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Marsh's Library Exhibits



The Rarest Books in the World

an online exhibition



This is an exhibition of exceptionally rare books. They exist in only one copy in the world: ours.

Visitors to Marsh’s Library often ask about our most valuable books. They usually expect us to mention ornate, expensive or particularly striking books such as our early editions of Dante’s Divine Comedy, or the first edition of Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica (1687).

The real treasures of Marsh’s Library are our ‘ugly ducklings’: cheap items, which frequently show severe signs of wear and tear. Produced for a mass market, they tend not to survive as they were often read or worked ‘to death’.

‘Sole Survivors’ displays 32 of the most interesting unique items in our collection. This is less than 10% of the 387 books in Marsh’s Library which survive in just one copy in the world.


Click thumbnails to see more

1507 First.jpg
Here begynneth the treatys of Nycodemus gospel (London, 1507).
1518 Left.jpg
Be it knowen to all cristen people ([London], c.1518).
Advertissement A Tous Bons et Loyaux subiectz du Roy (Poitiers, 1567)
Interrogatories to be enquired of by the Church-wardens and Sworne-men within the Diocesse of Winchester (London, 1584).
1586 Second.jpg
Archadelt Primo Libro De Madrigali; a Quattro Voci, Novamente Ristampato (Venice, 1586).
P. Rami Nominum et Verborum Declinationes (La Rochelle, 1587).
Christianæ Pietatis Prima Institutio ad usum Scholarum Latinè Scripta (London, 1593).
1595 Second.jpg
A Discourse of the Miserable Captivitie of an Englishman, named Richard Hasleton (London, 1595).
Suim Riaghlacha S[an] Phrionsias ([Leuven], c.1614).
Newes from Holland, true, strange, and wonderfull (London, 1624).

1643 (Opt02).jpg
Epithalamium In Honorem... Tobiæ Andreæ... et... Elizabethæ De Geer (Amsterdam, 1643).
A Declaration of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, For the undeceiving of deluded and seduced People (Cork, [1650]).

Ware en correcte Afteekening naer tlevan gedan (Amsterdam, 1653).
A Declaration for The Payment of Custom and Excize (Dublin, 1654).

Description de lIsle de Pines. Ou nouvelle découverte dune quatriéme Isle dans les Terres Meridionales inconnuës (Amsterdam, c.1668).
An Advertisement ([London], c.1670).
On the Sacred Memory of our Late Sovereign (Dublin, 1685).
His Majesties Reasons For withdrawing Himself from Rochester, Writ with His Own Hand, and ordered by Him to be Published (Dublin, 1688).

A Sa Majesté Britannique Guillaume III (Utrecht, 1691).
Peter Davys, Adminiculum puerile, or, an help for school boys... For the Use of St. Patricks-School (Dublin, 1694).
An Account of the Life and Glorious Actions of William the Third (London, 1702).
John Powell, Natures Triumphs over Natures Infirmities: Or, A Discourse of a Mineral Water Lately found out near the Town of Carlow, Tryed and Approved of (Dublin, 1705).
A Proclamation by the Lord Mayor of the City of Dublin (Dublin, 1709).
Formulaire de Prieres Dont on se servira Dans toutes les Eglises & Chapelles de ce Royaume dIrelande (Dublin, 1710).
1713 (04).jpg
Lloyds News-Letter, no. 6, 30 Dec 1712 3 Jan 1713.
1715 Reverse.jpg
The Case of Bennedict Arthur, Esq; (Dublin, c.1715).
The Speech of Mr. Richard Gascoigne, who was Drawn Hangd and Quarterd at Tyburn, for High Treason against His Majesty King George (Dublin, 1716).
An Account Of the Great Eclipse of the Moon, which will be Total and Vissible at Dublin... Fryday the 29th of August 1718 ([Dublin], 1718).
1721 Second.jpg
Repentance our best Preservative against the Plague: In a Sermon Preached at Bantry (Cork, 1721).
Advertisement (Dublin, 1733).


Exhibition curated by Jason McElligott and Lindsay Doyle

Online version curated by Lindsay Doyle

Jason McElligott is the Director of Marsh's Library and Adjunct Professor in the School of History, University College Dublin.

Lindsay Doyle is a Masters student in the Public History programme at University College Dublin. She graduated in 2015 from Ursinus College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After graduation she worked as the Education Coordinator at the Fort William Henry Museum in Lake George, New York. She spent the beginning of 2018 interning at Marsh's Library, assisting with the Sole Survivors exhibition.

Marsh's Library gratefully acknowledges the scholarly assistance of the Universal Short Title Catalogue (USTC) at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, the English STC at the British Library in London, and the Dutch STC at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in the Hague.

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Phone: +353 1 4543511

The library is open to visitors: see here for opening hours and directions.