ArticleBack To The Future
As time passes, many old practices fade into oblivion. Nowadays, nobody travels by horse, hardly anybody sends handwritten letters (unless they are Christmas cards), and those using cash are probably already in the minority. It's quite possible that home-phone owners are about to become a minority, too… As time passes, many old structures disappear - or undergo a significant facelift, including a change of function. Castles (and even some palaces) become museums, private businesses, such as stores, banks or even theatres, move to a different area, or open under a new name in a completely restored building. While quite a few private homes must have remained in possession of the same family for generations, stumbling upon a public building that hasn't changed either its location or its function for centuries, is about as likely as running into a dinosaur. When I found myself in front of the house in the above picture, I realized that the experience was about as hair-raising, too. Marsh Library turned out to be a welcoming, quiet, cozy place - a great one to spend an hour or so on a rainy afternoon. It could be called “inconspicuous”, too - but for the fact that it's the first public library in Ireland, and by far the oldest one, because it opened in 1707 and has functioned as a library ever since!
Among many wonders covered by this blog, there are groundbreaking ideas, remarkable places, unique and…well, wonderful people. And yet, it's that elegant and quiet house in the heart of Dublin that, arguably, comes the closest to the visceral meaning of “wonder” - that Hogwarts- or the nine-and-three-quarters platform-like mystery when you look at something that just can't exist because it somehow contradicts every law of Nature we know about. However, it's right there, in front of you…Those who might expect to plunge into mystery the moment they cross the threshold, will be disappointed. There are no dragons inside, and the only dungeon looks suspiciously like a regular basement. The staff doesn't wear mantles, either - rather, the librarians are modern people well versed in modern technology (Marsh is quite active on social media). Even the furniture doesn't look that medieval - until you are told that Jonathan Swift was sitting in that very chair when he wrote his harsh, devastating comment about a particular book in the margins of that very book. It took some convincing before the librarian agreed to bring the book in question from the vaults for a brief inspection. Usually, such viewing is done by appointment, and the worst imaginable crime visitors might commit is to touch the book in front of them - or any book on the shelves. And there are quite a few of those books.
Medieval guests were allowed to touch books - it would be difficult to read them otherwise! - but not to take them away. Just to ensure everybody would comply, the readers were accommodated in a…cage
It's frozen images like that medieval cage or Swift's 300+ years-old comment presented in the 21st century, that help to both emphasize Marsh's uniqueness, and to gradually reconcile one's mind with its mystery.