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Follow the brown signs

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The Brown Sign Torch Relay Day 19: Where ancient manuscripts and manga collide

The Olympic torch makes it’s only trip outside the UK today (apart from Greece of course) when it visits Dublin in the Republic of Ireland. Not a great deal of choice for our destination of the day but Dublin is jam packed full of places to visit and as its recently been voted the 25th best city in the world by city break connoisseurs on Trip Advisor you’d expect it to be bursting at the seams with things to do.

So the prospects for the blog were looking promising today until I called the Visit Dublin tourism office and explained my brown sign related project to the confusingly French sounding Dubliner on the other end. After a few baffled silences she finally informed me that the council were currently in the process of changing the tourist signing in the city from the old brown signs to new “bluey green” coloured ones written in Irish and English that point the way to points of interest around the city. “Oh, right then…” I sighed, feeling dejected and crumpled. The kindly Frirish lady didn’t want me hanging up disappointed though (she could tell I was upset) so pulled a destination out of the bag which she was sure still had at least one brown sign pointing to it, and that was The Chester Beatty Library, also one of her personal favourites, and as it turns out somewhere totally awesome. YAY!

The Chester Beatty library holds the huge collection of books, manuscripts and art that the well travelled and endlessly curious Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, AKA The King of Copper, collected over his lifetime. Born in New York in 1875 Beatty was not a man to be fenced in and began his travels after graduating as a mining engineer, setting up his mining engineering businesses and consultancy that were to make him his fortune and allow him to collect what he loved on a grand scale wherever he was in the world. His particular interest lay in ancient scripts and religious texts but the collection goes way beyond just the manuscripts, which alone comprise the most extensive and important collection by a private collector in the 20th Century, it includes art, maps, textiles, Islamic seals and various other decorative objects from the Europe, the Middle East, the Orient and Africa. When he moved to Ireland he opened up an public exhibition space for his art but it was not until his death in 1968 that his whole collection could be enjoyed by everyone when it was bequeathed to a trust for the benefit of the public. The library now stands on the grounds of Dublin Castle and continues to showcase the collections to visitors and scholars alike.

Apart from having an astonishing array of rare and ancient things to look at which could keep you occupied for days, the library also hold regular events around the subjects of the collections which include Japanese paper making, origami, international film screenings, traditional tea ceremonies, Thai culture days, manga drawing and dance workshops. Experts in the field share their specialist knowledge with visitors which always adds a whole new brilliant dimension to a visit. Many of the events are free so you could just turn up and find yourself being served tea by a geisha, how cool would that be? Very cool is the answer. The library have digitised much of the art online too and you can browse through as if you were there your very self here (careful, multiple hours can become lost if you click on this link).

Great respect to Chester Beatty for bequeathing his amazing collection to the public and the work the current library staff continue to do that inspires and engages visitors with his magnificent collections that are of such historic and international importance. It was a pleasure stumbling upon you Sir.