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The Unicorn

and the

Fencing Mouse

‘The Unicorn and the Fencing Mouse’ is an exhibition of 33 books selected from the thousands in our collections in which readers or owners wrote, doodled, sketched or scribbled. The original library rules of 1713 obliged readers to sign an undertaking not to ‘take away, change ... deface, tear, cutt, Scribble on ... maim, abuse, rend or make imperfect any Book belonging to this Library.’ It is, then, ironic that more and more of those who come to read in Marsh's do so because they are interested in the marks left in the books by previous generations of owners and readers. These marks provide evidence of the ways in which men and women engaged with a range of different texts in early modern Europe.


Click thumbnails to see more

Unicorn 2 A.jpg
Joannis de Rupescissa, De consideratione quintae essentiae rerum omnium, opus sane egregium (Basel, [1561])
Skull A.jpg
Sophocles, Tragoediae vii (Leiden, 1593)
Theolgoical Debates A (1).jpg
Anonymous, Disputationes Theologicae (16th or 17th century)
Jephson A.jpg
Jaime Peìrez de Valencia, Divinae plane expositiones: in centum & quinquaginta psalmos Davidicos (Paris, 1521)
Leopold, Duke of Austria, Compilatio Leupoldi ducatus austrie filii de astrorum scientia Decem continentis tractatus (Venice, 1520)
Leopold, Duke of Austria, Compilatio Leupoldi ducatus austrie filii de astrorum scientia Decem continentis tractatus (Venice, 1520)
Donne A.jpg
Daniel Plancius, Dissertatio de fide haereticis non servanda ex decreto concilij Constantiensis (Amsterdam, 1608)
Dioptrica A.jpg
William Molyneux, Dioptrica nova. A treatise of dioptricks, in two parts (London, 1692)
Standing Army 2 A.jpg
William Molyneux, The Case of Ireland’s being bound by Acts of Parliament in England, stated ([Dublin?], 1719)
Pen trials A.jpg
Ludolf von Sachsen, Prologus in librum domini ludolphi de suchen. de terra sancta et itinere iherosolimitano... (Gouda, 1483–4)
Medical Receipe A.jpg
Joannes Nicolaus Milis, Repertorium admodum solenne quod merito opus singularium dictorum appelant do. Nicolai de Milis (Lyon, 1522)
Lucy Cooke A2.jpg
Hermolaus Barbarus, Compendium scientiae naturalis, ex Aristotele et aliis philosophis collectum (Lausanne, 1579)
Fore Edge A (1).jpg
Thomas Cajetan, In omnes authenticos veteris testamenti historiales libros, commentarii (Paris, 1546)
Molyneux Bible A.jpg
Holy Bible, ([London] c.1612)
Universal Bible A.jpg
Henry Southwell, The Universal Family Bible (London, 18th Century)
Rolevinck A.jpg
Werner Rolevinck, Fasciculus temporum (Lyon, 1483)
Surgical 1 A.jpg
Johannes Scultetus, Armamentarium chirurgicum (Amsterdam, 1662)
Hecuba A.jpg
Euripides, Hecuba (Paris, 1560)
Equation A.jpg
John Newton, Trigonometria Britanica: or, the doctrine of triangles, in two books (London, 1658)
Toland A.jpg
John Toland, Christianity not Mysterious: or a treatise shewing, that there is nothing in the Gospel contrary to reason, nor above it: And that no Christian doctrine can be properly call’d a mystery (London, 1696)
Browne B.jpg
Peter Browne, A Letter in answer to a book entitled Christianity not mysterious. As also to all those who set up for reason and evidence in opposition to revelation & mysteries (Dublin, 1697)
Swift A.jpg
Edward Hyde, The History of the rebellion and civil wars in England, begun in the year 1641 (Oxford, 1707)
Casaubon A.jpg
Cesare Baronio, Annales ecclesiastici (Mainz, 1601–09)
Platina A.jpg
Bartolomeo Platina, Proemium Platynae in vitas pontificum ad Sixtvm. 1111. Pontificem Maximum ([Treviso], 1485)
World A.jpg
William Pemble, A Briefe introduction to geography, containing a description of the grounds, and general part thereof. Very necessary for young students in that science (Oxford, 1669)
Monk A.jpg
Catholic Church, Psalter (London, 1503)
Charon's Boat closeup A.jpg
Hieronymus Bock, De stirpium, maxime earum quae in Germania nostra nascuntvr, usitatis nomenclaturis (Strasbourg, 1552)
Leslie A.jpg
John Leslie, A Treatise concerning the defence of the honour of the right high, mightie and noble princesse, Marie Queene of Scotland, and Douager of France, with a declaration, as wel of her right, title and interest to the succession of the Croune of England (Liege, 1571)
Owl A text.jpg
Domenico Nani Mirabelli, Polyanthea opus suauissimis floribus exornatum (Basel, 1512)
De Worde A.jpg
William Caxton, Chronicles of England (London, 1502)
Hours A.jpg
Catholic Church, Prymer of Salysbury use (Rouen, 1538)

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Exhibition curated by Maria O’Shea

Maria O’Shea graduated in History and Politics from the University of Limerick in 2006, and received her MA in History from UL in 2008. In the following year she gained an MA in Library and Information Studies from UCD. Until 2019 she was the rare books cataloguer in Marsh’s Library, managing the Reading Room and overseeing the highly successful Visiting Research Fellowship scheme. She now holds a post as Assistant Keeper in the National Library of Ireland.

Online version curated by Arantxa Mejía del Río

Arantxa Mejía del Río is studying for her bachelor’s degree in History at the University of Oviedo, Spain. Mejía’s principal interest is Modern History and specifically the Age of Enlightenment. She is completing her dissertation in the legislation of Philip V against gypsies in Spain. In early 2020, she held a cultural heritage internship at Marsh’s Library which included digitisation of this exhibition.

Web design by Sue Hemmens, Deputy Director, Marsh’s Library

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