The Library of the National Botanic Gardens

By Alex Caccamo, Librarian, National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin

Please note that the images used in this blog post have been kindly supplied by the Library at the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin. Under no circumstances should they be downloaded, copied or used either in printed, electronic or any other form.

The Library, National Botanic Gardens

The Library, National Botanic Gardens

Many of the members of the ISBA are familiar with the library in Glasnevin.  Both myself and Colette Edwards (Library Assistant) have been delighted to introduce many of the ISBA’s enthusiastic members to our collections. For those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to visit us as yet, this is a short outline about the library and its collections.

History

There has been a library in the Botanic Gardens since 1799, four years after the gardens was founded.  The gardens was founded by the Royal Dublin Society with the aim of educating the public in the areas of botany and horticulture.  Establishing a library for those studying at the gardens was integral to that aim.

The library has existed in several different locations in the gardens over the years, but in 1997 the Library/Herbarium building was opened. Designed by the OPW architect, Ciaran O’Connor, it allowed the library collection to be consolidated, thereby providing access for staff, students and members of the public.

Collections

Our collection is quite varied and includes books, journals, rare books, archives, photographs and botanical art.

Some of the highlights of our rare books collection, include the Flora Graeca, Hooker’s Rhododendrons of Sikkim Himalaya and Redouté’s Les Roses.

Flora Graeca

From Flora Graeca

Hooker's Rhododenron barbatum from

R. barbatum from Hooker’s Rhododendrons of Sikkim Himalaya

 

The art collection is equally as interesting and is often consulted with great enthusiasm by those studying botanical art. With the formation of the ISBA, the art collection has enjoyed a renewed level of interest and we are always happy to help botanical artists with their research.

There are over 3,500 original botanical illustrations in the collection.  The collection dates from the early 19th century to the present day and consists largely of watercolour paintings on paper.

When referring to the art collection in Glasnevin, recognition must be given to Lydia Shackleton (1828-1914) as it is her work that makes up a sizeable portion of the collection.  She was born in 1828 and came to work in Glasnevin when she was 56 years old.  She continued to work here for 23 years, painting plants that were growing in the gardens under the direction of Sir Frederick Moore, who was the Curator at the time.  He had specific interests in certain plants, including orchids, hellebores, peonies and it was those that she chiefly spent her time painting, amassing over 1,000 paintings.

Cypripedium nigritum by Lydia Shackleton

Cypripedium nigritum by Lydia Shackleton

Masdevallia bella by Lydia Shackleton

Masdevallia bella by Lydia Shackleton

Hellebore niger Mr Poes variety by Lydia Shackleton

Hellebore niger Mr Poes variety by Lydia Shackleton

George Victor Du Noyer (1817-1869) is an artist who is known more for his work painting geological features than for painting plants. However, in Glasnevin we have the collection of paintings he completed to illustrate the short-lived Memoir Project.  At the age of nineteen, Du Noyer worked on the project painting apples, roses, brambles, seaweeds and fungi as well as grasses and sedges from the Lough Neagh area.  The paintings were executed with a great deal of precision and skill and where published in Memoir of the City and North Western Liberties of Londonderry. Paris of Templemore (1837).

Rosa tomentosa by George

Rosa tomentosa by George Victor du Noyer

Mushrooms by George Victor du Noyer

Mushrooms by George Victor du Noyer

The work of Anne Elizabeth Ball (1808-1872) is an example of how botanists use drawings to illustrate their research.  She was born in Queenstown Co. Cork, and was an ‘amateur’ botanist who had a keen interest in algae.  She was encouraged in her research by her family and spent hours collecting and describing the seaweeds around the Irish coast.  She provided the well-known phycologist, William Henry Harvey with plant records and specimens and he went on to name the genus Ballia in her honour.  Her work is executed in pen and ink on paper.

Sphaerococcus by Anne Ball

Sphaerococcus by Anne Ball

Polysiphonia by Anne Ball

Polysiphonia by Anne Ball

If you would like to visit the library, please call or email to make an appointment.  We would be delighted to help you in anyway.

Library
National Botanic Gardens
Glasnevin
Dublin 9

Phone: (01) 8040330

Email: alexandra.caccamo@opw.ie

1 reply
  1. Elizabeth Prendergast
    Elizabeth Prendergast says:

    Thank you Alex that was very interesting. I would dearly love to spend some time researching in the lovely library with you and Collette and some day I will when I hop off my present treadmill. Hope all is well with ye all. Liz

    Reply

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