Welcome to Reading the Book of Nature at the Edward Worth Library and the Zoological Museum, Trinity College Dublin

The Edward Worth Library is a rare books collection, bequeathed to Dr. Steevens’ Hospital, Dublin, by Dr Edward Worth (1676-1733), who was one of the Hospital’s earliest Trustees. The Dublin University Museum was established in 1777 to house a wide range of Polynesian artifacts collected from the South Sea Islands during the last two voyages of the famous British explorer and navigator, Captain James Cook. As collections in the original museum expanded, the zoological material was re-located to a purpose built building on the campus in 1876. Now known as the Zoological Museum, the collection contains over 25,000 specimens from all over the world, with many examples of extinct and endangered species. This web exhibition, curated by the Librarian of the Edward  Worth Library, Dr Elizabethanne Boran, and the Curator of the Zoological Museum, Dr Martyn Linnie, draws together some of Worth’s zoological (and more generally natural history) collections and those of the Zoological Museum [1]. It marks the quincentenary of the birth of the famous Italian natural historian, Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522–1605) and it is the fifteenth in a series of websites exploring the holdings of the Worth Library. For further details please contact our website:

Ulisse Aldrovandi, De quadrupedibus digitatis viviparis libri tres et De quadrupedibus digitatis oviparis libri duo Bartholomaeus Ambrosinus … collegit (Bologna, 1645), p. 104, tiger.

The online exhibition investigates the zoological discoveries of the early modern period as reflected in Worth’s wonderful set of volumes by Aldrovandi. In the main it follows Aldrovandi’s own preoccupations: exploring birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, fish, mollusca, crustacea, insects, plants and geology. Aldrovandi was fascinated by all forms in nature and not only also paid attention to domestic and more exotic specimens, he also included some more mythical animals among his volume of monsters. It was a huge endeavour and many of the volumes were printed long after his death in 1605. Worth, a connoisseur collector, was the proud owner of a particularly beautiful copy, previously owned by Louis-Henri Loménie, Comte de Brienne (1635–98).

Worth’s zoological collection is an extensive one, as are the valuable collections of the Zoological Museum, and therefore not all areas have been investigated in this current exhibition. The aim of this online exhibition is to share our collections with you and introduce you to the wonderful resources of the Edward Worth Library and the Zoological Museum, Trinity College Dublin. We welcome your feedback on our exhibition and can be contacted on our ‘Contact Us’ page.

[1] We are grateful to Mr Antoine Mac Gaoithín for preparing the images from the Edward Worth Library.

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