The Old Library

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At four in the morning on May 5, 2018, we found ourselves, after what felt like an eternity of waiting, in Ireland. We flew out of Boston the day prior and with restless anticipation, unable to sleep through the five and half hour flight. We did our best to get settled in our Airbnb and take a nap before we took on the city of Dublin. We got a map and didn’t know exactly what we wanted to do first. I had a bucket list of course and decided to tackle as many things as we could. I knew that on the very top of my list was the Trinity College Library. As an English Major, I have a profound sense of appreciation for literature and its history. In school, I have learned so much about the history of literature, learning about how the oral story first started becoming the written word. In the heart of Dublin, the Trinity Colleges magnificent Old Library houses the ninth century gospel manuscript—The Book of Kells, kept at the Trinity College since 1661, a literary treasure.

Despite the jet lag, the day was perfect. 21 degrees Celsius (which is about 70 degrees Fahrenheit), smooth baby blue skies, and warm sunshine. I wore an old pair of black vans across the cobblestone streets of Dublin; I walked with all my senses peeled so far back that my bestie, who was with me on this the trip, kept having to snap her fingers in front of my face. I was so hyper-aware of everything else around me that I wasn’t hearing her talk to me. The architecture, the millions of voices reeling off so many different languages, a world so new and intriguing to me—I  felt overloaded with wonderment.

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We left the cobblestone streets and blue skies and entered the exhibition for The Book of Kells. There is so much information that you could easily spend hours scouring the vast quantities of historical material. Once you get through, you enter the Long Room. The Long Room houses 200,000 ancient books cased in towering oak bookcases that rise up along each side of you as you walk: a perfect long room. Glass cases center the room, while on each side, sections of books are roped off by thick red velvet ropes. Each alcove of books has one large window pouring in natural light, tall ladders in order to climb to the second-floor shelves. There are marble busts of philosophers and writers that sit on pillars between each section: Aristotle, Isaac Newton, Socrates, Homer, Johnathan Swift, and William Shakespeare among many others. In a glass encasement, you can read the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic. Also, to be admired, a harp (the emblem of Ireland) that dates back to the fifteenth century sits in the center of it all.

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We learned that since the beginning of the 1800s, the library was privy to receive a copy of every book published in Britain and Ireland. The barrel-vaulted ceiling allowed for the towering upper gallery bookshelves. Walking down the Old Library, smelling the oak bookshelves, and being surrounded by so much history, gave me goosebumps. I knew how lucky I was in that moment, to be standing there in that packed room with so many other visitors, to be seeing something that I never truly imagined I would.

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After leaving the Old Library, we walked back onto the green. A length of grass in the center of the college. We laid down, tired and relaxed under rolling white clouds, listened to the chatter of the people around us, the busy voices of tourists like ourselves. Despite having much more to see, I knew that I had just experienced one of the best parts of our trip. From the very beginning, this trip was already completely worth every penny I had spent to get there.  

J. Frances De La Rosa is currently enrolled as a student at the University of Mount Olive as an English major with a minor in Creative Writing. She writes fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. She is a veteran of the United States Air Force, enjoys reading, exercising, and cooking. She has three beautiful children who fill her life with constant motivation and joy.

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