A unique collection of 17th and 18th Century books is to be moved from its historic place of keeping in city’s St Canice’s Cathedral Library to the library of NUI Maynooth, Co Kildare.
The Dean of St Canice’s Katharine Poulton says that the cathedral library is an improper place to store the collection of antiquarian books, as there is no proper heating or ventilation system.
The Dean and Chapter have been in negotiations with NUI Maynooth, to arrange an indefinite long-term loan of the collection to that university’s library.
The Maurice/Otway collection is a unique 18th Century book collection – mainly that of Bishop Edward Maurice, who was Bishop of Ossory in the mid-18th Century.
There are some older books also, dating from the end of the 17th Century. Not all the books are theological; there is a wide range of subjects in the library’s tomes.
“For many years, this collection has been deteriorating within the walls of the library and the books are rarely, if ever, consulted,” wrote Dean Katharine Poulton, in parish circular The Loom.
However, a senior clergyman and former custodian of St Canice’s Library has come out strongly against the arrangement.
Rev Robert MacCarthy was the Bishop’s Vicar of St Canice’s during the 1980s, and he says moving the books will be a huge loss to the parish and to the county.
“I would be very sorry to see such an interesting collection leaving Kilkenny,” he said.
“It is part of the city, part of its heritage. When I was the librarian here in the 1980s, I had books restored by a Fas scheme. Kilkenny Archaeological Society came to see the completed work.”
Rev MacCarthy rejects the idea that the books are being stored improperly, or that they are deteoriating. He says that more consideration is required.
“The books do not need heating; they need a constant temperature,” he said.
“There really should be no problem as long as they are not damp.”
Rev MacCarthy, a former Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin says that the books are too valuable a resource to be sent away.
“There should be no problem of access,” he says.
“I always allowed anyone to who wanted to see them or read them to do so. The late Father Brennan used to come in and read them often.”
In recent times, a number of books from the library have been sent to the Representative Church Body house in Dublin.
However, the library still houses many significant theological books.
“What they should do is get some local librarian assistance – they did something like that in Cashel and it put them right,” says Rev MacCarthy.
“Maybe the curate could have a more active role. I would just like to see it left alone where it is. It is part of Kilkenny.”
A number of recent events have brought some impetus to the loan deal.
One of these was the departure of the Bishop’s Vicar Elaine Murray, whose residence is part of the library building.
Part of the vicar’s role, traditionally, was to look after the library.
A new vicar, Rev Tim Irvine, was recently appointed and moved into the building last week.
Another significant development was the opening of a new diocesan office in the grounds of the adjacent Bishop’s Palace.
The Bishop’s secretary had worked in the library building prior to the opening of the new office.