Built between 1712 and 1732, the Long Room at Trinity College’s Old Library holds the collection’s 200,000 oldest books.
The distinctive and beautiful barrel ceiling was added in 1860 to allow space for more works when the existing shelves became full. Marble busts of famous philosophers and writers line the central walkway of the nearly 200-foot-long room, created by sculptor Peter Schemakers beginning in 1743.
The enormous collection housed in the long room includes a rare copy of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic and the 15th-century wooden harp in the library which is the model for the emblem of Ireland.
By far its most famous holding, however, is an extraordinary illuminated manuscript known as the Book of Kells. Decorated with lavish Celtic and Christian iconography, its distinctive designs have become firmly rooted in Irish identity. Thought to have been created around 800 AD by Christian monks on the Isle of Iona in Scotland, it is composed of the four gospels, hand-transcribed on vellum in a script style known as “insular majuscule” or “insular script” which flourished in Ireland and Scotland between 600 and 850. It is named for the monastery at Kells, County Meath where the monks took refuge after a Viking raid and which became the manuscript’s home for centuries.
The Book of Kells came to Trinity College in Dublin in 1661, for safekeeping after the Cromwellian raids on religious institutions. It has been on display since the 19th century.