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The Library of the Royal College of Science for Ireland

The library of the Royal College of Science for Ireland is one of the most comprehensive Victorian science libraries in existence. University College Dublin Library has had the privilege of inheriting this vast collection of approximately 15,000 items.

UCD Special Collections

The Royal College of Science for Ireland (RCSI) represents a unique part of Ireland’s scientific heritage. The establishment of the College in 1876 (which was located in what is now Government Buildings on Merrion Street from 1911) marked a key moment in the development of science education in Ireland.

The library of the Royal College of Science for Ireland is one of the most comprehensive Victorian science libraries in existence. University College Dublin Library has had the privilege of inheriting this vast collection of approximately 15,000 items. The James Joyce Library and UCD Special Collections contain thousands of books, maps, pamphlets, journals, and other printed materials which were once part of the RCSI library and that of its predecessor, the Museum of Irish Industry. The library includes many rare scientific monographs of the 19th century and earlier, as well as complete runs of periodicals which are not to be found in any other Irish library.

The RCSI was absorbed into UCD in 1926 to form the basis of the UCD Science Faculty. As a result of the amalgamation the libraries were integrated and interfiled with the result that the RCSI Library was dispersed thus losing its cohesiveness. In 2010 UCD Library Special Collections and UCD Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland successfully secured funding from Wellcome Trust to employ an archivist  to carry out a survey of the RCSI holdings. During a three-month survey, the location, content and condition of Royal College of Science for Ireland material across the University College Dublin campus was assessed, providing information for the development of plans to clean, catalogue, repair and digitise key parts of the collection.

Below are two videos which give an insight into the importance of the RCSI. The first video looks at the historical development of the RCSI, the state of science education in nineteenth century Ireland, the importance of the library as a collection and details of the survey project. The second video showcases some highlights from the collection.

Highlights from the collection:

A representative selection of printed books and maps associated with the scientific subjects taught at the Royal College of Science for Ireland (RCSI) held in UCD Special Collections have been digitised as part of the Irish Virtual Research Library and Archive (IVRLA)* and are available to view in the UCD Digital Library online collection: Reconstructing Irish Science: The Library of the Royal College of Science for Ireland (1867-1926).

*Note – the IVRLA now forms part of the UCD Digital Library.

Image from The College of Science for Ireland © University College Dublin Library.