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NLI announces 2022 acquisitions

Tuesday, 20 December 2022
Two actors in period costume pose with grant of arms next to stained glass window

The National Library of Ireland (NLI) has today (20.12.22) unveiled a range of items acquired for the national collection during 2022, including the oldest Irish grant of arms and a ministerial response to a plea for extra tea during World War II rationing.

Material collected includes the earliest known Irish grant of arms, dating from 1554; a hand-captioned photograph album from Elizabeth ‘Lollie’ Corbet Yeats, sister of WB Yeats; political letters; and 1960s posters from cinema houses in Portlaoise and Mallow.


Speaking about the new additions to the national collection during 2022, Acting Director of the NLI, Katherine McSharry, said: “The job of collecting Ireland’s memory in every age, whether from the 16th century or 2022, is a year-round one for the team at the NLI.  Tens of thousands of items – books, newspapers, photographs, letters, websites and much more – are added to the NLI’s collections and catalogued every year. Some are acquired under legal deposit – the statutory requirement for a copy of all material published in Ireland to be deposited with certain libraries including the NLI – some are donated by individuals or organisations, and some are purchases. All help us to tell the stories of Ireland.”


One of the most significant acquisitions by the NLI in 2022 is the Stanyhurst Grant of Arms dating from 1554, which was purchased at auction earlier this year. The 468-year-old Tudor manuscript is the earliest known Irish grant of arms in existence, and is remarkably well-preserved and visually impressive. The arms were granted by Bartholomew Butler, Ulster King of Arms, to Nicholas Stanyhurst, Dublin city treasurer and alderman, and formerly Mayor of Dublin.  The ‘Ulster King of Arms’ was a predecessor of the Chief Herald of Ireland, an office which is now part of the NLI and is responsible for the granting and confirming of arms to individuals and organisations.

A letter from the Fawsitt-Dowdall papers, also acquired by the NLI in 2022, offers an entertaining insight into the perennial lobbying pressures on public figures. In 1941, Séan Lemass (Minister for Supplies during World War II) responded wryly to another TD who had been pleading for an increase in his tea ration: “Keeping up with your correspondence is imposing a strain on the resources of my Department.  However I feel I must write to you in reply to your representations concerning tea … If, as you say, you require four to six pints of liquid every day and won't drink whiskey, coffee, cocoa, milk, or even water, you are going to have a problem. I fear, however, that you will have to solve this problem by yourself.”


From the more than 20,000 items acquired in 2022, other items highlighted today were:


  • Elizabeth ‘Lollie’ Corbet Yeats photograph album: Elizabeth Yeats was an eminent Irish publisher and artist, who ran Cuala Industries with her sister Susan Mary ‘Lily’ Yeats.  This hand-captioned photograph album is a wonderfully intimate glimpse into the everyday lives of one of Ireland’s most creative families, showcasing their holidays, day trips, pets and extended family and friends.


  • Vintage cinema posters: These 1960s posters from cinemas in Portlaoise and Mallow bring the excitement of ‘going to the pictures’ to see films such as ‘My Fair Lady’ vividly to life.  The period represents the height of cinema in the social life of Ireland, just ahead of the advent of TV.


All the acquisitions in 2022 join the NLI’s 12 million items, including books, newspapers, periodicals, photographs, prints, drawings, maps, letters, diaries, websites and more. The NLI’s work is funded from its annual grant from the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.


Some of items highlighted by the NLI today, including the Stanyhurst Grant of Arms and the Seán Lemass letter are catalogued and can be consulted in the Manuscripts reading room by anyone with a reader’s ticket:

https://catalogue.nli.ie/Record/vtls000874683 and https://catalogue.nli.ie/Record/vtls000888831


Other items are in the process of being catalogued and will be available to consult next year.