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Rare Books

Special Collections actively collects rare, antiquarian and contemporary books of enduring value. Major subject emphases include Irish history, culture, travel, politics and social science, with particular strengths in Limerick history and literature.

The core of the rare book holdings was established with the acquisition of three major libraries - the Norton Collection in 1997, the Leonard Collection in 2003 and the McAnally Collection in 2008. Special Collections also houses a number of smaller named collections which focus on specific subjects. These include The Patrick Lysaght Kerry Collection and The Gilsenan Yeats Collection containing printed works of William Butler Yeats.

The rare book collections can be explored via the library search. For more information on individual collections, click on the links below.

The Leonard Collection

The Leonard Collection is comprised of books and other materials relating to Limerick City and County. It has been built up over a period of some thirty-five years by Father John Leonard and is so considerable in range and diversity that it would not be possible for such a collection ever to be replicated. The initial objective of Father Leonard was to collect an example of the work of every Limerick author, although this was soon broadened to include any publication on or about Limerick and its people.

Description of the Collection

The collection is exceptional in its quality and diversity and represents the definitive collection on Limerick City and County. It encompasses literature, history, topography, politics, the social sciences and culture, and, whilst it is principally a book collection, it also contains periodicals, paintings, prints, engravings and more.

The collection is of such high quality and contains so many rare and scarce materials that it is almost invidious to highlight a few individual items. Nevertheless, the following give some indication of the scope of the collection:

  • Collections by Limerick authors including Michael Collins, Dorothea Conyers, Michael Curtin, Aubrey de Vere, Gerald Griffin, Michael Hartnett, Jim Kemmy, Brian Merriman, Lola Montez, Kate O'Brien, Desmond O'Grady, Gabriel Rosenstock, Eithne Strong and Frank McCourt.
  • Full sets of the Limerick historical journals, including the North Munster Antiquarian Journal and The Old Limerick Journal.
  • Limerick city maps dating from 1722.
  • Original 18th-century prints of Askeaton, Kilmallock, Adare, Thomond Bridge and many other notable Limerick antiquities.
  • Historical works by leading Limerick antiquarians, including the Knight of Glin, the Earls of Dunraven, PW Joyce, TJ Westropp, Mainchin Seoighe and Michael J O'Kelly.

An actively collecting library, The Leonard Collection is continually listed on the Library Catalogue.

The Norton Collection

The Norton Collection is an outstanding accumulation of books, manuscripts, maps, charts, prints, photographs and postcards. It is the result of a lifetime of collecting by Dr Eamon Norton. From an old Athlone family, Dr Norton qualified as a doctor in 1949. He established his practice in Westgate End House, Wakefield, Yorkshire in 1953. The property was destined to house one of the finest Irish libraries in private ownership in the UK or Ireland.

Description of the Collection

The Norton Collection comprises over 12,000 volumes and much ephemera. The contents of the collection is practically all of Irish interest; some of the highlights include:

  • Maps and atlases by Mercator, Speed, Petty and Janson
  • A definitive collection on the Shannon
  • A collection of early Irish grammars and cathechisms
  • Nineteenth century reports, commissions and enquiries
  • A full range of county histories
  • A postcard collection of every county in Ireland (12,000 postcards)
  • A superb collection of Irish guide, travel and topographical books

The Norton Collection is listed on the Library Catalogue.

The McAnally Travel Collection

The McAnally Collection is a unique library of Irish travel, topography and heritage literature collected by the late solicitor, Mr Ciarán McAnally (1924-2004). Comprising over 5,000 items, the collection contains a great number of fascinating published and manuscript accounts of travel and exploration in Ireland from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries, together with travel guidebooks, atlases and topographical works. The acquisition of this library was made possible by a generous donation by Dr Dermot Smurfit.

The Gilsenan Yeats Collection

The Gilsenan Yeats Collection contains many rare first editions of printed works by William Butler Yeats. It features all of Yeats’ works such as The Tower, The Winding Stair, Wind among the Reeds, and Plays for an Irish Theatre.  It is one of the finest Yeats collections in Ireland, providing focus and inspiration for literary scholarship. The collection was donated to the Glucksman Library by Professor Michael Gilsenan with the aid of the American Ireland Fund.