Marsh's Library and the Irish Catholic tradition
O'Connor, Thomas (2004) Marsh's Library and the Irish Catholic tradition. In: The Making of Marsh's Library. Four Courts Press, Dublin, pp. 235-255.
Narcissus Marsh (1638-1713), the founder of the first public library in Ireland, was of what Patrick Comerford, Catholic bishop of Waterford (1629-52) called 'the new fetch'd in religion'.1 So were Edward Stillingfleet (1635-1699), Elias Bouhéreau (1642-1719) and John Stearne (1660-1745), whose collections, with Marsh's own, form the core of Marsh's Library. These four collected material, in manuscript and in print, at a time when confessional differences, in Ireland, England and Europe, were hardening into political, social and cultural divisions. In this context, it is tempting to assume that Marsh's library, especially its theological works, was collected with the defence of Irish Protestantism in mind.2 It might seem reasonable to assume, for instance, that Marsh, who was no theologian himself, acquired the library of the controversialist Stillingfleet in order to provide resources for anti-Catholic controversy in Ireland. Thus, while the will to convert constituted an enduring dimension of the Irish Protestant attitude towards their Catholic countrymen, it was more generally swallowed, especially during the troubled 1690s and the paranoiac 1700s, by a fear of Catholic resurgence and attack.
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