The Archivist’s Nook: Of Art and Industry – A Sample of 19th Century Literature in CatholicU’s Rare Books

The nineteenth century was a period of rapid growth and change for England and America, and one can find a microcosm of these changes reflected in the English novel, in both the pages themselves, and the culture around printing their printing and distribution. Further advancements in printing, and intense industrialization had made books cheaper than ever to produce and ease of access naturally spurred an increase of interest. Lending libraries began to spring up all over England, where users could pay a small fee to receive access to a communal collection of novels. Throughout the nineteenth century, but particularly during the Victorian era of literature (lasting from 1837-1901) the novel blossomed, coming into its popularity just in time to help document the culture of a society diving headfirst into modernity.

The cover page to the first volume of the two part “Frankenstein” including some reviews describing it as “universally acceptable.” Surely, Shelley was duly flattered.

Despite the relative opulence that industrialism brought with it, many people felt an understandable skepticism towards a society that seemed to have forsaken pastoral life for a life crushed into the bustle of polluted cities, toiling away at dangerous machines, gradually allowing the beauty of the natural world to be rendered strange, carved up for wailing steam engines and smoggy factories. Mary Shelley was a writer of the Romantic movement, known for venerating the wonder of the natural world, and she viewed this zeal for industry with a certain amount of skepticism. In her novel Frankenstein, first published in 1818, the monster is cobbled together from various bodies, with its parts being selected for beauty. Yet despite it being made of only the most beautiful bits and pieces its creator, Victor Frankenstein, could find,  the end result is something grotesque. Frankenstein cannot hope, even with all his scientific arts, to match the beauty that comes naturally to the world. Instead he creates a mockery. A first edition of this work, of which only 500 were printed, sold last September for a record breaking $1.17 million. Catholic University’s special collections cannot boast to have such a rare copy, but we do own a first American edition, printed in 1833 and generally believed to be pirated from the original 1818 British text. (Pirated in this context means that American publishers set unauthorized copies of the text by lifting it from a book published overseas. Clearly, the “industrial spirit” was alive and well in America as well.)

An issue of the weekly journal All The Year Round, in which some of Dickens’ greatest works were printed as serials.

Our copy of Frankenstein was printed in Philadelphia by Carey, Lea & Blanchard. This is the same press which was publishing Charles Dickens’ first book, The Pickwick Papers, before the man had even finished writing them. Given that Dickens dedicated the book to the lawyer Tomas Talfourd for his work on copyright laws in Britain, this seems in particularly poor taste but in fact, pirated texts of foreign novels were incredibly common in the United States. Dickens, on his tour of America in 1837, campaigned heavily against this practice, citing the wrongs it inflicted upon already underpaid authors and their families, but to no avail. Indeed Dickens was, and is, famous for his championing of London’s poor, and could speak first hand to their suffering, having grown up in poverty, and worked in factories as a child to help support his family. Two of his later novels, Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities, which, among other topics, explore the universal hardship of extreme poverty, can be found serialized in the weekly journal All the Year Round. The journal was owned and run by Dickens himself and a full collection can be found in Special Collections.

America may have been home to a bustling business of pirated publications, but as the nineteenth century pressed on, its history and culture became increasingly re-entwined with Britain’s own and these themes of transatlantic cultural exchange made their  presence known in the literature. And not all of it was uncomplimentary. The writer Henry James often explored themes of American idealism and naivete, mixed with its reputation for forward boldness through the characters of young American women, such as Isabel Archer in The Portrait of a Lady. An expansive collection of American and British first editions of the works of Henry James are available in the Catholic University Special Collections, as part of the Richard N. Foley collection. The late Professor taught in the English department here at Catholic University from 1940 until 1974 and his collection was acquired by Rare Books in 1982.

This copy of Apologia pro vita sua contains a letter written by Cardinal Newman bound into its pages, requesting that the editor of the Union not publish a note on Newman’s “Visions of Hope.” It was given to us by bibliophile and prolific donor, Msgr. Arthur Connolly.

America fostered a reputation for embracing freedom, even from its colonization. It offered refuge to those religious dissenters who could not practice their faith as they liked amongst the Anglican church. But even this was changing. In George Eliot’s Victorian pastoral masterpiece, Middlemarch, the characters express their concerns over land rights and railroads. Yet in the background of these concerns, there are often references to “the Catholic question,” and what to do about it. In 1791, practicing Catholicism in England was legalized, and in 1829, parliament voted in favor of the Catholic Emancipation Act, which restored most civil rights to Catholics. Although Roman Catholicism remained something of a minority, the church did manage to gain some notable converts, the first of which was John Henry Newman. As anti-Catholic sentiment rose, his autobiography, Apologia pro vita sua was one of the pieces of literature which helped render Catholics more sympathetic to the average Englishman. 

Cardinal Newman had another piece of writing which, while perhaps not achieving the same lofty heights as Apologia pro vita sua, is certainly very dear to us here at Catholic University. Upon our founding, Catholic University’s first chancellor, James Cardinal Gibbons, received a letter of congratulations from Cardinal Newman. This letter is a cherished piece of CatholicU history, and held in a secure place in the Catholic University Special Collections, where it keeps good company with the other works mentioned in this blog post, along with numerous other wonderful treasures. If you would like to visit them sometime, drop us a line. We are a library after all, and unlike the Victorian lending libraries of old, we won’t even charge you.

 

References:
Foley-Hoag. (2017, January 17). Charles Dickens And Copyright Law: Five Things You Should Know. JD Supra. www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/charles-dickens-and-copyright-law-five-29878.
Herringer, C. (2012). Catholicism and Anti-Catholicism. Oxford Bibliographies. www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199799558/obo-9780199799558-0102.xml.
University of Delaware. (n.d.). The Realistic Novel in the Victorian Era. British Literature Wiki. https://sites.udel.edu/britlitwiki/the-realistic-novel-in-the-victorian-era/.

The Archivist’s Nook: Many Voices, One Church: Archiving the Cultural Diversity Committee of the USCCB

Hannah Kaufman is a Graduate Library Pre-Professional (GLP) at The Catholic University of America, who also works in Special Collections.

Since starting my position as the new archives GLP, I have been working on the finding aid for the USCCB/NCCB Secretariat for Cultural Diversity. Having never created a complicated finding aid before, I took one look at the 25 boxes that made up the collection (with more, Catholic University archivist John Shepherd assured me, possibly on the way) and felt a little overwhelmed. However, after spending a little time browsing other finding aids and getting acquainted with the boxes themselves, I began to feel a little better.
This collection could be easily divided into two distinct ‘series’ or categories within which archival material is organized. Although all diversity task forces were merged under a new Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church, the Hispanic Catholics and Black Catholics subcommittees of USCCB were originally their own distinct entities and are thus easy to differentiate. Armed with a preliminary inventory done by a former practicum student, I set to work identifying which boxes contained which materials. A few things quickly stuck out to me. The materials devoted to Hispanic Catholics were generally older, and there were fewer to sort through. My still lingering trepidation over the amount of material I would be working with was certainly a part of my decision when deciding how to organize the collection, but in the end the materials’ age was what convinced me to put it first. All of the Hispanic Catholic materials date from the seventies and early eighties, with only a few exceptions. Meanwhile, the Black Catholics materials issue from the eighties up to the early two-thousands. Although within the series, material organization is prioritized alphabetically, I decided to organize the series chronologically, as it felt more intuitive to have the older organization first in the finding aid.
The Secretariat for Hispanic Affairs (directed by Paublo Sedillo for the duration of the papers currently held in the Catholic University Archives) came as a result of one of the recommendations of the First Encuentro. It called for the then USCCB Division for the Spanish Speaking be upgraded to that of a special office directly under the USCCB’s General Secretary. The Encuentros were events designed as a way of reaffirming the Hispanic Catholics’ place in the faith, both for themselves, and for the Catholic Church. Encuentros often spawned other events which drew off the energy the anticipation for these events wrought, such as the pilgrimage to the Shrine of Guadalupe, in Mexico, 1984. Each event culminated in the creation of a pastoral document presented to the church, with a plan for creating a more welcoming environment within the church for Hispanic Catholics, as well as expanding involvement within Hispanic Communities. A significant amount of materials in this collection are devoted to the planning and production of these Encuentro events.

Logo used for the Third Encuentro in 1985 which appeared on posters, pamphlets, and facilitator guidebooks to name a few.

 

But the Secretariat for Hispanic Affairs did much more than plan Encuentros. Other examples of material one can find in these records include campaigns to protect migrant workers, to fight against welfare cuts, to push for positive immigration reform, and to denounce racist policies. There are also pastorals, papers, and a large collection of audio visual materials containing, among other things, Spanish liturgy and sermons.

Bishop Patrick Flores, the First Mexican-American Bishop, addresses the First Encuentro, June 1972.

The Secretariat of African American Affairs papers hold some content similar to that of the Hispanic Affairs papers, in that it consists of the efforts of a group of people which had historically not been prioritized by the Catholic church working together to amplify their voices. These papers contain talks and interviews given or conducted by Beverly Carroll, surveys on the numbers of Black priests serving in the United states, and records of both Bishops’ Committee on African American Catholics materials and National Black Catholic Congresses.

 

 

The later National Black Catholic Congresses was numbered in homage to the Colored Catholic Congresses held in 1889. As there were five of these, the numbering of Black Catholic Congresses started at number six, to show that they were building off the work done in 1889.

Additionally, the collection deals with issues being faced by Black Americans both inside and outside of the church. There are several folders devoted to the effects of racism and ways to combat it, as well as the AIDS crisis, by which Black people were disproportionately affected. The collection contains ways to combat and ameliorate these issues, both through legislation and volunteer work, as well as through community support and prayer for victims.

A leaflet from the Maryland Teachers Association for Black History Month in the African American History Month 2000 folder of this collection.

There are also records for events and information distributed by the Secretariat of African American Affairs for Black History month, and research and materials on Black theology and Black liturgy, as well as publications such as The African Bible, or the Black Biblical Heritage, all of which seek to celebrate Black Catholics and demonstrate that their place in the faith has been there since its very beginnings.
Looking over my finding aid, you may notice that the first half, devoted to the Secretariat of Hispanic Affairs, is intensely specific. It seems almost as though each file has been labeled individually and put in its own folder. That’s because this is mostly what I did. As an archivist in training, I fell victim to the same mistake many new archivists do: over processing. This collection is important; I knew that and I didn’t want to miss anything, or cause a researcher to miss anything, through my negligence. By the time I reached the Beverly Carroll files, I knew better. Ms. Carroll was assiduous with her filing, and all the folder titles for the second half of the finding aid are predominantly of her own making. Indeed, it was Mrs. Carroll’s careful filing (she often wrote the location of the paper she wanted to preserve on the corner of the page with a ballpoint pen) which helped me realize I should be focusing more on the original order. This is not to say that Mr. Sedillo was not well organized, rather that sometimes you need something spelled out for you (in the corner of a page. With a ballpoint pen). After I realized this, I simply removed paper clips and staples and re-foldered them into acid free folders. I learned a few important lessons here. The first is to trust researchers to be able to find what they’re looking for, and the second is to learn when you can trust the original owner of the work you’re processing as well. After all, Mrs. Carroll had a good system, one that made sense to her and that she was careful to preserve. Why destroy that, when that organizational context adds so much to each piece of the collection?
One of the primary functions of an archive is to hold recorded history, so that someone can come back years later and examine that history. I cannot help but think about this purpose in conjunction with these two groups’ work to be recognized as they deserve in the Catholic church, to assert that they have always been valuable members of the Catholic community. They have always been here, and this collection is yet another resource that people can point to as documented evidence of a long term commitment by Black and Latinx Catholics to their committees, to their faith, and to themselves.

Marquette Archives. (n.d). Inculturation Task Forfces Records of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. [Finding Aid]. Inculturation Task Forfces Records of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI. https://www.marquette.edu/library/archives/Mss/ITF/ITF-sc.php.
Sharpe, R., (1997). Black Catholic Gifts of Faith. U.S. Catholic Historian, 15(4), 29-55. https://www.jstor.org/stable/25154603
Tampe, L.A. (2014). Encuentro Nacional Hispano de Pastoral (1972-1985): An Historical and Ecclesiological Analysis [Unpublished doctoral dissertation/master’s thesis]. The Catholic University of America. https://cuislandora.wrlc.org/islandora/object/etd%3A417/datastream/PDF/view.
Tilghman, M. T. (2021, November 29). Former USCCB official and leading voice for Black Catholics dies at 75. Catholic Standard. https://cathstan.org/news/us-world/former-usccb-official-and-leading-voice-for-black-catholics-dies-at-75.
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. (n.d.) Cultural Diversity in the Church. https://www.usccb.org/committees/cultural-diversity-church.
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. (n.d.) Timeline 1917-2017. https://www.usccb.org/about/usccb-timeline-1917-2017.