Mark Purcell, the National Trust’s Libraries Curator, has just published The Big House Library in Ireland: Books in Ulster Country Houses.
In 1850 there were about 2000 country houses in Ireland. By the end of the twentieth century only a few hundred of them remained intact and only a handful of those still had their collections of books. The National Trust looks after most of those that do survive.
In this richly illustrated book Mark charts the history of those houses and the families that inhabited them through the evidence found in their libraries.
Books can convey all sorts of stories, not just through their content, but also through their bookplates and ownership inscriptions, the handrwitten marginal notes and doodles and even the ocassional pressed flowers and other insertions.