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The Western Collections


The Western Collections of the Chester Beatty Library are possibly the most diverse of the three Collections, with images and texts (in numerous languages) copied onto a range of materials, such as clay, wood, papyrus, parchment and paper. The objects come from the Middle East, Africa (Egypt & Ethiopia) and Europe and range in date from the third millennium BC to the twentieth century. 

The formation of the collection reflects the trends set by the great American book collectors of the early twentieth century where as far as possible only the best quality items were acquired.

The Library is famous for its rare and illuminated manuscripts and biblical papyri, but Chester Beatty also collected over 3,000 rare printed books and over 26,000 prints and drawings. 

In addition, there are over 1,000 important examples of European book-bindings, which, together with the early papyri and Coptic bindings collections, show the development of the Western book over the last millennium from the origin of the codex in the second century AD.


Croke, Fionnuala, et al. (2014) Chester Beatty’s A-Z: from Amulet to Zodiac (Dublin).

Horton, Charles, (2003) Alfred Chester Beatty, From Miner to Bibliophile (Town House, Dublin).

Ryan, Michael, et al. (2002) The Chester Beatty Library (Scala: London).