Brian Boru and the Battle to get an Exhibition Ready

The current exhibition, Emperor of the Irish: Brian Boru and the Battle of Clontarf, involved months of work and collaboration with many different areas of the Library. Colleagues from the Manuscripts & Archives Research Library, the departments of Early Printed Books and Special Collections, Conservation and Preservation, Digital Resources, the Librarian’s Office and Visitor Services were all involved in the preparations. Specially commissioned artwork for the exhibition and publications was produced by the animation studio Cartoon Saloon, Kilkenny. Exhibition design services were provided by Vermillion and the whole endeavour was supported by a grant from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

The exhibition is also accompanied by a booklet, online exhibition and various articles published by Dr Bernard Meehan and Dr Denis Casey.

January 2014

The launch of the Battle of Clontarf Millennium Festival in the Long Room by the Minister for Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan. The Trinity College Library and National Museum of Ireland exhibitions were announced at this launch.22 January 2014 2

Initial meetings with animation studio Cartoon Saloon and designers Vermillion to discuss the shaping of the exhibition.

17 January 2014 1

February 2014

Conservation work including repairs, dis-binding and mounting of exhibition items

7 february 2014 2

Editorial work on text for labels, explanatory banners, online exhibition, booklet, posters and press release

13 Febryary 2014

March 2014

Photography of exhibits for online exhibition, to provide an accurate record of the exhibit, and inclusion in Digital Collections


Banner design drawings from Cartoon Saloon

TM_BattleOF Clontarf B&W_30012014BattleOF Clontarf-roughcolo









April 2014


2 April 2014 2


2 April 2014 3


Curator ‘walk through’ talk for Library and Visitor Services staff

9 April 2014 curator walk through for staff

And finally, the launch


Estelle Gittins

Emperor of the Irish: Brian Boru and the Battle of Clontarf runs until October 2014.The exhibition is also available online.

Details of the Battle of Clontarf Millennium events are available  at



Forthcoming Lectures

Brian Boru Exhibition ImagingThe next month sees an abundance of public lectures around Dublin which use Trinity College Library’s manuscripts collection as source material. The diversity of the lectures reflects the breadth of research interest in our material. From 17th– century Puritanism to 1950s healthcare, via 20th– century composers, Viking invaders and a certain famous harp, there should be something for everyone.

19 March, Dr Polly Ha, (UEA and TLRH Fellow); Recovering the Birth of Independency at Trinity College Library: Puritanism and Liberty in the 17th Century, Trinity College Long Room Hub, 6.15pm.

20 March 2014, Dr Mark Fitzgerald (DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama); 20th -Century Irish Composers, Trinity College Long Room Hub, 6.00pm. Part of the lecture series associated with the In Tune exhibition of music in the Old Library.

3 April, Dr Robbie Roulston, (UCD); The Most Priceless Possession of Protestants in this Country: The Adelaide Hospital and Upholding Protestant Healthcare in Ireland 1950-1972, CHOMI seminar series, Room K114 School of History and Archives UCD, 5.00pm.

11 and 12 April, National Conference on Clontarf 1014-2014 at Trinity College Dublin. Including a talk by Denis Casey on Brian, Armagh and the Irish Church. Dr Casey was the researcher for the soon-to-be launched Brian Boru exhibition in the Old Library.

15 April, Moira Laffan; William Lecky, the Historian.  Also a short talk by Dr Sean Duffy convenor of the National Conference on Clontarf 1014-2014, Foxrock Local History Club, Parish Centre, 8.00pm. Adm €4.

29 April 2014, Janet Harbision, (Irish Harp Centre and Irish Harp College, Limerick); The Brian Boru Harp and its Musical Legacy, Dublin City Hall Lunch Time Lectures, Council Chambers, Dublin City Hall, 1.10-1.50pm. This talk is part of a wider series of lectures entitled Commemorating Clontarf: the battle and its legacy.

Discover more about M&ARL’s collections via our online catalogue MARLOC.

Estelle Gittins

Emperors, operas and illumination: Brian Boru at Trinity College Dublin

Boru Image from Cartoon Saloon Feb 2014

Parnell was an ‘uncrowned king’ and O’Connell the ‘king of the beggars’, but Ireland had only one emperor: Brian Boru!


2014 marks the millennium anniversary of the pyrrhic victory and death of Ireland’s most celebrated king at the Battle of Clontarf. To commemorate the occasion the Library has curated an exhibition, on Brian’s life and legend, in the Long Room of the Old Library (between April and October), entitled Emperor of the Irish.


A highlight of the exhibition will be the ninth-century Book of Armagh, which is the only object known for certain to have been in Brian’s presence.The cream of the Library’s Irish manuscript collection will also be on display, including the twelfth-century Book of Leinster and the wonderfully illuminated sixteenth-century Book of the De Burgos. In addition, visitors will have the opportunity to view some curiosities that testify to Brian’s enduring legend, including a 1960s Mexican comic book and a nineteenth-century opera that both bear his name. 


An exciting feature of the exhibition will be a graphic interpretation of Brian’s life and legend by Cartoon Saloon (producers of the Academy Award nominated film The Secret of Kells). As you can see from this world-exclusive preview, the monks of Armagh probably had good reason to acclaim Brian as Imperator Scotorum — Emperor of the Irish!


Denis Casey