Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland

Library Network

Library collections contribute a unique and significant array of material to the Virtual Record Treasury. The Library Network brings together key libraries from across the Participating Institutions to celebrate the presence of Irish collections within these institutions and to foster cross-institutional collaboration.

“…by good fortune and official watchfulness many of these documents have come to rest in our big Libraries.”

Herbert Wood, ‘The Public Records of Ireland before and after 1922’. Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 13 (1930): 17–49. p. 46

From L to R, Top Row: RIA A.i.1, Bodleian MS. Carte Catalogues, CUL Kk.1.15; Bottom Row: BL Cotton Titus B X, TCD 578, NLI MS 855.

The importance of manuscripts held in library collections to the study of Irish history and the PROI has long been recognized. Herbert Wood – the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records who wrote the famous Guide to records deposited in the Public Record Office of Ireland (1919) – explicitly noted their importance to reconstruction efforts in 1930:

“Documents of a public nature have ever had a tendency to escape from their proper custody in the past, and the history of the public records in England as well as in Ireland testifies to the carelessness of custodians, the selfishness of collectors, and the inclination of officials to regard their official documents as their own private property. But by good fortune and official watchfulness many of these documents have come to rest in our big Libraries.” (Herbert Wood, ‘The Public Records of Ireland before and after 1922’. Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 13 (1930): 17–49. P. 46)

In recognition of the important contributions library collections have made to the reconstruction efforts of the PROI over the last century, the VRTI Library Network was formed in 2023. The six founding members – 3 in Britain and 3 in Ireland – are key repositories whose histories, collections, and roles have ensured the survival of many Irish historical manuscripts. 

The VRTI Library Network has been established to explore the materials, connections, and provenance of Library-held material whilst fostering opportunities for engagement and collaboration. Through a series of regular Network meetings, the group will support the work of the Retracing Archival Footsteps Research Strand to examine the connections between materials held across the Libraries, and explore how technology can assist in highlighting and investigating these connections.  Members of the network include:

National Library of Ireland
Ciara Kerrigan (Assistant Keeper – Special Collections & Office of the Chief Herald)

Royal Irish Academy
Barbara McCormack (Academy Librarian)

The British Library
William Frame (Head of Modern Archives and Manuscripts)
Alex Lock (Curator of Modern Archives and Manuscripts)

Bodleian Libraries, Oxford
Mike Webb (Curator of Early Modern Archives and Manuscripts)

Cambridge University Library
Kevin Roberts (Early Modern Archivist)
Jennie Fletcher (DH Specialist, Developer Team)
Trinity College Dublin
Jenny Doyle (Digital Content Creation Manager – Library)
Estelle Gittins (Archivist – Manuscripts)

National Library of Ireland

The National Library of Ireland was established by the Dublin Science and Art Museum Act, 1877.

Its collections contain many items that contribute to the VRTI. Highlights include the Down Survey material (part of the MS – Manuscripts collection) and Genealogical material (part of the NLI GO – Genealogical Office collection).

After the foundation of the Irish Free State, responsibility for the NLI passed to the newly founded Department of Education. The Industrial and Commercial Property (Protection) Act (1927) gave the NLI legal deposit status which meant that it was entitled to a copy of everything published in the Irish Free State.


Source: National Library of Ireland

Royal Irish Academy Library

The Library is one of Ireland’s premier research libraries and holds significant manuscript resources in English and Latin for the study of Irish history, society and politics.

Many of the RIA’s former members were also closely associated with the PROI, and their publications in the Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy have made a notable contribution to the VRTI.

Source: Royal Irish Academy

The British Library

The British Library (BL) is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world’s largest libraries.

The British Library has one of the most significant and wide-ranging assortment of historical manuscripts relating to Ireland. These cover all seven centuries of the PROI’s history, from an original medieval pipe roll fragment, to the manuscript collection of Robert Cotton, and extensive papers of Irish Officials in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Source: Wikimedia Commons - Roger Davies

Bodleian Libraries, Oxford

The Bodleian Libraries is now the largest academic library service in the UK and one of the largest library services in Europe.

Since its foundation in 1602, the Library has continued to acquire numerous historical materials of Irish interest. Significant collections include the Carte materials, Rawlinson Collection, and Laud manuscripts.

Source: Bodleian Library, Oxford

Cambridge University Library

Cambridge University Library (the UL) is one of the world’s oldest university libraries – and home to one of the world’s great collections of cultural treasures and research materials.

The strength of the Library’s Irish materials was consolidated by Henry Bradshaw, the UL’s librarian (1867-86) who had a particular interest in Irish historical manuscripts. Its materials are varied and include a significant collection of early nineteenth century petitions on a range of subjects including Roman Catholic Emancipation, the slave trade, and the death penalty.

Source: Martin McCormack

The Library of Trinity College

The Library of Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin, dates back to the establishment of the College in 1592 and it is the largest library in Ireland. 

It possesses a notable collection of historical manuscripts ranging from the medieval through to the modern. It is particularly rich in political and religious manuscripts of the early modern period, and papers of individuals associated with the Irish Record Commission and later PROI.

Source: Trinity College Dublin