Trinity College Library, which dates from 1591 and counts among its many treasures the Book of Kells and the Book of Durrow, two of the most beautiful illuminated manuscripts from the pre-Viking period, is the oldest and largest library in Ireland, with a stock of 4.1 million volumes. Among other libraries in Dublin are the Chester Beatty Library, noted for one of the world's finest collections of Oriental manuscripts and miniatures, the National Library of Ireland, founded in 1877, which houses 500,000 volumes, and University College Dublin library, with more than one million volumes. The Dublin public libraries have holdings of over 1.4 million volumes and have special collections on Jonathan Swift and Yeats; political pamphlets and cartoons; and Dublin periodicals and 18th-century plays. Nationally, the public library system has 351 service points holding a total of 11.2 million volumes as of 1997.
Dublin, the center of cultural life in Ireland, has several museums and a number of libraries. The National Museum contains collections on Irish antiquities, folk life, fine arts, natural history, zoology, and geology. The National Gallery houses valuable paintings representing the various European schools from the 13th century to the present. The National Portrait Gallery provides a visual survey of Irish historical personalities over the past three centuries. The Municipal Gallery of Modern Art has a fine collection of works by recent and contemporary artists. There is a Heraldic Museum in Dublin Castle; the National Botanic Gardens are at Glasnevin; and the Zoological Gardens are in Phoenix Park. There is a James Joyce Museum in Dublin housing personal memorabilia of the great writer, including signed manuscripts. Yeats Tower in Gort displays memorabilia of W. B. Yeats. The Dublin Writers' Museum opened in 1991.
Public libraries and small museums, devoted mostly to local historical exhibits, are found in Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Galway, and other cities.