Leman Legal History: The Emergence of the Law Library

Where did our beloved Law Library first come from?

Well, to bring it right back to the beginning, legend has it that the Library actually evolved from a bookseller who set up on the quays outside the Four Courts and loaned books to lawyers, before moving into a smaller room within the building. The accuracy of this story cannot be confirmed but, according to the Law Library website, the Law Library Society came complete with subscribers, a managing committee and a librarian, Valentine Delany, who on February 24th 1816 was directed to “redeem his miscellaneous books now in pawn with so much of the amount of the debts received as will be necessary for that purpose”.

So the existence of the Law Library, as we currently know it, took place gradually over a number of years during the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century.  Back then, there were no established chambers or consultation rooms – so barristers congregated in the Round Hall of the Four Courts plying their trade, meeting with counsel, clients and witnesses, and making themselves generally available.

This arrangement did not prove to be sustainable, however, and in February 1816 at a meeting of the Irish Bar, the Law Library Society was established with a view to providing a subscription-based lending library of legal texts to practising barristers. This meeting was to lead to the development of the Law Library as a distinctive feature of the Irish Bar. So, around this time, 206 years ago – our Law Library was born!

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