Resources > Chester Beatty Library, Ireland
28 Mar 2012

Chester Beatty Library, Ireland

The Chester Beatty Library is a public charitable trust established under the will of the late Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, which was granted probate in 1969. The Library is in the ownership of a Board of Trustees who holds it for the use and benefit of the public.
As a charitable institution, the Library is responsible directly to the Commissioners of Charitable Donations and Bequests and comes under the aegis of the Attorney General, in his role as protector of charities. The Library is over 90 per cent funded by a grant-in-aid from the Department of Heritage, Culture and the Islands and is governed by a Board of Trustees appointed under the terms of the will of Sir Alfred Chester Beatty.

The mission of the museum is to maintain and preserve the collections of the Library and to make them available in the most appropriate ways for the use and enjoyment of the public and for scholarly study and research, in order to promote a wider appreciation and understanding of the international cultural heritage embodied in the collections and to foster relations between Ireland and the peoples whose cultures are represented in the collections

Described by the Lonely Planet as not just the best museum in Ireland, but one of the best in Europe, the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin is an art museum and library which houses the great collection of manuscripts, miniature paintings, prints, drawings, rare books and some decorative arts assembled by Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (1875-1968). The Library's exhibitions open a window on the artistic treasures of the great cultures and religions of the world. Its rich collection from countries across Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe offers visitors a visual feast. Chester Beatty Library was named Irish Museum of the year in 2000 and was awarded the title European Museum of the Year in 2002.

The Chester Beatty Library has been an active partner with our previous Director, Dr Michael Ryan, serving on the committee of ASEMUS (2002-2010). ASEMUS network has provided an excellent opportunity to network with other member Asian and European museums leading to the Shanghai Museum lending thirty six of its painting scrolls to the Library in 2010. Telling Images of China was the first of its kind in Ireland as well as a first for the Shanghai Museum as it has never lent this collection overseas.

Silk Road Learning Zone The Library will continue to foster relations through ASEMUS and in particular, was represented at the ASEMUS/VCM conference in Paris, September 2010 with a presentation made by Jenny Siung, Head of Education and colleagues from the Asian Civilisation Museum, Singapore and Ethnographic Museum, Leiden showcasing a website project encouraging young people to explore objects from these collections, sharing their discoveries on an interactive map of the Silk Road. The project, the Silk Road Learning Zone, will be launched in November 2011.

Collection: Islamic collection: Over 6,000 individual items, mainly manuscripts and single-page paintings and calligraphies, make up the Islamic Collections. This includes more than 260 complete and fragmentary Qur’ans, some dating from the late eighth and ninth centuries and including the work of the leading calligraphers of the Islamic world.

Western Collection: The Library is famous for its rare and illuminated manuscripts, but Chester Beatty also collected over 3,000 rare printed books and nearly 35,000 Old Master prints and drawings. Many of these books are unique editions, artists' proofs or extra-illustrated - Beatty was interested in more than merely acquiring a first edition.

There are over 1,000 important examples of European book-binding within the collection, which, together with the early papyri collections, show the development of the Western book from the origin of the codex to some of the finest books of the twentieth century.

East Asian – divided into Chinese/Japanese/ Tibetan, Mongolian, South and South East Asia China The decorative arts of China date mostly from the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) and include almost 950 snuff bottles of all kinds, a rare group of seventeen jade books, most of them made for the Qing Qianlong Emperor (r. 1736-95), a group of over 200 rhinoceros-horn carvings, and textiles and robes including seven dragon robes.

There are also a number of books - including three volumes of the sixteenth-century recension of the Great Encyclopaedia of the Yongle Era (Yongle dadian, 1406) - some 250 painted scrolls and albums and woodblock prints and engravings. The collection of prints and engravings includes several sets designed for the Qianlong Emperor by his European Jesuit court artists.

Japan From Japan's decorative arts, which mostly date to the Edo period (about 1600-1868), there are tsuba (sword-guards), netsuke (toggles) and inr (boxes), as well as portable shrines and other lacquer boxes and containers and over 120 painted scrolls and manuscripts, including many Nara e-hon and sutras. The Japanese woodblock prints include some 450 ukiyo-e prints, as well as 350 privately produced surimono prints.

Tibetan/Mongolia/South/South East Asia The Tibetan and Mongolian collections, which are mainly Buddhist, include Tibetan Buddhist sacred texts, ritual objects and sixty-seven thangkas, and a small amount of Mongolian religious literature. The South and South-East Asian collections comprise mainly Buddhist sacred manuscripts, including twenty Thai folding books telling the story of the monk Phra Malai, an extensive set of Burmese ordinations texts (kammavaca), Burmese parabaik folding books of Buddhist scenes, Jain, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist manuscripts from the area of India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, and bark divination books from the Batak people of Sumatra.

The Library's exhibitions open a window on the artistic treasures of the great cultures and religions of the world. Its rich collection from countries across Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. Egyptian papyrus texts, beautifully illuminated copies of the Qur'an, the Bible, European medieval and renaissance manuscripts are among the highlights of the collection. In its diversity, the collection captures much of the richness of human creative expression from about 2700 BC to the present day.