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Dun’s Library

Our library collection represents 250 years of medical education and advancement in Ireland. It contains over 25,000 items covering all aspects of medicine, and the related sciences, between the foundation of the College in 1654 and 1950.

 

The library collections can be searched online through our online catalogue and material can be viewed by appointment in our research room. The cataloguing of the library is an ongoing project and the online catalogue currently contains details of over 14,000 items, including all the books and portions of the periodical and pamphlet collections.

What’s in Dun’s Library?

Dun’s Library has been part of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland since 1713, when Sir Patrick Dun (1642-1713), an eminent physician and former President, bequeathed his personal library to the College.

“Like wise I would give my books for the lawful use of the sd Professors and College of Physicians, provided the sd. Professor or Professors … give bond and security to keep and preserve the sd Library and all and every book and books in it, and if any should be lost of wanting, to pay for or purchase another of the same kind, the same paper and edition or better in the room thereof.”

Clause in the will of Sir Patrick Dun

For 250 years the library collection has evolved and developed as a research and teaching collection for members of the College. While the main focus of the library is medicine, there are also works on other branches of science, law, classics, antiquaries and other subjects that interested the College Fellows. In addition, the library collected any works written by our Fellows, these cover a wide range of topics from a biography of Thomas à Kempis to travel writing and poetry.

In the 1960s the difficult decision was taken to no longer maintain a current medical library, the focus instead shifting to preserving the historical collection.

Periodicals

The library holds a substantial collection of annual publications including medical journals, governmental and annual reports. This collection is only partly catalogued, so please contact us if you can’t find what you are looking for.

History of Medicine

We maintain a reference collection of publications relating to the history of medicine in Ireland, or with substantial Irish interest. This includes biographies and autobiographies of Irish medical practitioners, as well as histories of Irish hospitals, medical organisations and institutions. We are constantly adding to this collection as new works are published.

We are fortunate to hold two collections bequeathed by Irish medical historians, the extensive book and pamphlet collection of Dr T Percy Kirkpatrick (1869-1954) and Dr John Fleetwood (1917-2007)

Special Collections

Since the initial bequest by Sir Patrick Dun the library has been greatly augmented by the donation of collections by College Fellows. These have added strength to the collections in the following areas

Obstetrics and Gynaecology

We hold the collections of two Masters of the Rotunda, Sir Arthur V Macan (1843-1908) and Gibbon Fitzgibbon (1877-1952) and one Master of the National Maternity Hospital, Sir Andrew Horne (1856-1924). Possibly most notable is the collection of Fleetwood Churchill (1808-1878) which comprises his own contemporary working library and a collection of historical texts dating back to the 17th century. The material donated by Robert J Rowlette (1873-1944) contains early 20th century work on sexual health and contraception.

Psychiatry

We hold two special collections from physicians at the Richmond District Lunatic Asylum, John Mollan (1790-1877) and Conolly Norman (1853-1908), as well as books belonging to John Mills (d.1936) Resident Medical Superintendent in Ballinasloe Mental Hospital.

Ophthalmology

Ophthalmology is well represented by the large collection of books, pamphlets and journals on the topic donated by Arthur Benson (1852-1912) Surgeon at the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, Dublin.

Public Health and Communicable Diseases

These specialties are represented in many of the special collections, but notably in the library of Thomas Wrigley Grimshaw (1839-1900) Registrar General for Ireland, Sir John William Moore (1845-1937) and Christopher Joseph McSweeney (d.1953), resident medical superintendent of the Cork Street Fever Hospital, Dublin.

General Medicine

Before the modern specialisation of medicine towards the end of the 19th century, most physicians would have been generalist. This type of physician is represented in the libraries of Sir John Thomas Banks (1816-1908), Sir John Hawtrey Benson (1843-1931), James Little (1837-1916), Aquilla Smith (1806-1890) and his son Walter George Smith (1844-1932) and Robert Travers (1807-1888). Travers, who was also Assistant Librarian to Marshes Library, donated books on non-medical topics.

The College also houses the library of the Irish Cardiac Society.

Donations

Offers of donations to the library are always appreciated, however please be aware that restrictions on space and other resources mean that only some items can be accepted. If you have any material you think might be of interest please contact us at heritagecentre@rcpi.ie or on +353 (0) 1 669 8817. You can find out more about the process and our collecting priorities on the donations page

Harriet Wheelock

Keeper of Collections

Tel: +353 1 669 8817

Harriet is Keeper of Collection and manages the RCPI Heritage Centre. Contact Harriet with any questions about the Heritage Centre, its collection and to make an appointment to visit.