All the mosaics that appear in the church were designed by an Italian artist, Professor Umberto Noni from Rome and executed by Commendatore Tullio Monticelli.

Photo showing the apse in St Francis Church, Cork. The photo depicts Christ in Majesty seated holding a book in one hand and his other hand raised. Two angels are on either side and eight saints stand below him.
Christ in Majesty with eight saints, view of the apse, St Francis Church, Cork. Photo: Małgorzata Krasnodębska-D’Aughton.

Accompanying the main apse mosaic are the mosaics displayed as backdrops to the side altars, which are dedicated to the Sacred Heart, St Francis, Our Lady and St Joseph. In the altar of the Sacred Heart, Christ stands upright with a hand placed on his heart which emits golden rays. Two angels are holding his cloak aloft. The altars of Our Lady and St Joseph are found side by side, reminding the viewer of their spiritual attachment to one another. Mary is depicted with outstretched hands and flanked by two angels. St Joseph is pictured against the backdrop of a starry night sky, he is shown standing and protecting the young Jesus.

Two views of the Altar of the Sacred Heart in St Francis Church in Cork. One is a photo taken in 2021 and the other is a picture from "St Francis Church: An Illustrated Guide."
Left: Altar of the Sacred Heart, St Francis Church, Cork. Photograph from St Francis Church: An Illustrated Guide (1961). UCC Library, Special Collections.
Right: Altar of the Sacred Heart, St Francis Church, Cork. Photo: Małgorzata Krasnodębska-D’Aughton.
Two views of the Altar of Our Lady in St Francis Church in Cork. One is a photo taken in 2021 and the other is a picture from "St Francis Church: An Illustrated Guide."
Left: Altar of Our Lady, St Francis Church, Cork. Photograph from St Francis Church: An Illustrated Guide (1961). Special Collections, UCC Library.
Right: Altar of Our Lady, St Francis Church, Cork. Photo: Małgorzata Krasnodębska-D’Aughton.
Two views of the Altar of St Joseph in St Francis Church in Cork. One is a photo taken in 2021 and the other is a picture from "St Francis Church: An Illustrated Guide."
Left: Altar of St Joseph, photograph from St Francis Church: An Illustrated Guide (1961). Special Collections, UCC Library.
Right: Altar of St Joseph, St Francis Church, Cork. Photo: Małgorzata Krasnodębska-D’Aughton.

St Francis, who is the patron saint of the church, is represented twice in mosaics: in the main apse and in one of the side chapels. Unlike in the apse mosaic, where Francis kneels before Christ, bearing the stigmata in a position of reverence, here he is represented in a more relaxed attitude with open arms. He kneels and seems to converse with a wolf and a lamb shown next to him. A small copy of the San Damiano Cross is tucked into the cord tied around his habit as a reminder of the story of St Francis being spoken to by the cross. This account is described in more detail in the blog post titled ‘From Assisi to Cork’. The scene is set in a simple, rural setting, a stream flows across the bottom of the image with flowers growing along its banks. Behind St Francis is a tree with different types of birds nesting in it and the words of the Franciscan motto ‘pax et bonum’ (‘peace and goodwill’) are intertwined through the branches.

Two views of the Altar of the Sacred Heart in St Francis Church in Cork. Both are photos taken in 2021.
Left: St Francis with a wolf and a lamb. Altar of St Francis, St Francis Church, Cork (detail). Photo: Małgorzata Krasnodębska-D’Aughton.
Right: Altar of St Francis, St Francis Church, Cork. Photo: Martha Ewence.

The mosaic of St Francis with animals is an artistic interpretation of the Legend of the Wolf of Gubbio. The story is told in the so-called Little Flowers of St Francis, a text composed after 1337, over a century after the death of the saint. The event took place when Francis was leading an ascetic life, living simply with his companions, wandering from town to town, preaching and begging for alms. In Franciscan Cork, Jerome O’ Callaghan retells the story and describes how the townspeople of Gubbio had been terrorized by a wolf and sought help from Francis. When the saint found the wolf, he blessed him and assured the animal that he would have plenty of food if he refrained from attacking the town. Miraculously, the wolf placed his paw in the hand of St Francis and nodded in agreement. From then on, the wolf went from door to door asking for his food and became a friend of everyone in the town, so much so that the townspeople grieved on his death two years later. There is even a suggestion that the wolf was given a burial as there is evidence that the remains of a wolf were found in 1872, when Gubbio’s church was undergoing building work.

A poem 'The Wolf of Gubbio' by Eily Esmonde which is to the right of an image of St Francis of Assisi with a wolf.
Franciscan Cork: A Souvenir of St. Francis Church, Cork (1953) includes a poem by Eily Esmonde titled ‘The Wolf of Gubbio’. Special Collections, UCC Library.

Since it was first recorded in the fourteenth century, the story about the wolf of Gubbio has captured the imagination of artists and writers alike. A series of paintings created for the San Sepolcro Altarpiece in 1444 represents scenes from the life of St Francis and includes an image of the saint holding the paw of the wolf to the great astonishment of the townspeople gathered behind him. Stefano di Giovanni di Consolo also known as Sassetta (d. c. 1450) is the artist and seven of the scenes from the altarpiece are on display in the National Gallery in London.

A painting showing St Francis of Assisi holding the paw of a wolf. Other people stand behind him and another person sits to one side.
Sassetta, The Wolf of Gubbio, 1437-44. Egg tempera on poplar, 87 x 52.4 cm Bought with contributions from the Art Fund, Benjamin Guinness and Lord Bearsted, 1934 NG4762, The National Gallery, London.

In his Life of St Francis, composed c. 1228-1229 to commemorate the canonisation of Francis, Thomas of Celano (d. 1260) stresses Francis’s love for all creatures and the way Francis, through his own experience, taught others to follow him in this regard. On one occasion, Thomas of Celano describes how ‘after the birds had listened so reverently to the word of God, he [Francis] began to accuse himself of negligence because he had not preached to them before. From that day on, he carefully exhorted all birds, all animals, all reptiles, and also insensible creatures, to praise and love the Creator’.

In 1979 St Francis was declared the patron saint of those who promote ecology.

Martha Ewence

Further reading

Billinge, Rachel, ‘Some Panels from Sassetta’s Sansepolcro Altarpiece revisited,’ National Gallery Technical Bulletin 30 (2009), 8–25.

O’ Callaghan, Antóin, The Churches of Cork City: An Illustrated History (Dublin, 2016).

O’ Callaghan, Jerome, Franciscan Cork: Souvenir of St Francis Church, Cork (Killiney, 1953).

Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, ed. Regis J. Armstrong, J.A. Wayne Hellmann and William J. Short (New York, 1999-2001), vols 1-3.

Poland, Pat, ‘Heavens Above! Cork Church is 65 Years Old’, The Evening Echo, 12/07/2018.

St Francis Church: An Illustrated Guide (Cork, 1961).

Vauchez, André, Francis of Assisi: The Life and Afterlife of a Medieval Saint, translated by M.F. Cusato (New Haven, 2012).

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Beggars and Artisans: A Cultural History of Cork’s Franciscan Friary / Styles and Stained Glass in St Francis Church

Student Exhibition, MA in Medieval History

Beggars and Artisans: Styles and Stained Glass

Architecture and iconography of the modern St Francis Church in Cork merge various medieval stylistic traditions, ranging from eastern Byzantine elements to western Gothic influences, which together are suggestive of the geographical spread of the Franciscan Order.

On the left is the book cover of "Franciscan Cork: Souvenir of St Francis Church, Cork." On the right is a view of Christ in Majesty in the apse of St Francis Church in Cork.
Left: Cover page of Franciscan Cork. Souvenir of St. Francis Church, Cork (1953), with an article by Father Jerome O’Callaghan. The cover displays the apse mosaic with a detail of Christ in Majesty in St Francis Church, Cork. Special Collections, UCC Library.
Right: Christ in Majesty. Apse mosaic, St Francis Church, Cork. Photo: Małgorzata Krasnodębska-D’Aughton.

The church’s main apse mosaic presents a magnificent image of Christ in Majesty. The overall composition of Christ enthroned, surrounded by angels and accompanied by saints, draws heavily from artistic traditions of the early Christian apsidal mosaics. The dominant use of gold in the image is evocative of early Christian and Byzantine art. Father Jerome O’Callaghan, OFM, noted that the church has many Byzantine features in its mosaics, floor design and sculptural details. For example, Greek letters are incorporated within the apse mosaic, column capitals and the terrazzo flooring by the front doors. The letters IC XC that flank the head of Christ in the apse, represent a Christogram or a sacred monogram of Christ and stand for the abbreviated Greek words: Jesus Christ. The letters Alpha (Α) and Omega (ω) carved on capitals are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet; in the Christian tradition they came to signify Christ as the beginning and the end of things, evoked in the Book of the Revelation 1:8.

On the top left is the IC XC monogram surrounding Christ's head. On the lower left are various examples of IC XC monogram. 
On the right are the alpha and omega letters on a column in St Francis Church, Cork.
Top left: The IC XC monogram, the apse mosaic, St Francis Church, Cork. Photo: Małgorzata Krasnodębska-D’Aughton.
Lower left: Examples of Christograms recorded by Father Jerome O’Callaghan in Franciscan Cork: Souvenir of St. Francis Church, Cork (1953). Special Collections, UCC Library.
Right: The Alpha and Omega letters, column capital, St Francis Church, Cork. Photo: Małgorzata Krasnodębska-D’Aughton.

Western medieval inspirations are seen in stained-glass windows that comprise a series of figurative windows placed in a transept as well as a large window in the façade, which consists of seven round-headed lights under the tracery. Four figurative windows are situated at either side of the central apse in the transept arms. Each window is round-headed with double lights. These transept windows depict eight figures: in the left transept we see the pairings of St Elizabeth of Hungary and St Bernardine of Siena, and St Francis of Assisi and Christ (Sacred Heart of Christ), in the right transept there are the Virgin Mary and St Joseph, and St Paschal and St Louis IX.

Two photographs of four of the saints in the stained glass windows in St Francis Church.
Stained-glass windows with saints: St Elizabeth of Hungary and St Bernadine of Siena, St Francis and the Sacred Heart, St Francis Church, Cork. Photo: Małgorzata Krasnodębska-D’Aughton.
Two photographs of four of the saints in the stained glass windows in St Francis Church.
Stained-glass windows with saints: the Virgin Mary and St Joseph, and St Paschal and St Louis IX, St Francis Church, Cork. Photo: Małgorzata Krasnodębska-D’Aughton.
Colour design for three stained-glass windows in the church of St Francis in Cork, featuring St Louis of France, the Virgin Mary and St Elizabeth of Hungary. The image is from the Board of Trinity College Dublin.
Colour design for three stained-glass windows in the church of St Francis in Cork, featuring St Louis of France, the Virgin Mary and St Elizabeth of Hungary. IE TCD MS 11182/565, The Board of Trinity College Dublin.

The stained-glass windows in Cork’s St Francis Church were designed by the Harry Clarke Studios situated on North Frederick Street in Dublin. Harry Clarke (1889-1931) was a renowned stained-glass artist, who started by working for his father Joshua Clarke (d. 1921), a builder and glassworker, before studying his craft at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art. During his career, Harry designed many windows to great acclaim, including multiple windows in the churches of Cork, such as the Honan Chapel and the Holy Trinity Church. Plagued with ill health, Harry Clarke died in 1931, but his studios continued to produce commissions until 1973.

The preparatory sketches from the Harry Clarke Studios show how St Francis Church stained-glass windows took shape and the importance of both the content of images and the precision required in moving the plans from paper to glass.

Notes and pencil sketch for a stained-glass window with an unidentified standing figure, done by the Harry Clarke Studios for St Francis Church, Cork. The image is from the Board of Trinity College Dublin.
Notes and pencil sketch for a stained-glass window with an unidentified standing figure, done by the Harry Clarke Studios for St Francis Church, Cork. The image contains measurements of the window. IE TCD MS6088-2-1_1, The Board of Trinity College Dublin.

A letter addressed to Reverend Father Gerald, that dates from 23 October 1956, gives an insight into the collaboration between the friars and the Studio in choosing the imagery for the new church.

Letter from William Dowling to Rev. Father Gerald submitting designs for stained-glass windows for St Francis Church, Cork. The image is from the Board of Trinity College Dublin.
Letter from William Dowling to Rev. Father Gerald submitting designs for stained-glass windows for St Francis Church, Cork. IE TCD MS6088-13-1_1, The Board of Trinity College Dublin.

Further letters from the building contractors M.L. Cowman and Sons to the Harry Clarke Studios illustrate the necessity for correct measurements, not only for the windows but also other glass panelling in St Francis Church.

Letters from M.L. Cowman of M.L. Cowman & Sons Building Contractors to the Harry Clarke Studios regarding measurements for glass panels at St Francis Church, Cork. The images are from the Board of Trinity College Dublin.
Letters from M.L. Cowman of M.L. Cowman & Sons Building Contractors to the Harry Clarke Studios regarding measurements for glass panels at St Francis Church, Cork. IE TCD MS6088-13-3_1 (left) and IE TCD MS6088-13-4_1 (right), The Board of Trinity College Dublin.
Photograph of the Father Thomas Dowling, OSFC, stained glass Memorial Window, in the Holy Trinity Church, Cork.
Image of the Father Thomas Dowling, OSFC, Memorial Window, the Holy Trinity Church, Cork.
Photograph: Elaine Harrington

The planning stage of church glazing is not always a straightforward process as seen in the case of the Capuchin friary of the Holy Trinity in Cork. A memorial window was commissioned for Father Thomas Dowling by the Cork District Trades and Labour Council in recognition of his work in setting up the first Conciliation Board in Cork in 1919, to mediate disputes between trade unions and employers. Harry Clarke was the chief designer on the project, but problems arose in the planning stage concerning the Council’s insistence on having a large inscription in the window. Clarke felt that the inscription would detract from the window’s artistic integrity and could not be read easily from the ground. The situation worsened, when it emerged that there had been a mistake in window measurements, and he demanded to be paid for the extra work he incurred as a result of delays. The issue was eventually resolved when Joshua Clarke offered to finish the commission, while using Harry’s original design.

The saints included in the windows and the apse mosaic of St Francis Church act as visual expressions of Franciscan identity, so that viewers can be inspired by their exemplary lives and learn about the history of the Franciscan Order.

St Francis of Assisi (1181/82-1226), the founder of the Franciscan Order, is pictured in the stained-glass window holding up his hands to display the stigmata on his hands and feet. Two doves are included in the image reminding the viewer of the Saint’s affinity with animals. In the same window, Christ displays the wounds on his hands and feet, and his heart shines brightly from inside his scarlet robes. The design of the window strikingly highlights the connection between Francis and Christ, and the two images express a theme of Francis as the Other Christ.

St Bernadine of Siena (1380-1444) was an Italian Franciscan most well-known for his expressive preaching. He is pictured in the window holding the Holy Name monogram, which he used in preaching missions to promote this devotion. To his left stands a striking figure of St Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231) wearing a Byzantine style headdress and colourful garments. Elizabeth was the daughter of King Andrew II of Hungary and married Louis IV of Thuringia at the age of fourteen. Elizabeth devoted her life to looking after the poor and the sick, building a hospital at the foot of Wartburg Castle, where she personally nursed the infirm. After her husband’s death on route to the Sixth Crusade, she joined the Third Order of the Franciscans and built another hospital in Marburg in Hesse dedicated to St Francis. She is often represented giving food to the poor as on the print from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Three images of St Elizabeth of Hungary. The image on the left is a colour design for a stained glass window and it is from the Board of Trinity College Dublin. The image in the centre is a a black & white print of St Elizabeth giving aid to a young boy. The image on the right is a black & white drawing of a mosaic from "Franciscan Cork: Souvenir of St. Francis Church, Cork."
Left: Colour design for the stained-glass image of St Elizabeth of Hungary by the Harry Clarke Studios, Dublin (detail), IE TCD MS 11182/565, The Board of Trinity College Dublin.
Centre: St Elizabeth of Hungary by Hieronymus (Jerome) Wierix. The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Right: Drawing of a mosaic depicting St Elizabeth of Hungary in the main apse, St Francis Church, Cork, reproduced in Franciscan Cork: Souvenir of St. Francis Church, Cork (1953), 69, Special Collections, UCC Library.

The right transept windows represent St Paschal Baylon and St Louis IX, King of France. St Paschal Baylon (1540-1592) was a Spanish Franciscan lay brother, who was admired for his strict observance of the Rule of Francis and devotion to the Eucharist. He was sent by his superior to France to defend the Eucharistic doctrine in a debate with a Calvinist preacher. As a result, he was chased and almost killed by an angry mob.

St Louis IX (1214-1270) was the King of France from 1226 to 1270, and was involved in two crusades, dying in Tunisia. He was a patron of the mendicant orders and displayed a strong devotion to the Passion of Christ. He is depicted in the window holding a crucifix, a sceptre and a sword, signs of his royal authority and devotions.

The image on the left is a colour design for a stained glass window of St Louis and it is from the Board of Trinity College Dublin. The image on the right is a black & white drawing of a mosaic of St Louis from "Franciscan Cork: Souvenir of St. Francis Church, Cork."
Left: Colour design for the stained-glass image of St Louis IX by the Harry Clarke Studios, Dublin (detail), IE TCD MS 11182/565, The Board of Trinity College Dublin.
Right: Drawing of the mosaic depiction of St Louis, King of France in the main apse, St Francis Church, Cork. St Louis IX is shown holding a cross and a crown of thorns, the relics of which he purchased in Constantinople. These relics were housed in Sainte Chapelle. Image from Franciscan Cork: Souvenir of St. Francis Church, Cork (1953), 69, Special Collections, UCC Library.

The remaining figures in the windows represent Mary and Joseph. The Virgin Mary is shown with outstretched hands, wearing her signature blue garments. St Joseph occupies the space to her right wearing green robes and holding a lily, which is considered as his emblem.

The image on the left is a colour design for a stained glass window of the Virgin Mary and it is from the Board of Trinity College Dublin.
Colour design for the stained-glass image of the Virgin Mary by the Harry Clarke Studios, Dublin (detail), IE TCD MS 11182/565, The Board of Trinity College Dublin.

The tradition of using stained-glass windows in Franciscan churches goes back to the medieval times, when splendid visual schemes were executed in glass in the great churches of the Order such as the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi and Santa Croce in Florence. Franciscan writers, including Bonaventure (1217-1274) believed that stained-glass windows with their transparency and coloured luminosity, could help with contemplation and devotion, because as he stated through the corporal light ‘we are thoroughly led to understand even the spiritual.’

Martha Ewence

Further reading

Curtin-Kelly, Patricia, An Ornament to the City: Holy Trinity Church and the Capuchin Order (Dublin, 2015).

Dunne, Aidan, ‘A Colourful Window into Harry Clarke’s World’, Irish Times, 3 March 2018.

Frazier, Adrian, ‘Harry Clarke and the Material Culture of Modern Ireland’, Textual Practise 16 (2002, online edition).

McKee, Ruth, ‘God is in the Detail: Harry Clarke’s Stained Glass’, Irish Times, 27 June 2020.

Ó Clabaigh, Colmán, ‘The Other Christ: The Cult of St Francis of Assisi in Late Medieval Ireland,’ in Rachel Moss, Colmán Ó Clabaigh, and Salvador Ryan, eds, Art and Devotion in Late Medieval Ireland (Dublin, 2006), 142-162.

O’Callaghan, Jerome, Franciscan Cork: A Souvenir of St. Francis Church Cork (Killiney, 1953).

Pieper, Lori, The Voice of a Medieval Woman: St Elizabeth of Hungary as a Franciscan Penitent in the Early Sources for Her Life (New York, 2016).

Spieser, J.M., ‘The Representation of Christ in the Apses of Early Christian Churches’Gesta 37, no. 1 (1998), 63-73.

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