News & events > Exhibition: "Gift of a Lifetime: Treasures from Chester Beatty's Collection"
19 Oct 2018 - 28 Apr 2019

Exhibition: "Gift of a Lifetime: Treasures from Chester Beatty's Collection"

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Sir Alfred Chester Beatty's magnificient bequest, the exhibition "Gift of a Lifetime" at the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, presents a choice selection of masterpieces from this unique collection. An internationally successful mining magnate and generous philanthropist, Beatty was one of the most prolific and discerning collectors of his generation. From his early years in New York, through his career in London and travels overseas, Beatty acquired rare books, manuscripts and decorative arts of the highest quality and rarity from Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Following his retirement, Beatty brought these collections to Ireland, later placing them in trust to the nation on his death in 1968.


From objects of the greatest beauty crafted for powerful rulers, to treasures tracing the history of world religions, the artworks drawn together in this exhibition and accompanying catalogue capture the breadth and wonder of this exceptional legacy: a gift to the nation, for Ireland to share with the world. Literary masterpieces from across the world are exquisitely revealed through folios from two beautiful illustrated manuscripts of the epic Persian poem Shahnama, and an especially fine example of Japan’s Tales of Ise, striking with its palette of green, red and orange. Significant works from the histories of faith, with folios from the oldest surviving manuscript to contain all four gospels of the Bible, are displayed alongside the exceptionally important Qur’an by master calligrapher Ibn al-Bawwab, Buddhist art from Japan and Jain manuscripts from western India. Other exhibits were crafted for history’s most powerful rulers, from Mughal emperors to Japanese warlords. The poetry and brushwork of China’s Qianlong Emperor is skilfully captured in tablets of jade, while the Rosarium book of prayers that belonged to Philip II of Spain is conspicuous for its delicate miniature paintings. As the country that Beatty chose as his home, Ireland is also represented with a tour-de-force of mid eighteenth-century Irish bookbinding by so-called ‘Parliamentary Binder B’. Referring to "Gift a Lifetime", the Director of the Chester Beatty Library, Fionnuala Croke said:
“Each of the works included in this display may be considered a world treasure and we should never forget, or take for granted, the honour Chester Beatty bestowed on Ireland when he chose this country as the home for these outstanding artefacts.”

Further information

"Gift of a Lifetime: Treasures from Chester Beatty's collection" is presented at the Chester Beatty Library until 28 April 2019. For additional details, please visit