Franciscan Collection

Franciscan Collection

Franciscan Incunable

UCD Library Special Collections holds a collection of 1,300 books, formerly kept in Franciscan friaries, which are now held by Special Collections with the support of the UCD-OFM partnership.

The Collection

  • The books that form part of this Franciscan collection have endured a very interesting journey over the centuries.
  • Many of the books were originally collected in the College of St Anthony in Louvain (now Leuven in Belgium). These books were published in various cities throughout Europe including Antwerp, Lyon and Rome, all of which were centres of Counter Reformation printing.
  • Some of the books were moved from Louvain to St Isidore’s in Rome, another Irish Franciscan college during the unrest of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars. Others were transferred to friaries in Ireland, most notably the Franciscan friary in Wexford.
  • Some books contain the signature of a Franciscan Richard Francis Walsh. Walsh is known to have claimed that they were his personal belongings and obtained permission to bring them to Ireland, then depositing them in Wexford.
  • In the 1870s, after the unification of Italy, it was feared that the books were not safe in St Isidore’s. A new library was built in the friary in Merchant’s Quay and in 1872 much of the material from St Isidore’s was deposited in the new library. In 1946 a new house of studies, Dún Mhúire, at Killiney was established by the Franciscans and the library was again transferred.

Franciscan Collection Today

  • In 2000 the Irish Franciscans and UCD concluded a legal partnership, administered by the UCD-OFM partnership committee, whereby some Franciscan archival and printed collections have been moved to UCD.  
  • The Franciscan archival collections, which include the Annals of the Four Masters, are held in UCD archives while the printed collections have been moved to UCD library Special Collections.
  • Under this agreement/partnership, the Michael Ó Clerigh Institute for the study of Irish history and civilisation was established.
  • The Franciscan material in the care of Special Collections and UCD Archives is envisaged to support scholarship in the Ó Cléirigh Institute, in other research institutes, such as the UCD Humanities Institute and in various schools. Research into the importance of the Franciscan material in terms of history, including book history, art history and theology will hopefully be carried out in the future.

Much of the information for this page was provided by Dr. Edel Bhreathnach from UCD's Micheal O'Clerigh Institute , in her article 'The Franciscan Library Killiney: the journey of a valuable historical repository from 1607 to 2007' (2007) Irish Archives, the Journal of the Irish Society for Archives: 14.

Access and Use

The collections can be consulted by the students and staff of UCD, and by external users, in the Special Collections Reading Room.

More Information

A list of the Franciscan incunabula held in UCD Library Special Collections is available in;

Fennessy, I. (2001) ”Alphabetical indexes for Irish Franciscan incunabula in Rome and Dublin”. Collectanea Hibernica: 43. A copy of this article is held in Special Collections.