Leaf through rare books catalogue

Irish rare book dealer De Búrca’s milestone 100th catalogue is of great interest to collectors, readers and investors alike, …

Irish rare book dealer De Búrca's milestone 100th catalogue is of great interest to collectors, readers and investors alike, writes MICHAEL PARSONS

DIGITAL BOOKS, read on devices such as the Kindle, are increasingly popular. But for many readers, nothing beats the pleasure of a beautifully produced, leather-bound and illustrated book. Consequently bibliophiles generally – and not just specialist collectors – will be enthralled by the latest catalogue from De Búrca, the rare book dealer.

The company specialises in books of Irish interest, from very rare 16th century printings to modern first editions. A selection of its vast, 20,000-volume stock is on display in two Dublin premises – one in Blackrock, the other at 51a Dawson Street.

The new catalogue, the company’s 100th, is a great read and offers a fascinating range of more than 500 titles covering all aspects of Irish life – including history, politics, travel, industry and religion – as well as a selection of memorabilia and photographs.


Salt-Water Sweetned; or, a True Account of the Great Advantages of this New Invention both by Sea and by Land: together with a Full and Satisfactory Answer to All Apparent Difficulties is priced at €1,250 but could be worth its weight in gold. Published in 1683, the author was an Irishman, Capt Robert Fitzgerald, a nephew of scientist and inventor Robert Boyle, who purported to solve the age-old mystery of how to render sea-water drinkable. Four hundred years later, the Daily Telegraph reported earlier this month that “more than one million people will be supplied with water from Britain’s first large-scale desalination plant this summer to help cope with what is expected to be a widespread drought”.

A wide selection of Irish travelogues includes an 1862 copy of Henry Coulter’s The West of Ireland: Its Existing Condition, and Prospects (€475). The author visited villages near Castlebar, Co Mayo, including Cloonkeen which “goes by the soubriquet of ‘Cabbage Town’, from the immense quantity of that excellent vegetable cultivated there; but the inhabitants are not pleased at the name, and any stranger who ventured to utter aloud the obnoxious epithet in the hearing of the villagers would probably find himself assailed with a shower of cabbage-stalks”.

Of neighbouring Derrycoosh, the author said: “Words fail to convey an adequate idea of the filthy and disorderly appearance which this village presents. So bad it is, that a road is actually in course of construction for the purpose of avoiding the abominations of Derrycoosh”.

An 1886 first edition of Our Irish Song Birds by the Rev Charles Benson – a well-known Edwardian Dublin “twitcher” – is priced at €325.

A “very rare” copy of an illustrated book, There Was Once! Grandma’s Stories by Mrs Oscar Wilde (Constance Lloyd), is priced €385 and could make a wonderful family heirloom.

Never judge a book by its cover – or title. The Deep Sea and Coast Fisheries of Ireland, with Suggestions for the Working of a Fishing Company by the splendidly-named Wallop Brabazon, may, at first glance, appear dull but contains 21 intriguing illustrations including fishermen spearing a basking shark off the west coast of Ireland. It was published in 1868 and is priced at €475.

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