Bookstalls, Showmen and Dancing Dogs, 1821-1840

From the Warder and Dublin Weekly Mail, 26 September 1840:

“THE FOUR COURTS:- Although law is very busy in the interior, and the lawyers are not idle in their vocation, the exterior of the building resembles an unfortunate criminal, debarred the privilege of counsel and left to his fate. It is not sufficient that the Bar should have a “law library” intra muros, but the public must have a “reading room” rent free extra muros. Almost the entire front of this splendid edifice is desecrated by itinerant booksellers; and the walls suffer no little injury in the erection of bookstands. November Term is nearly at hand, and we trust that some “counsel, learned in the law” will volunteer his services, to have a ca. sa. issued, or move for an ejectment.”

These booksellers didn’t just sell books, they also allowed barristers to borrow law books for a farthing or so – handy, if you were just starting out or didn’t want to bring your expensively bound text into court, for fear it would be stolen (a real possibility).

Their presence brought others to Inns Quay as well! An earlier article in Saunders’ Newsletter, 22 November 1821 had complained about

“an array of impediments to Bar and Bench… apple and book-stalls, sellers of sweet meats, exhibitors of wild beasts, musicians, tumbers, show-men, dancing dogs… every newcomer is attracted hither, with his wares of whatever kind!”

Whether because of legal process on foot of the 1840 complaint, or because there was no longer the same need for them following the opening of the first Law Library, the bookstalls and their companions faded gradually away in the mid-19th century, leaving the river side of the Four Courts a little less obstructed – but a lot less colourful!

Picture credit

Author: Ruth Cannon BL

Irish barrister sharing the history of the Four Courts, Dublin, Ireland, and other Irish courts.

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