DUBLIN.- Chester Beatty Library
in Dublin, has been described as the finest collection of manuscripts and books made by a private collector in the 20th century.
It includes representative samples of the worlds heritage (artistic, religious and secular) from about 2700 BC to the present century.
Only about one percent of the Library's collection is on display at any one time due to lack of space, so objects are rotated regularly.
The highlight for the month of May is a Handscroll of flowers and birds from the Chinese Qing dynasty (1644-1911). Painted on silk, the flora and fauna depicted on the scroll symbolise wishes for long life and marital harmony.
The handscroll exemplifies the bird and flower painting tradition, reflecting botanical accuracy and close attention to nature.
The Chinese Collection at the Library includes a fine series of albums and scrolls covering a range of subjects from calligraphy to scenes of daily life. There are over 900 snuff bottles made from polished minerals; the largest collection of jade books from the Imperial Court outside China; dragon robes worn by the Imperial family and a large collection of textiles and decorative objects. The emperors of China saw themselves as guardians of their cultural heritage. Not only did they commission and collect works of art but they also compiled imperial encyclopaedias. Chester Beatty Library has three volumes of The Great Encyclopaedia of the Yongle Emperor, a work commissioned by the Ming emperor Yongle in 1403 to contain ' all the knowledge in China '.
The Library's other collections include some of the earliest sources on papyrus for the bible and a great library of Manichean texts.
Over 6,000 manuscripts, paintings and calligraphies, make up the Islamic collections. This includes more than 260 complete and fragmentary Qurans, some dating from the late eighth and ninth centuries and including the work of the leading calligraphers of the Islamic world.
The Japanese holdings contain many superb painted scrolls from the 17th and 18th century, woodblock prints by Hiroshige and Hokusai as well as decorative art objects.