From the Belfast News-Letter, Monday 23 February 1857:

“The morning of Saturday the 21st has proved an eventful one in the life of Mr Delany, the respected librarian of the Four Courts. Sacrilegious thieves had, on the previous night, entered ni et armis into his sanctum sanctorum, and endeavoured to appropriate, to their own uses, the property with which he had been entrusted. This worthy official was nearly paralysed with astonishment at beholding what had happened. A bold attempt had been made to force the lock of the safe in which his treasures were deposited, but luckily without avail. Fortune did not favour the enterprise, as the only result was the capture of a few postage stamps.

Great consternation has, however, been caused by this act of daring, particularly, as a few months since, a poker had been abstracted from the chamber of one of the learned judges, and it is now rumoured that the Lord Chancellor intends to arm his purse-bearer for the purpose of protecting the ‘gegaw’ which should form the object of his special attention.

How the thieves got in or how they got out is mere matter of conjecture, or, no doubt, causes them much astonishment. It appears that two policemen were, some time since, specially appointed to guard against such an occurrence, but, as a matter of course, were wholly ignorant of what had taken place. These midnight adventurers were not, however of a literary turn, for the books were carefully avoided. Indeed, in all probability, they were men of a scientific turn of mind, and their attention was absorbed in examining the curious contrivances which have been adopted by the Library Committee for the convenience of the members, and were vainly attempting to speculate upon their usefulness. However that may be, the books, no doubt, are safe.”

The Lord Chancellor at the time was Sir Maziere Brady, and the ‘gegaw’ referred to was the Great Seal of Ireland carried by Lord Chancellors in a special embroidered purse, which you can see him proudly displaying in the image above. He certainly looks as if he’s prepared to defend it to the death!

I wonder what were the ‘treasures’ kept in Mr Delany’s sanctum sanctorum? Perhaps the current Library staff might know?