A closer look at Springhill's library

Visit the library at Springhill

When the National Trust received Springhill house in 1957, it contained one of the most remarkable historic libraries in Ireland - going back to the middle of the 17th century.

Springhill has one of the largest collections because it provides proof of three hundred years of reading, but because it contains considerable amounts of rare 17th and 18th-century books. The majority of texts are still in their original bindings.
 
However, the library owes much of its existence to families associated with Springhill as to the Lenox-Conyngham’s. In addition to the books of the Conyngham’s who first built the house, it includes books assembled in the city of Derry by their merchant cousins the Lenox’s, whom they later married into, to combine their names into the Lenox-Conyngham’s of today.
 

Female benefactors

There are also a large number of books inherited in the 18th and 19th  century through marriage and the female line of the family, firstly from Blessington House in Co. Wicklow and then to Lissan House, Co. Tyrone, before ending their journey at Springhill with the marriage of Charlotte Staples to William Lenox-Conyngham.
 
The family would have had a strong connection with this book as the Conyngham’s had been originally from the West Coast of Scotland and, although chosen from the Springhill library, we know from inspection that this book once belonged to Eleanor Blessington - the wife of the Earl of Blessington - the final major contributor to the Springhill book collection. We are able to know this from her signature on the first title leaf.
 
We can also see from further inspection that pressed fern leaves have been placed within the pages of this book. It was common practice in the 1840s' to collect specimens of fern and other flora and use it as a decorative device to adorn everything from garden benches to glassware.
 

William Robertson

The author William Robertson born 19 September 1721 was a Scottish historian, minister in the Church of Scotland, and Principal of the University of Edinburgh. His most notable work was perhaps this book ‘History of Scotland’ first published in 1759.
 
He was a significant figure in the Scottish Enlightenment and also of the moderates in the Church of Scotland.Robertson’s name has been given to the nearby ‘William Robertson Wing’ of the Old Medical School buildings at the University of Edinburgh, home to the School of History, Classics and Archaeology.
 
His other writings include;
  • The situation of the world at the time of Christ's appearance
  • The history of the reign of Charles V (1769) 4 volumes
  • The history of America Books 1-8 (1777) 3 volumes
  • The history of Scotland (1759) 2 volumes
  • An historical disquisition concerning the knowledge which the ancients had of India (1791)
  • The history of America Books 9-10 (1796)