Monday, September 25, 2023

The Minutes of the Abbey Theatre at Galway University

Posting the other day about the manuscripts available at the National Library of Ireland that might be of interest to students of Yeats's poetry made me think that it might be helpful to mention a few of the other resources that I've come across on the internet that have helped in research. Readers may have encountered or used them already, but I hope that they may be of interest—I'm always delighted to hear about hitherto-unknown resources myself!

The Abbey Theatre Minute Books

This manuscript resource is relatively specialized, but very useful if you need to pin down some details about the Abbey Theatre in the early twentieth century or just to explore the business of the theatre. It's the minutes of the Irish National Theatre Society, more recognizably called the Abbey Theatre minute books. 

A proposal by W. B. Yeats

This is only a fraction of the Abbey material that is available onsite at the University, but these books are definitely worth consulting.

The fuller archive at NUI Galway

There are, however, other items available online and, as always, it pays to explore what's available. It's surprising what you realize you might want to consult again later—or, more often, what you later on remember having seen, and then have to dredge your memory and search history to find. But at least you get there in the end!

Digital Collections at the University of Galway

Thursday, September 21, 2023

The National Library of Ireland's Digital Collections

They say that repeating the same action and expecting different results is a sign of insanity (the saying's often attributed to Einstein, for no apparent reason). But that's not the case with searching the web for subjects of interest. As long as you leave a decent interval—how long will vary depending upon the topicality—you can certainly expect new things all the time, so that repeating the same search now as a few years, months, or even days ago may very well turn up quite a lot that was not available before.

This is certainly true of libraries and what they offer, but most of this is not easily accessible through a universal search-engine search. The proportion of web material that can be found through a search engine, the so-called "surface web", is generally given as about 4% of the total resources that exist online. The rest is the invisible or deep web, which includes the deliberately hidden and usually nefarious "dark web" but also plenty of perfectly normal stuff that just can't be retrieved by the search engines' crawlers. 

For many pages you simply have to know the address you are aiming for—for instance, to get the results of a medical test or the reading for an academic course—and there's generally some kind of gate-keeping with passwords and user identification. Many university libraries have this type of barrier to general users, but with national libraries there is usually only free registration and it is often possible to search and interrogate the the site without even registering. Each one is different and very few of them have brilliant functionality or intuitive interfaces, but it is definitely worth exploring what's there, trying out different routes, and being patient with less-than-clear design. 

If you're looking for digital material that you can see on your own screen, you can usually restrict your search to digital resources, and this can include the library's catalogues and listings, as well as books, periodicals, posters and playbills, manuscripts, artwork, audio recordings, official registers, parish records, "realia" (i.e., objects), and many more distinctive categories depending upon the library in question or your interest.

The National Library of Ireland, like many national and academic libraries, is giving ever-greater access to its collections by digitizing special material that it holds. This is particularly important in the realm of rare and unique items, such as scarce editions, some ephemera, and, of course, manuscripts.

The National Library of Ireland catalogue and home page

For Yeatsians, probably the most significant recent addition has been the letters and other material acquired recently. These include letters from James Joyce, purchased by the Irish Government in early 2017,

Two letters from the Letters from James Joyce to W. B. Yeats

and also correspondence with Olivia Shakespear bought in September 2017, ahead of an auction at Sotheby's

Two letters from Correspondence between W. B. Yeats and Olivia Shakespear

Also online is W. B. Yeats's correspondence with his wife, George (also prior to the Sotheby's sale, though they never made the catalogue), though her side of the correspondence is not available outside the library itself because it is still in copyright (she died in 1968). So for her side of the exchange, we'll have to rely on Ann Saddlemyer's W. B. Yeats & George Yeats: The Letters. In fact, given Yeats's handwriting, most people will need to rely on Saddlemyer's book, or the InteLex Collected Letters, if they are lucky enough to have access through their library.


The Yeats marital letters, in "Context" view

If you just want to see what's available, probably the best way to explore the selection is simply to put "Yeats" into the search, with "Search Digitised Content Only". And I'd personally filter by "Oldest First"—even though it will throw up a few anomalies, it has some logic, unlike supposed "Relevance".


One word of warning: if you arrive at the library's website via the glossy front page, it may take a few clicks and some lateral thinking to get to the catalogue and collections. In general, you just need to do a search and it will take you to the catalogues, where you can then start to read letters and broadsides.

 Just for reference, the most useful starting point is probably .

Astrological maps drawn out on Jan 30
with Dionertes comment.
question. "Life in Ireland if I return".
             Feb 2.
( link )
These six pages from the "Yeats marital correspondence" include a progressed
chart for WBY himself, a horary
chart for the question, and some commentary
from the
"Instructor" Dionertes, channelled by George.
Though civil war had broken out
in January (hence the doubt), George Yeats
went to Dublin to look for a house on 12 February 1922, taking out a lease on
82 Merrion Square two days later.