The Benjamin Iveagh Library was amassed by Benjamin Guinness (1937-1992), 3rd Earl of Iveagh, a keen and astute collector of rare books, manuscripts and fine bindings.
The collection amounts to more than 5,000 items and includes many highly collectable Irish books and manuscripts. Among the historical manuscripts in the collection is a description of Ireland by Gerald of Wales dating from 1280, an Irish-language primer prepared for Queen Elizabeth I, as well as unique archival material relating to Daniel O’Connell, Roger Casement, Lennox Robinson and Sean O’Casey.
The printed books and pamphlets include many early Irish imprints and rare periodicals. All major Irish writers are represented in the collection, including Joyce, Heaney, Beckett, Swift, and there are many significant texts, including first editions of Ulysses and Gulliver’s Travels.
A particular strength of the collection is in fine Irish bindings. The library holds some of the finest examples of decorative Irish bookbindings from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
The collection is owned by Marsh’s Library and managed by the Office of Public Works, which employs a Librarian to curate and manage the holdings. The collection was donated to Marsh’s Library in 2009 by the Guinness family.