Some of the finest first editions of the work of William Butler Yeats have been made available for researchers and students at University of Limerick.
The collection, which also includes some very rare editions, has been donated by Prof Michael Gilsenan, formerly of Oxford University and now professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies at New York University.
While staff are still cataloguing the works, UL’s director of library and information services Gobnait O’Riordan said it was like an early Christmas gift.
“We have a lot of one-off rarities, we have collections of historic and geography books and papers, but this is our first major literary collection,” she said.
For Ken Bergin, head of rare books and collections, one of the hardest-to-find titles among the collection is a vellum-bound edition of Yeats’ poetry in The Wind Among the Reeds. The oldest is an 1888 copy of Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry, which was edited and selected by Yeats, and the most recent is a 1971 book about the Yeats family.
The books are notable not just for their rarity, but also for their magnificent illustrations. They include editions from Dun Emer Press and early Cuala Press publications that are hard to find in as good condition as those collected by Prof Gilsenan, whose father was Irish.
The 166 books were bought by him over a number of decades, and he was in UL at the weekend to launch the collection which has been gratefully received at the university.
It coincided with UL hosting the inaugural conference of the International Yeats Society, attended by 50 scholars in the 150th anniversary year of the writer’s birth.
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