The Chester Beatty Library is located within Dublin Castle, just opposite the Dubh Linn Gardens. It is a museum comprising of a large collection of manuscripts, rare books, prints, drawings and artworks covering an extensive period ranging from 2700BC to the present day. In 2000, the museum was voted the best Irish Museum and this was followed two years later by being named the European Museum of the Year.
The collection originally belonged to an American, Chester Beatty, who bequeathed his large and impressive collection to the Irish people. The museum was opened in Dublin Castle in 1990. In total, there are over 22,000 manuscripts, small paintings, artworks and rare books.
It is said to contain one of the best collections of oriental art and manuscripts and also has ancient Islamic and Indian text on display. Many of the works contain the earliest Christian religious texts and several of these have been written on papyri.
There are two main exhibitions called 'Sacred Traditions' and 'Arts of the Book'. The Sacred Traditions exhibition is devoted to religious text and paintings including work from Confucianism, Sikhism, Daoism, Islam, Buddhism and Christianity. Some of the artwork dates back to the 8th century.
The Art of the Book exhibition contains rare and ancient books, manuscripts and scrolls. This exhibit explores the art of bookmaking, including how books were bound. Of particular interest is the beautiful calligraphy of some of the early books. The museum also has a collection of Japanese woodblock prints and Egyptian papyrus.
As well as the permanent exhibitions, other temporary exhibits are presented throughout the year. Many of exhibits use a variety of multimedia techniques to enhance the precious items on display.
Within the library is the Silk Road Café, which has beautiful views over the castle gardens. Opened in 2000, it serves up a wonderful array of international food including meals from the Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean. There is also a well-planned contemporary rooftop garden with good views of the surrounding Dublin Castle.
On the ground floor there is a well-stocked gift shop, which includes many items from Asia and the Far East.
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