Exhibition Launch | The Rokeby Collection

Armagh County Museum June 2023

Best known for the rows of leather-bound books on the shelves of its ‘Long Room’, Armagh Robinson Library is delighted to have the opportunity to promote its print collection in Armagh County Museum with the exhibition The Rokeby Collection. Prints at Armagh Robinson Library

Called the Rokeby Collection, it consists of more than four thousand prints and is recognised as one of the great art collections in Northern Ireland. A rare example of an intact eighteenth-century print collection in its original home, it is similar to the few other surviving collections of the period. However, its uniqueness is that the prints remain largely unbound.  

The prints are from countries throughout Europe, dating from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. They were given to the Library by its founder, Archbishop Richard Robinson.  He was a considerable collector, not only of prints, but also of coins, medals and gems, all of which were left to Armagh Robinson Library following his death.

The Library is grateful to the funders of the Rokeby Collection Print Project, as they have helped to raise awareness of and to protect the prints.  They include the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and the Association of Independent Museums. The Library is very grateful to Armagh County Museum for having the exhibition on public display for the month of June, enabling more people to see this selection of the collection.

Archbishop John McDowell, as Chairman of the Governors and Guardians of the Library, launched the exhibition.  Speaking at the event, the Archbishop said,

It is my pleasure to launch this exhibition which gives a fine overview of the Rokeby Collection, given by one of my predecessors to the Library and to the people of Armagh. 

I wish to pay credit to a number of people, including Gareth Clayton who is with us from the Paul Mellon Centre, the main funder of the project.  This support has enabled the gathering of knowledge and greater access to the print collection. 

I also thank in her absence, Ella Letort, who carried out the research and preparations for this exhibition.  Ella was one of the Curatorial Research Fellows involved in the project and her work has been meticulous throughout.  I also want to thank the Association of Independent Museums for their funding support as several of the prints needed to be conserved and framed.

This exhibition could not take place without the agreement of Armagh County Museum’s curator, Sean Barden, who kindly let us have the use of this gallery. A warm gesture by one accredited museum to another.  Finally, I would wish to thank publicly the Library’s Archivist, Thirza Mulder, who has worked on this project to bring it to a successful conclusion.

The exhibition will be on view in Armagh County Museum for the month of June. A longer, more detailed exhibition is available on the Library’s website: The Rokeby Collection. Prints at Armagh Robinson Library.