Skip Navigation

Sunday, 20 September 2020

Sir Alfred Chester Beatty

Sir Alfred Chester Beatty


On January 18, 2018 An Post issued stamps to commemorate Sir Alfred Chester Beatty.

Sir Alfred Chester Beatty was born in New York in 1875 and became a mining magnate, philanthropist and one of the most successful businessmen of his generation.

Since childhood Beatty had collected minerals, Chinese snuff bottles and stamps. In London he started a more serious collection of European and Persian manuscripts and in 1914 he and his wife Edith visited Egypt and bought some decorated copies of the Qur'an. The dry climate suited Beatty and he bought a house near Cairo, where he was to spend many winters.

In 1917, during the Great War, he travelled to Asia and added Japanese and Chinese paintings to his interests. It seems he liked the richly illustrated material, fine bindings and beautiful calligraphy while also being deeply committed to preserving historic texts. During the Second World War, Chester Beatty made a significant contribution to supplies of strategic raw materials for the Allies and it was for this effort that he was subsequently knighted.

In 1950 Beatty moved to Ireland and built a library for his art collection on Shrewsbury Road in Dublin 4. It opened in 1954 and in 1957 the government made Chester Beatty Ireland's first ever honorary citizen. When Beatty died in 1968 the Chester Beatty Library and his incredible collection of African, Asian, European and Middle Eastern manuscripts, rare printed books, prints and objects d'art was bequeathed to a trust for the benefit of the public.