The Archivist’s Nook: Consequor – Rare Books Acquisitions, 2022-2023

Several previous blog posts have highlighted select rare book acquisitions via purchase on an annual basis since the department joined Special Collections in 2019. The most recent reporting year, which ended April 30, 2023, saw three very significant additions. This was assisted in part by the welcome promotion of Alex Audziayuk from Rare Books Technician, where he had partnered with Special Collections Archivist, Shane MacDonald, to Rare Books Librarian. Both continue to work as key members of our Rare Books team, assisted by other Special Collections staff, and supported by the library administration.

Manuale parochialium sacerdotum, Title Page, ca. 1492. Special Collections, Catholic University.

The gem accession of this cycle, if not the last half decade, is the incunable Manuale parochialium sacerdotum, Reutlingen, Johann Otmar, ca. 1492, 12 leaves and six by eight inches, obtained from David Rueger of Antiquariat Inlibris Gilhofer Nfg., Vienna, Austria, in May 2022. This early edition of a manual for the Holy Mass, first published about 1483, was once part of a made-up volume and still contains early handwritten pagination. The title-page is browned and a little stained with an old library shelf mark in brown ink. The text has been preserved variously, in a 13th century vellum manuscript in the British Library and a 14th century manuscript in the Bürgerbibliothek in Berne. It was probably first printed in English in London in 1636 as part of an anonymous collection Fasciculus Florum. This Middle Latin poem also known as “Versa de monachis et clerico”, an example of the literary cliche of the wayward nun, has nine distichs forming a dialogue (“monialis dicit”/”juvenis respondet”) between a nun and a pious young man. She offers to throw off her habit and enter his bed, but he refuses, reminding her she is a Bride of Christ, and she demurs. While clearly out of place in a liturgical manual, this ironically placed depiction of a sensual woman of this era should be of interest to medieval and women studies scholars.(1)

Versa de monachis et cleric, Manuscript of the Poem of the priest and the wayward nun, ca. 1492, Special Collections, Catholic University.

The second arrival, purchased from the Roger Friedman Rare Book Studio of Tuxedo, New York, in October 2022, is the popular De Imitatione Christi (The Imitation of Christ) by a German-Dutch canon know as Thomas à Kempis, first composed circa 1410-1425, which was chronicled in a 2022 blog post as we already house several versions.  This newcomer was published in Venice, 1573, by Luigi di Granata da Thomaso Porcacchi da Castiglione Arretino, with nine full-page woodcut illustrations.  It has an extra gathering bound in after the text with manuscript material in two distinct hands. The author of the earlier pages wrote in a readable, italic hand discoursing on twelve virtues, probably aimed at prelates, including chastity, patience, mercy, simplicity, avoidance of sin, and correcting dangerous behavior. A second text in the same hand, dated 27 April 1577, is a translation of a papal decree that permits certain ritual acts, like the Rosary, to function as indulgences. A third text, still in the same neat hand, is a list of protections, such as forgiveness of sins, grace to resist temptation, and protection for pregnant women. It is followed by several benedictions, and more pages in a messier hand giving account of moments from the life of Christ, with the last leaf missing. This devotional book probably belonged to a prelate in the first decades after it was printed, with a second owner a close contemporary, who used the remaining blank pages to fulfill a perceived obligation to enumerate Christ’s life. The book is a living artifact of people committed to post Tridentine Catholicism in the era of Pope Gregory XIII. (2)

De Imitatione Christi (The Imitation of Christ), Collage of select pages, 1573, Special Collections, Catholic University.

The third purchased acquisition, from The Kelmscott Bookshop of Savage, Maryland, in February 2023, was, and this is a mouthful, Les Oeuvres du Bien-Heureux François de Sales, Evesque et Prince de Geneve, Instituteur des Religieuses de la Visitation de Saincte Marie. Revenuë; & Tres-exactement Corrigées sur les Premiers & Plus Fideles Exemplaires. Enrichies Nouvellement de Plusieurs Emblémes & Figures Symboliques; des Citations de l’Escritures Saincte, & d’Annotations en Marge; Avec un Abbrege de la Vie, & une Table tres-ample des Matieres, & des Choses plus Remarquables, qui Manquit -Cy-devant à cet ouvrage, an uncommon edition of work by St. Francis de Sales published in Paris by Sebastien Hure, 1652, with over 1,000 pages and measuring 10 by 15 by 3.5 inches. Francis de Sales (1567-1622) was Bishop of Geneva, revered as a saint for his deep faith and his gentle approach to religious divisions of the Protestant Reformation. He is also known for his writings on spiritual direction and formation, and the Hure edition is important as a comprehensive compilation of these writings, published after various complaints from religious communities about the multiple errors present in previous similar publications. Bound in contemporary full brown leather, there is a penned ownership name from 1751, and there is also a small stamp of the Library of the Sulpician Seminary of Washington. (3)

Les Oeuvres.. Francis de Sales, Collage, including title page, 1652, Special Collections, Catholic University.

As we begin yet another academic year in Rare Books, we are already in the process of adding new and exciting titles that will be shortly cataloged and described in our 2024 acquisitions blog. In the meantime, please direct any question about accessing these or other rare books to or check our webpage. Please note we also work with teachers and professors who wish to bring their classes in for tours or academic exercises.


(1)Antiquariat Inlibris Gilhofer Nf., Vienna, Austria, vendor catalog, and invoice, 2022.

(2) Roger Friedman Rare Book Studio of Tuxedo, New York, vendor catalog, invoice, and email, 2022.

(3)The Kelmscott Bookshop of Savage, Maryland, vendor catalog, and invoice, 2023.

(4) Special thanks to Alex Audziayuk, Shane MacDonald, and Hannah Kaufman of Special Collections for their assistance.

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