CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Symposium held in 2008 on a little-known important collection of books, prints and drawings in Dublin: the Fagel collection

A symposium was held in September last year in Trinity College Dublin on a major collection of books, prints and drawings from the collection of Hendrik Fagel, a high government official in the Netherlands of the late 18th and early 19th century. CODART did not learn of the symposium until now. Because it dealt with important holdings from the Netherlands that seem to be virtually unknown outside Dublin, we are calling the attention of CODART site visitors to the symposium and the Fagel collection.

About the collection, from the institution’s website,
5 January 2009

In 1802, at the height of the Napoleonic war, Hendrik Fagel, Greffier of Holland, was effectively exiled in London, where reduced circumstances eventually forced him to sell the family library. Christie’s prepared and circulated an auction catalogue, but Trinity College, Dublin, put in a preemptive bid and acquired the entire collection before the auction took place. At a stroke the holdings of the college library were increased by 40%, from 50 000 to 70 000 volumes. Today the overwhelming proportion of Fagel’s books, pamphlets and maps remains on shelf as a discrete collection in the east pavilion of the magnificent Old Library.

Representing the intellectual and social interests of a wealthy and distinguished Dutch family over a period of some 200 years, the collection also transformed the content of a university library that had until then been dominated by theology. Published in the principal languages of Europe, the newly acquired holdings were particularly strong in such areas as history, politics, law, belles lettres, geography, cartography (everything from cosmography to manuscript plans of dyke systems), natural history and philosophy. The scale of the acquisition is impressive by any standards: lot 7593 was "A collection of historical and political tracts, in number upwards of 10,000" and lot 9061 "A fine collection of maps and plans, in number about 2000".

However, the existence of the Fagel collection is virtually unknown outside Dublin and the research potential of these resources has been little exploited. Indeed, over the years the overall funding of the library has been such that a substantial proportion of the holdings has not even been properly catalogued.