The Chester Beatty Library

IMG_0838Is there, anywhere, a more exquisitely breathtaking collection of beautiful objects celebrating the development of the book? This library, in the clock tower building of the castle, is one of my favorite places in the world. I have happily been lost for hours (on many occasions) in this amazing place. Through a scheduling mishap by front desk folks (who, ironically, cancelled our appointment for a tour, made half a year ago – just minutes after I confirmed that we were all there and then, purchased our tickets), our tour guide arrived late and our tour was reduced from an hour to a half hour. But, our guide, James McMannon (a retired Guard), was fantastic as he gently rushed us through the highlights and captivated the students with his incredible memory, bright intellect and palpable passion for his subjects. I was proud and happy to know that all of the students decided that they would return to the library during free time, the next day. How lovely! The two CAM (College of Arts & Media) students, Josh and Marie, and Peter, a psychology major, were especially enthralled at artistic process and product of these gorgeous objects.

American-born mining engineer and art collector, Sir Chester Beatty (1875-1968) bequeathed this gorgeous, world-renowned collection to the Irish Sate. The collection comprises more than 20,00 manuscripts, rare books, miniature paintings, clay tablets, costumes and other beautiful artifacts – including 300 copies of the Qu’ran, 6000-year-old Babylon stone tablets, Greek papyri and biblical artifacts in Coptic (the ancient language of Egypt). I love the Chinese jade books and the exquisite little medicine boxes, and the Japanese paintings, woodblocks prints and books and scrolls from the 16th to the 19th centuries – in the Artistic Traditions Gallery. The Sacred Traditions Gallery features books from many religions – Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. The collection of Qu’rans (spanning the 9th-19th centuries) is considered to be among the best-illuminated texts anywhere in the world – they are gorgeous. This is a beautiful follow-up to our Book of Kells visit – I can see the students making deep and wonderful connections. This is what teaching and learning is all about. Good stuff. Really, really good stuff.

Are you reading the student blogs? They’re amazing – they’re all taking very personal approaches (some analytical, some experience-based and reflective, some aesthetic and creative, some deeply introspective) and writing/designing/editing/reflecting what resonates and what beguiles – while also discussing and reflecting a great deal with each other and filtering all of that through their process of research and contextualizing what and how they’re learning. I feel proud and honored to be here with them, sharing in this incredible journey.

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