The Archivist’s Nook: Conservation in Rare Books, Part III

Cicero, De Officius, 1499

Since our last update on our long-term conservation project, Special Collections staff has continued addressing the conservation and access challenges in the Catholic University’s Rare Books collection. As “Part I” and “Part II” of the conservation blog posts reported, our work with our partner Quarto Conservation has focused on books that varied in date range and geographic representation from medieval Europe to late colonial Mexico. Once again, we have yet another surprising spread of works to report on!

Our goal in Special Collections is to make sure that our patrons – whether they be campus guests or CatholicU community members – have access to the works they need to research and study. Thus, our guiding principle in conserving these books was to render them stable for both eventual digitization and in-person access, while preserving the original content and physical traits of the volumes themselves.

As we continue with our conservation efforts, we will continue to update our patrons on the work being performed. You may see examples of the before and after of each conserved volume below with brief summaries of the conservation work performed:

1. Officium Beatae Mariae Virginis Slavonice (Venice, 1512)

This small prayer book, printed in Venice in 1512, is the earliest known copy of a book printed in Croatian cyrillic. Three extant copies of the work survive in libraries today, and it contains numerous ornate wood cuttings and borders. The cover is contemporary to the textblock, likely full calf leather. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Access to this rare work was limited due to the poor condition of the volume. The binding was no longer intact, with zero spine linings remaining, and only one cover board remaining (but fully detached). With the binding gone, the textblock was loose, with the first few pages heavily worn. The pages themselves were also out of order. 

Before it was sent to the conservators, a Special Collections staff member carefully collated the text and documented the correct order of the pages. From there, the conservation team took over. The book was fully disbound, with the pages lightly cleaned. The front pages were repaired with Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste. The sections were resewn with linen thread on three hemp cords. The spine was reshaped with wheat starch paste and Japanese tissue, followed by airplane linen. (Originally used in early airplanes, this linen is lightweight and undyed with a tight weave.) New boards were created and attached, with a handmade paper cover. The original board was stored and a new clam shell box was created for the book.

2. The “Our Father” Album, Vatican City, 1865 (MS 220)

This work is a commercially-produced blank album, filled in with handwritten text. The text is the “Our Father” prayer written in approximately 30 languages, as spoken in the Vatican in 1865. Photographs are attached to the pages throughout, with hand drawn floral borders. .0

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Before conservation, the binding on the book had failed. The spine cover was mostly detached, with the binding loose. In fact, the spine linings holding it together were mostly missing!

For this volume, the conservators disbound the book and removed the remaining sewing. The spine was cleaned and then resewn using linen thread. Furthermore, the spine was lined with Japanese tissue paper and wheat starch paste, followed by airplane linen. The original boards were reattached. 

3. Franciscus De Platea, Opus Restitutionum, 1437 (Inc 28)

This incunabulum (or books printed in Europe prior to 1501) by an Italian Franciscan was a popular work at the time, focusing on (as its full title indicates) restitution, usury, and excommunication. The copy held at CatholicU is in overall good condition, with a full leather binding over wooden boards and a relatively stable textblock.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Unfortunately, before conservation, the front cover board was completely detached. Also, the back cover board was nearly detached, held only by a single thread. The leather binding was degraded and fraying, with early signs of red rot. Worm holes are present throughout the wooden boards and the textblock. (These are the type of holes caused by insects long-ago tunneling through a book, not the type of wormholes that tunnel through spacetime.) On a fascinating note, there is white wax residue on the front cover, likely from a candle dripping on the book. 

The conservation team cleaned the spine and relined it with wheat starch paste and heavy weight Japanese tissue paper and airplane linen. They then proceeded to reattach the front and back boards, backing up the boards and textblock with handmade laid paper and Japanese tissue. For the leather, they re-adhered the loose leather cover to the wooden boards and treated it to minimize the developing red rot. 

4. Cicero, De Officius, 1499

Another incunabulum that was in need of some love! This particular work dates from 1499 and is an ethical and political work by Roman orator and philosopher, Cicero. It is a heavily annotated book, with notes and manicules exhibited throughout the text. While the book itself dates from the tail end of the fifteenth century, its binding is from the nineteenth century.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Before conservation, the front cover board was detached, making it difficult to access the textblock safely. While there are significant worm holes throughout the textblock, they do not pose a threat to the text if used with care. 

To resolve these issues, the conservators cleaned the spine of the book and relined it with wheat starch paste and Japanese tissue and airplane linen. These linings were left overhanging on the front side of the book to allow for the conservation team to reattach the nineteenth-century front board. Again, this reattachment was facilitated with wheat starch paste. Finally, minor page repair was performed, especially around worm holes that may catch and tear more. Largely, though, the worm holes were left untreated. 

While there are many details that this post did not address regarding the conservation efforts, we hope this sheds a little light on the process of conservation in the stacks.

To find out more about these books or the general Catholic University Rare Books collection, please contact us at: lib-rarebooks@cua.edu

The Archivist’s Nook: Retracing the History of Right to Life Archival Collections

Our guest blogger is Rebecca Lemon, a Library and Information Science (LIS) student at Catholic University.

Last semester, as part of my Library and Information Science (LIS) coursework, I had the opportunity to arrange and process two small, related collections, the National Right to Life News Collection and the Long Island Pro-Life Collection , housed in the university’s Special Collections. Both collections were generously donated in 2021 to CUA by the Sisters of Life, a Catholic religious institute based in New York.

Copies of the National Right to Life News from 1984. Special Collections, Catholic University.

Since I had never processed any archival collections before, sitting down to look at the seven boxes of unprocessed materials in front of me felt rather daunting. I took it slowly, though, and began by simply looking through each box and trying to get a sense of what was there. It soon became clear that processing the National Right to Life News collection would be fairly straightforward. The collection contains all the issues of the National Right to Life News published between November 1973 (when it first began) and 1999. Arranging the collection, then, would be a simple matter of putting the issues in acid-free folders according to their date. The Long Island Pro-Life collection, on the other hand, was a very different story. Since this collection documents the grassroots pro-life movement on Long Island during the 1970s-1990s, it contains a wide variety of materials like pamphlets, newspaper and article clippings, newsletters, periodicals, correspondence, books, and other ephemera. Processing this collection appeared as if it would be much more complicated, so I decided to start with the National Right to Life News collection first and then move on to the Long Island Pro-Life collection after I’d had more time to think about the best way to arrange and describe it.

One of the event flyers in the Long Island Pro-Life Collection. Special Collections, Catholic University.

It took me only a few weeks to process and describe the National Right to Life News collection. I arranged the issues in acid-free folders and then labeled them for easy access, writing the collection title, folder title, and issue dates, as well as the collection number, box number, and folder number on each one. This not only makes it easy to locate the right folder at a glance, but also guards against the rare chance that a folder is inadvertently separated from the collection. In that event, enough identifying information is written on the folder itself to be able to locate its correct place.

Successfully processing the National Right to Life News collection gave me enough confidence to begin arranging the Long Island Pro-Life collection. Unlike the National Right to Life News collection, no clear order for arrangement was immediately apparent. I spent a good deal of time sifting through the collection, trying to discover any hints as to its organization that might have been left by the collector(s) of the materials. I found that, though there really was no particular order to the vast majority of the materials in the collection, there was a series of folders which had been labeled with handwritten names. So, I needed to be sure to preserve the general order of this series, but I was free to arrange the rest of the collection in whatever way would make its contents the most accessible. I decided that the best way of striking a balance between making the materials easily accessible and not overly disturbing the collection would be to organize it by format. I created five series in total: 1) Pamphlets, 2) Newsletters and Periodicals, 3) Newspapers and Newspaper Clippings, 4) Subject Files, and 5) Books. The process of sorting the materials into these series also helped me to glean some contextual clues about the origins of the collection. Although the collection was donated by the Sisters of Life, they were not the original collectors of the materials, and we unfortunately do not have any official documentation about the original collector(s). However, while going through the collection, I discovered that several of the newsletters, periodicals, and correspondence are addressed to Mrs. Mary Brennan or her family. The collection also contains some personal papers belonging to Mary Brennan, which document her active involvement in the leadership of the pro-life movement on Long Island during the 1970s-1990s. From this, we can infer that Mary Brennan was most likely the primary collector of the materials in the collection, and so we have indicated that in the finding aid for the collection.

Direct Line: The Long Island Birthright Newsletter. The Long Island Pro-Life Collection holds copies of this newsletter that were produced between 1973-1984. Special Collections, Catholic University.

As I learned through my experience with these two collections, archival processing has a lot to do with making educated guesses about the history and previous organization of the collection. The archivist must attempt to get inside the mind of the original collector(s) and find answers to the myriad questions that arise when processing and arranging the collection. For example, why did the collector(s) keep certain things and not others? Did they use a particular method of organization? If so, how can we preserve that method and yet make the materials easily accessible now for researchers in the present day? With a little patience and perseverance, the answers to these questions can be found by retracing the collection’s history through the clues left buried in the collection. In this way, boxes of unorganized papers cease to appear quite so intimidating and become instead an exciting mystery just waiting to be solved.

Interested in learning more about the items in these collections? Make an appointment with CUA Special Collections to come view the materials in person.

Works Cited:

National Right to Life Committee. (n.d.). National Right to Life News.

Shepherd, W. J. The Archivist’s Nook: Catholic University’s Sisters of Life Collections, October 5, 2021.

 

The Archivist’s Nook: Tolkien, Milton, and Rare Books

Encountering a book once owned, signed, or inscribed by a distinguished person, is in some way encountering the person who signed it or closing the distance to only “a few handshakes away”. Holding the very same volume, read by someone we admire, turning the same pages, can become a transformative and inspirational experience.

Books such as these are known as association copies, and they have always been of interest to scholars and researchers providing invaluable insight into the life and acquaintances of the person who owned them. Whether they come with a bookplate or personalized inscription to their friends or colleagues, handwritten notes in the margins (aka marginalia), funny doodles scribbled within, a business card with a note, a dried flower, or a newspaper clipping folded between the pages: anything can become a source of new information.

Sometimes, people will ask us if we have any books in our Rare Books collections marked by distinguished names, and we are proud to say that we have some! W. B. Yeats, John Donne, Margaret Mitchell, Jelly Roll Morton, Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton, to name just a few, are among those whose handwriting can be found in books on our shelves.

Until recently, if someone asked us about Tolkien (not an unreasonable question, given J.R.R. Tolkien’s strong Catholic faith and literary influence) we would have had to admit that unfortunately, we were not aware of any such books in our holdings, but now we gladly say that yes we do, though it depends on which Tolkien you have in mind, the father or the son.

Recently, our staff member re-discovered a book in the stacks, which made some other staff members very excited once they saw on the free front endpaper the name of a previous owner:

Christopher Tolkien,
Oxford, 1952

Christopher Tolkien was the youngest son of the famous writer and creator of Middle-earth J.R.R. Tolkien, who assisted in and later continued his father’s work as an editor and literary executor of his entire legacy, which became his full-time occupation and ended his over 10-year-long academic career as a Fellow of New College, Oxford. Since 1975, he was working hard to make a large corpus of J.R.R. Tolkien’s world and mythology available to readers, starting with the Silmarillion and the twelve volumes of the History of Middle-earth. His deeply scholarly work, performed with a tremendous level of understanding and attention to detail, and ability to navigate through multiple (sometimes conflicting) versions of the same narratives, compiling them into one consistent tale, makes him a most highly regarded figure for all Tolkien scholars and enthusiasts.

Christopher J. R. Tolkien (1924–2020), photo by Le Monde

In 2016, for his “editorial work on his father’s manuscripts” and his “academic career at the University of Oxford”, Christopher Tolkien was awarded the highest honor of the Bodleian Libraries – the Bodley Medal.

Approaching the third anniversary of his passing on January 16, 2020, we would like to highlight the recently discovered book, associated with him, but first – to share a few stories which can provide a context to what we can see in our copy.

In the Foreword to the 50th-anniversary edition of the Hobbit in 1987, Christopher Tolkien included the recollections by his older brother Michael about the days when their father read them aloud the first draft of what would later become known as the Hobbit:

“He also remembered that I (then between four and five years old) was greatly concerned with petty consistency as the story unfolded, and that on one occasion I interrupted: ‘Last time, you said Bilbo’s front door was blue, and you said Thorin had a gold tassel on his hood, but you’ve just said that Bilbo’s front door was green, and the tassel on Thorin’s hood was silver’; at which point my father muttered ‘Damn the boy,’ and then ‘strode across the room’ to his desk to make a note.” (C. Tolkien, vii)

Some years later, when Christopher was 14, his father even paid him a twopence for every error spotted in galley-proofs of his books. (J.R.R. Tolkien, 28)

The book re-discovered in our collections is a copy of The manuscript of Milton’s Paradise lost (ed. by H. Darbishire, Oxford, 1931) once owned by Christopher Tolkien, who was then only 28 years old. It was later owned and donated to the University Libraries by Robert T. Meyer, former professor of Celtic and comparative philology at Catholic University.

In addition to Christopher Tolkien’s ownership mark, executed in brown ink in an elegant and easily recognizable penmanship that mirrors his father’s, our copy also contains a marginal note, executed in the similar ink, which allows us to assume that our copy was not just owned, but read and worked with.

Similar to how it was in the case of his childhood story mentioned above, this note is nothing else but a correction of an error, spotted by his meticulous eye. Next to the editor’s statement that “the Oxford English Dictionary does not record the form [of a certain word]”, Christopher Tolkien left a brief but precise two-word note “It does” and provided a reference.

He, probably, didn’t get any credit for spotting this error, not even his usual twopence, but for us, even this little note can tell a story.

 

References: 

Tolkien, J. R. R., et al. The letters of J.R.R. Tolkien : a selection. Houghton Mifflin Co., 2000.

Tolkien, Christopher. Foreword. The hobbit or there and back again, by J.R.R. Tolkien, Unwin Hyman, 1987, pp. i-xvi.

The Archivist’s Nook: “Don’t be Crude” – Protecting the Earth like a Catholic

Our guest blogger is Julie Pramis, who is a graduate student in Library and Information Science (LIS) at the Catholic University of America. 

Catholics care about climate change (try saying that five times fast). Here in the archives we have a collection of papers from the Catholic Climate Covenant (CCC), a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C. focused on caring for the Earth. Founded in 2006, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops helped form the non-profit in order to address climate change through Catholic social teaching:

Caring for creation and caring for the poor have been a part of the Catholic story since the beginning, but in recent years St. John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and especially Pope Francis have added a sense of urgency to their call for Catholics to act on climate change. (Our Story, Catholic Climate Covenant)

Example of research report but together by the CCC.

CCC has funded grants for climate change awareness campaigns across the country, held conferences, and published reports on the reality of climate change.

The St. Francis Pledge

Among their missions, perhaps at the forefront is the St. Francis Pledge. Anyone can take the St. Francis Pledge, from National Catholic Organizations to Universities to individuals. The pledge comes with a handy pdf with recommendations on how to reduce your carbon footprint.

In addition to their own business papers – from 2006 to 2016 – CCC collected magazines and newspapers that covered the cross-section of Catholics and environmentalism. Even several secular magazines were saved, among them Time magazine and two issues of Sports Illustrated (it’s about climate change – we swear!).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Check out the finding aid here to learn more about the collection, or come to the archives for a visit!

The Archivist’s Nook: One for the Ledgers – The Case of the Mystery Armor

The mystery armor…

Earlier this summer, this humble archivist was minding his own business, when who should walk into my world but trouble – cold, metal trouble…

While performing a standard inventory review in one of our storage rooms, I noticed a large metallic object on a shelf that was hidden behind a piece of furniture. Naturally I investigated further, and unearthed a tag reading , “Miscellaneous – breastplate and loincloth…” with no other details. Super helpful…and a mystery was afoot

Moving the mystery object to our reading room, I inspected and documented it. Obviously, it was some type of armor, but I am no military historian. Thus  with documentation in hand, I reached out to a colleague who knows more about these types of things than me. Within minutes, he replied, “WWI German body armor” with a photo showing this type of armor. So now we knew what the piece was, but how did it get to Catholic University and why? That was the next step in the investigation…

Our collections are rich in materials from the First World War. Not only was it a significant event in world history, but it represented a defining moment for American Catholics. The predecessor organization to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops – the National Catholic Welfare Council – was founded in 1917 to unite and lend Catholic support for the American war effort, and many American Catholics saw the war as an opportunity to display their loyalty to a nation that often saw them as disloyal. So it would be no surprise that the University would have collected objects from the war, but from whom and when?

Fr. Dubois, ca. 1918.

This is where institutional knowledge came into play. I recalled that we had a large trove of WWI photographs and objects donated by a French soldier by the name of Fr. Leon Dubois, S.M. So who was Fr. Dubois?

A French priest, Dubois served in a group of French tank soldiers during the First World War. He may have served as unofficial chaplain to these soldiers, as the French government did not have official chaplains in its military at the time. In fact, clergy of all faiths could be drafted to serve in military units. While not formally sanctioned as chaplains, these recruited clerics would often perform rites for their compatriots during the war. Later in the war, some clerics would even volunteer to serve in order to be near the battlefield for performing these sacramental duties.

French World War I dagger issued to a tank crewmember.

While we do not know the full status of Fr. Dubois – was he recruited or did he volunteer – we can say that he may not have been directly involved in combat or eager to fight. A letter sent with one of his objects – a dagger given to members of his tank unit – indicates that the only action this weapon ever saw was battle in opening sardine cans.

After the war’s end, Dubois wrote to the then-director of Catholic University’s museum and long-time Semitics professor, Fr. Romain Butin, S.M. The letters seem to indicate some familiarity between the two French Society of Mary priests. It is through this correspondence that Fr. Dubois’s World War I collection came to be housed at Catholic University.

But what is in this collection from a French soldier that made me immediately think of it, when I learned that the mystery object was WWI German armor? 

Fr. Dubois’s collection includes both French and German equipment, ranging from German helmets and French gas masks to message papers for carrier pigeons. So looking into any notes from his collection would be the first place to seek answers. Fortunately, several of his donated objects have detailed records, including the date they arrived on campus – March 3, 1920.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

With this information in hand, I could open our antique museum accession ledger, which recorded all new museum donations from 1900-1940. Seeking out the March 3, 1920 date, I soon found an entry for “Breastplate armor…Germany” donated by a Fr. Leon Dubois. The mystery of its donation was solved, and the armor could be fully recorded.

Original Catholic University Museum Ledger, March 1920 entries.

And thus another archival mystery was solved! A tale of war, transatlantic friendships, and faith under fire all coming together in an object sitting before me in the archives reading room. 

This object – coupled with the rest of Fr. Dubois’s collection – makes tangible the tragedy of the First World War and humanizes its participants. It will be secured in archival storage with full documentation, and it will be preserved for future generations.

With thousands of museum objects, hundreds of archival collections, and tens of thousands of rare books, Special Collections is a place of constant re-discovery and updating catalogs. While virtually all our materials are documented, they may exist at various stages in the documentation process from simply being recorded in an old ledger to being fully cataloged and listed online. But even the most documented objects need updates from time-to-time to account for new information, new contexts, and updated terminology

The job of the sleuthing, er I mean, processing archivist was done for today, but the work never ceases!

You may see the Fr. Leon Dubois collection finding aid here: https://libraries.catholic.edu/special-collections/archives/collections/finding-aids/finding-aids.html?file=dubois

Sources:

Boniface, Xavier. 1997. “AU SERVICE DE LA NATION ET DE L’ARMEE: LES AUMONIERS MILITAIRES FRANÇAIS DE 1914 A 1962.” Guerres Mondiales et Conflits Contemporains 47, no. 187: 103-113.

Boniface, Xavier. 1998. “L’AUMONERIE MILITAIRE CATHOLIQUE: LES INSPECTEURS ECCLESIASTIQUES (1917-1918).” Revue Historique des Armées no. 3: 19-26.

Fontana, Jacques. 1997. “LE PRETRE DANS LES TRANCHEES: 1914-1918.” Guerres Mondiales et Conflits Contemporains 47, no. 187: 25-39.

The Archivist’s Nook: Special Collections Resources on the History of Mexico

Scattered throughout Catholic University’s Special Collections are a range of resources related to the history of Mexico. We are happy to offer a new Library Guide to those materials. Here are a few of the highlights:

The National Council of Catholic Women announce their protest of the treatment of Catholics in Mexico in this 1920s letter from the NCWC/USCCB Office of the General Secretary’s “Mexican Files.”

The National Catholic Welfare Conference, forerunner of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, became involved in U.S.-Mexican affairs just after its founding in the early 1920s. Mexico-related records can be found throughout this enormous collection, partly due to the migration of Mexican Catholics into the U.S. at the time, but also because the bishops were concerned with the unstable political conditions in that country leading to persecution of Catholics in the 1920s. The archives, which holds the NCWC/USCCB records, contains a series of records known as the “Mexican Files,” Subseries 1.4, of the NCWC/USCCB Office of the General Secretary, which document the precarious position of the church in Mexico and attempts by U.S. Catholic authorities to stabilize such conditions. The Office of the General Secretary files also contain various materials throughout related to Mexican relations and migration which one can find by doing a simple search of the finding aid.

Established in 1920, the NCWC Press Department provided the Catholic press, radio, and eventually, television in the United States and other countries with news, editorial, feature, and picture services gathered and prepared by professional journalists and released under the names NCWC News Service and Noticias Catolicas (in Spanish and Portuguese for Latin America). Both services were designated by the abbreviation (NC) and the former later known as the Catholic New Service (CNS). Administrative files include correspondence, general subscriber files, obituary files for prominent Catholics, and miscellaneous publications and press releases. The NCWC/CNS finding aid can be found here.

La Esperanza. La Esperanza, Los Angeles, 11/3/2022, from The Catholic News Archive

Hosted by the  Catholic Research Resources Alliance the from The Catholic News Archive contains more than 30,000 issues of digitized Catholic newspapers comprising over 600,000 pages of news.

Included are digital copies of the Catholic News Service Press releases, La Esperanza of Los Angeles (ca. 1929-1954), The Monitor of San Francisco, and several other publications publishing Mexico-related articles.

Agustín Iturbide y Green (1863-1925), grandson of Emperor Agustín Iturbide I (1783-1824), was born in Mexico City during the French occupation of the country in 1863. Desiring a Mexican heir, Emperor Maximilian I, an Austrian by birth, arranged to adopt the younger Iturbide, then two years old, in 1865. Following the collapse of Maximilian’s regime in 1867, young Agustín was reunited with his birth parents in Havana, and resided with his mother in the United States until 1875 before leaving to study in Brussels. Agustín remained in Europe for many years before returning once again to attend graduate school in Washington, D.C. He was awarded a master’s degree in Linguistics from Georgetown University in 1884.

Iturbide returned to Mexico in 1887 to enter the Military Academy in Chapultepec. Although he had aspirations for a storied military career, his criticisms of the Porfirio Díaz regime in both a New York newspaper and in personal correspondence resulted in his being court-martialed in 1890. Convicted of insubordination, he was sentenced to one year in prison and was subsequently exiled.

An undated photo of Agustín de Iturbide y Green, image taken by a student at Georgetown University.

Financially ruined and grieving for his mother, who passed away during attempts to salvage the family fortune, Iturbide moved to Rosedale to teach Spanish and French at Georgetown University. It was there, that he met Louise Kearney, who would become his wife in 1915. The Kearneys were a prominent Washington family whose ancestors had emigrated from Ireland in the late 1700s.

Iturbide continued to teach until his death from tuberculosis in 1925. Louise Kearney lived the rest of her life in a small P Street apartment and became friends with Catholic University procurator Msgr. James Magner, to whom she entrusted this collection in 1957.

This collection contains original documents from the Iturbide family from Emperor Agustin Iturbide I’s reign until the death of his grandson, Agustín Iturbide y Green, including correspondence, Mexican governmental documents, military medals and coins, newspapers, magazines, and portraits. The Kearney section contains correspondence and portraits from Louise Kearney, Iturbide’s wife from 1915 until his death.

Note that this collection is digitized and all of the links to the digitized documents are in the finding aid.

A link to the Iturbide-Kearney papers’ finding aid can be found here.

The  National Council of Catholic Women (NCCW) was established in 1920 as an initiative of the Lay Organizations Department of the NCWC. One to three women represented each of the 114 dioceses of the time.  As the first federation of Catholic women’s organizations, the NCCW was able to provide a unified voice for the thousands of independent Catholic women’s organizations that existed in the United States, to offer resources for united actions, to ensure official Catholic representation in national movements, and to stimulate the local efforts of the women’s organizations.

The NCCW records span 1917-2000 and consist of administrative records and minutes, correspondence, national and international project notes, publications, photographs, and scrapbooks. While there are over 200 boxes of records in this collection, one can do a search for Mexico-related materials; specifically, series 7 (International Organization Affiliations, 1919-1984), boxes 111-142 (especially 115-116) contain materials related to the NCCW’s involvement with international organizations. A link to the NCCW finding aid can be found here.

A selected list of texts from our Rare Books collection related to the history of Mexico can be found here.

A full list of Mexico-related resources from Special Collections can be found in this Mexico-related Library Guide.

The Archivist’s Nook: Neither Quenya nor Klingon – Glagolitic books in the Clementine Library

– How many languages does the Church speak?
– All of them.
(a Sunday school joke)

Books from the Clementine Library, a collection of some 9,600 volumes, acquired by CUA in 1928, which came from the libraries of the Albani family of Urbino and Rome, Italy.
University Libraries, Rare Books, Clementine Library

By proclaiming being “Catholic” (meaning “universal”), the Catholic Church highlights its missionary effort to bring the light of the Gospel to every corner of the world and all nations. And often, there’s no other way to reach a community except by learning the language it speaks and the traditions it follows.

Such universality is evident to anyone browsing stacks in Mullen Library with books in various languages, both modern and ancient, usually well-known and spoken or studied today. In Rare Books, though, visitors may encounter volumes that can deeply puzzle any enthusiast willing to identify, not to mention – study them closely. Among them, there are several humbly-looking 17th and early 18th-century volumes that are part of the Clementine library, one of the crown jewels of our collection.

These volumes intrigue and raise questions. What script is that? What language? Who were these books meant for and what’s their purpose? Is it one of the mysterious languages, like the famous Voynich Manuscript, or an example of the “invented” ones like Tolkien’s Quenya or Star Trek’s Klingon? Are there nations that use it still? For most, it won’t look familiar at all, except maybe for some fans of modern video games, who may say that it definitely rings a bell. (Spoiler alert: They are not mistaken!)

A page from the Azbukidarium, or an Alphabet of the St. Jerome's language, published in Rome in 1693. Part of the Clementine Linbrary (University Libraries, Rare Books).
Azbvkidarivm Illyricum Hieronimianum, Romae, 1693, University Libraries, Rare Books.

Our volumes are maybe less mysterious, but they will definitely require deciphering skills. The oldest of them were printed in Rome in the 1630s-1640s at the press of the Congregation of Propaganda Fide (today – Dicastery for Evangelization), and the texts they contain, are in a local version of the Old Slavic language, used in the territory of modern Croatia. Most of them are printed in the script called Glagolitic, an older brother of the Cyrillic and one of the two main writing systems of Slavic nations. Today the Glagolitic is rather extinct.

Glagolitic Script

Whether invented by the holy brothers and missionaries Cyril and Methodius in the 9th century as a writing system for Slavs, as it’s commonly believed by Eastern Christians or, according to an old Western tradition, by St. Jerome, native to Dalmatia, who may also have translated the Bible in his native tongue using “Alphabetum Hieronimianum”, it still remains a mystery what Glagolitic was inspired by and whether it was just an act of pure invention of a brand new and unique writing system for an already existing spoken language.

"Witcher 3" video game screenshot: Map fragment of the kingdom of Kaedwen with its capital Ard Carraigh written in Glagolitic. One can read it easily using the pamphlet with the Glagolitic Alphabet published in Rome in 1693 (see previous photo).
“Witcher 3” video game screenshot: the kingdom of Kaedwen and its capital Ard Carraigh.

Soon, Glagolitic was followed, and ultimately, replaced by Cyrillic, a more familiar and easy-to-use script. But it managed to survive in some territories until the 19th century and was revived recently to be used as a script within the “Witcher” video game series, based on the fantasy universe created by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski.

Latin and vernacular languages

Contrary to popular belief, Latin was not the only official language of the Roman Rite in the Catholic Church before the Second Vatican Council. At various times, missionary efforts required using other scripts and languages of nations the Church tried to reach and teach, and such practice was not reserved by Rome for only some “far away” lands, labeled on maps as “here be dragons”, but also for the nations right across the Adriatic Sea.

This set of volumes, preserved and accessible today in University Libraries’ Rare Books, was meant to be used among the people in Dalmatia and Croatia. It consists of a few primary liturgical books revised, approved, and published soon after the Council of Trent.


Missale Romanum Slavonico idiomate (Rome, 1706)

The first one to be published was the “new and corrected” Roman Missal in the Old Slavic language (also called Illyric in Rome). It was translated by a Croatian priest (later – bishop) Rafael Levaković, O.F.M. and was printed in 1631 in Glagolitic by order of Pope Urban VIII. Our copy is the 2nd revised edition of the Missal, published in Rome in 1706.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Missale Romanum Slavonico idiomate iussu S.D.N. Urbani Octavi editum… Romae, typis Sac. Congreg. de Propaganda Fide, 1706 (2nd revised edition).
Call number: CL 264.6 M678


Breviarium Romanum Slavonico idiomate (Rome, 1688)

The Roman-Illyrian Breviary was the second volume to be published by the same translator. It came out of the printing press in 1648, after a long editorial process initiated by the Congregation of Propaganda Fide, which required the psalms to be consistent with the newly approved text of the Latin Bible. Our copy is the second printing of 1688.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Breviarium Romanum Slavonico idiomate iussu S.D.N. Innocentii PP. XI editum… Romae, typis & ompensis Sac. Congreg. de Propaganda Fide, 1688.
Call number: CL 264.3 B846S 1688


Rituale Romanum [Illyrica lingua] (Rome, 1706)

Meanwhile, the Rituale Romanum, another important liturgical volume, was translated. This time, by a Jesuit Bartol Kašić (1575-1650) and not into the ancient Old-Croat-Slavonic, but into the vernacular. According to scholars, this edition “marks the beginning of the standardization of the Croat literary language” [1].

The volume was published in Rome in 1640 and, after a period of discussion and consideration, in Latin script. Nevertheless, this book is part of the same corpus of liturgical books published for Christians in Croatia by the Congregation of Propaganda Fide.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Rituale Romanum Urbani VIII, Pont. Max. issue editum. Illyrica lingua… Romae, Ex typographia Sac. Congreg. de Propaganda Fide, 1640.
Call number: CL 264.12 R615


Azbukidarium Illyricum Hieronimianum (Rome, 1693)

An additional item in our Glagolitic collection is a small pamphlet that serves as an introduction to the script and language. It contains both the Glagolitic and Cyrillic versions of the alphabet, some basic words, abbreviations, and a few popular prayers. One can assume, it may have been a starting point for everyone willing to get familiar with the language.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Azbvkidarivm Illyricum Hieronimianum, habens correspondentes characteres Cyrillianos, seu Seruianos, & Latinos, Romae, Typis Sacrae Congr. De Propaganda Fide, 1693.
Call number: CL 411 A456.


Research value 

These books are not just another curiosity in our collection. Their unique content may be of interest to scholars of a range of disciplines, from church history and liturgy to Eastern European language and history studies.

The researchers willing to study them deeply will have to face countless questions about their history and purpose, translation techniques and language features, relationships between Western and Eastern Christians, missions among non-Catholics, such extinct traditions as Glagolitic and Aquileyan liturgical rites, and more.

One of the mysteries that puzzle our staff members is the controversy around the Slavic Psalter printed with the Breviary. The original, and rather standard text of the Psalter, commonly used by Eastern Orthodox Churches, was rejected by Rome, and a committee was established with a Ukrainian Catholic Bishop Methodius Terleckyj as its head with the task to review the text and make it consistent with the promulgated text of the Latin Vulgate. But how many corrections were made and how significant they were? How much the revisions were influenced by Ukrainian liturgical tradition [2]? These are some of the many intriguing questions one can encounter while approaching these volumes. And only they can provide an answer and help us to know our past better.


These books can be accessed by appointment in Rare Books (Mullen 214, lib-rarebooks@cua.edu) by any patron or researcher interested in studying them more closely.

 

Sources:

Thomson, F.J. (2005). The legacy of SS. Cyril and Methodius in the Counter-Reformation: The council of Trent and the question of scripture and liturgy in the vernacular, together with an account of the subsequent consequences for the Slavo-Latin (Glagolitic) rite and the Bible in Croatian translation. In E. Konstantinou (Ed.), Methodios und Kyrillos in ihrer Europäischen Dimension (Philhellenische Studien, 10)(pp. 87-246). Peter Lang. doi:10.1017/S0022046906429882, http://www.europa-zentrum-wuerzburg.de/unterseiten/Band10-Thomson.pdf 

Žubrinić, D. (2009). Hrvatska glagoljička kultura s osvrtom na Francusku. Croatia: Overview of history, culture, and science. https://www.croatianhistory.net/etf/francegl.html

References:

[1] Thomson, 2005, p. 82.

[2] See Thomson, 2005, p. 78.

The Archivist’s Nook: Bewitching Tomes

Wandering through the Rare Books stacks is always an adventure. The shelves hold all kinds of secrets, waiting for the right librarian to pull them, or the right researcher to request them. But on a rainy October afternoon, with Halloween on the mind, it is the witchcraft books that stand out to me.

The Rare Books selection of witchcraft volumes covers a wide range of fascinating topics: prophecy, astrology, somnambulism (which according to many of these volumes has some fairly magical connotations), and general folklore. If you’re having trouble with local witches tormenting you, Witches and the Second Sight in the Scottish Highlands, by John G. Campbell, published in 1902 may be able to offer you some relief. This book contains a near limitless selection of scenarios in which unsuspecting innocents might find themselves plagued by witches, and several practical solutions for ridding yourself of their evils. For instance, in the event that a witch is turning herself into a white hare and stealing your cow’s milk in the night (Don’t worry, it can happen to anyone), you need only put a bit of silver in your gun (a sixpence will work, or a silver button if you don’t have any obsolete currency on hand) before shooting at the hare. Naturally the silver is essential, for if you should forget to include it, the witch can easily use her powers to turn your weapon against you and you may find your gun exploding violently in your hand. Sound advice, and perhaps it’s better to follow the age-old ‘better safe than sorry’ and refrain from shooting at any hares unless you have silver in hand. Just in case.

The only know specimen of the devil’s writing from Ashton’s The Devil in Britain and America

Our next book, first published in 1896, is ominously titled The Devil in Britain and America and written by John Ashton on the grounds that “all modern English books on the Devil and his works are unsatisfactory.” He goes on to complain that most books redundantly cite the same examples of witchcraft and that, perhaps most importantly of all, “not one of them is illustrated.” Given this mission statement, it must come at no surprise that Ashton’s book is absolutely teeming with surreal little engravings with witches and devils, the odd and the obscene. The stories themselves come from all manner of sources, as Ashton proudly notes in his preface. (No ‘oft-repeated cases’ for him!) The material can range from an analytic (such as the word can be used in this situation) account of how witches are made, to a mid-seventeenth century English satirical ballad meant to demonstrate the devil as “sadly deficient in brains,” entitled, The Politic Wife or, The Devil Outwitted by a Woman, where one hapless man meets the devil (who introduces himself as ‘Dumkin the Devil.’) and is saved by his wife’s quick thinking. The book also contains what it claims to be the only known sample of the devil’s writing.

So far these books can be easily identified as the sort of things created for people who enjoy delighting in the taboo and the occult, stories meant to entertain and to thrill. Certainly there was an audience for them. The next work we’ll be looking at was actually given as a Christmas gift in 1930, so its handwritten inscription tells us. Ghost stories as Christmas gifts were not an uncommon tradition, especially in the Victorian era (think Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.)  This one seems ideal for reading aloud around a fire on Christmas eve. It’s a slim little pamphlet, (coming in at 7 pages, and that includes its paper cover) printed in 1928 and entitled The Story of Mr John Bourne. It tells of how the titular character was made the manager of an estate, and how when he was near death, the chest which held the details to that estate rose and unlocked itself, only to relock itself again upon his death, so that try as they might, no one could ever open it there after. Certainly it’s an uncanny little story, but I don’t know that it’s something I would traditionally associate with witchcraft, were it not for the “abracadabra” slowly vanishing down the title page. So why shelve it amongst all these other definitely witchy books?

The title page of The Story of Mr John Bourne, showing the descending ‘abracadabra’

As it turns out, The Story of Mr John Bourne is actually an excerpt from a much larger work, bearing the self explanatory and rather lengthy title, Saducismus triumphatus, or, Full and plain evidence concerning witches and apparitions in two parts : the first treating of their possibility, the second of their real existence / by Joseph Glanvil. With a letter of Dr. Henry More on the same subject and an authentick but wonderful story of certain Swedish witches done into English by Anth. Horneck. Although the excerpt of this work as we have it preserved seemed intended more to cause fearful delight, much like the books we were just discussing, the purpose of the larger text was much less recreational and its effects far more terrifying. Joseph Glanvill was an English preacher and philosopher, who believed that without the threat of demons and witches, people would see no reason for religion. In fact, he went so far as to view a lack of belief in the supernatural as akin to atheism. The book, which sought to prove the assured existence of witches, was hugely popular, and thought to be an influence on religious leaders such as Cotton Mather, a New England preacher known for stirring up witchcraft hysteria during the Salem witch trials.

In fact, if you’re interested in putting Saducismus Triumphatus in the historical context of Cotton Mather and the Salem witch trials, our library also contains his account of some of the witch trials he attended as well as a defense of the guilty verdicts given to those accused. It appears in a book called Salem witchcraft: comprising More wonders of the invisible world, collected by Robert Calef; and Wonders of the invisible world, by Cotton Mather; together with notes and explanations edited by Samuel Fowler, a man who served as a member of the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention in 1853, as well as being known for his collection of books on witchcraft and American history which far surpasses our own modest assortment. The book juxtaposed Mather’s account with the first publication to ever publicly condemn the trials. Written by Robert Calef, the essay is in direct response to Mather’s and attacks both the injustice of the trials, and Mather’s own part in it.

Picture from the Fowlers’ ‘Salem Witchcraft.’ The caption reads “Soul killing witches that deform the body.”

Salem witchcraft is not the only book in our Special Collections on the topic of the Salem witch trials, and perhaps it is not unsurprising that this tragedy has captured the fascination of so many people for so long. As general opinion on witchcraft shifted, it seemed strange (macabre, even) that the contents of stories you read for thrills or give as Christmas gifts were once accusation enough to earn a death sentence. Regardless, the Special Collections witchcraft section represents the long standing fascination with witchcraft that has captured peoples’ imaginations for centuries, for better or for worse.

Prior, M. E. (1932). Joseph Glanvill, Witchcraft, and Seventeenth-Century Science. Modern Philology, 30(2), 167–193. http://www.jstor.org/stable/434078
Walker, R. (2001). Cotton Mather. Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project. http://salem.lib.virginia.edu/people/c_mather.html

The Archivist’s Nook: “God’s Litigator,” Disability Rights, and Religious Education Freedom

William Bentley Ball (1916-1999), subject of a previous blog post and whose papers reside at Catholic University, was a Pennsylvania based constitutional lawyer and devout Roman Catholic, dubbed “God’s Litigator” and “Religious Freedom Fighter” by the Catholic Press (1). Ball argued nine cases and advised on more than two dozen others, primarily related to religious freedom and the First Amendment, before the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). Ball was also an artist, poet, and author.

William Bentley Ball with his law books, n.d. William Bentley Ball Papers, Special Collections, Catholic University.

As a young man, Ball was a devout Catholic, anti-New Deal activist, and U.S. naval officer in World War II. After the war, he studied law at the University of Notre Dame, taught at Villanova, and served as general counsel for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference. His first case before SCOTUS was in 1967 when he entered a brief on behalf of U.S. Catholic bishops supporting the overturn of prohibits on interracial marriage in the celebrated Loving v. Virginia case. Ball achieved national attention with the 1972 Wisconsin v. Yoder case in which that state tried to force Amish children to attend high school when the latter’s belief system found that unnecessary. Ball represented the family in question, the Yoders, pro-bono, arguing before SCOTUS that this prevented defendants from performing their religious obligation, and the justices agreed 7-2.

Honorary Degree in Latin from Catholic University to William Bentley Ball, 1989. W. B. Ball Papers, Special Collections, Catholic University.

Ball’s other most famous case was in 1993 with Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School District in Arizona. James Zobrest (b. 1974) and his family were Pennsylvania transplants and Catholics who had moved to Arizona seeking the best possible education for the hearing impaired. Although many in the Deaf Community favor separate schooling, the Zobrests sought to mainstream their son, which required a daily on site sign language interpreter in the school to facilitate young James’ communication and learning. Public funding of these interpreters was not a problem so long as James attended public schools but when he transferred to a Catholic High School, Salpointe in Tuscon, said funding was denied by the Catalina Foothills School District,  believing that it was a violation of the First Amendment’s establishment clause, which generally prohibits the government from establishing, advancing, or giving favor to any religion. Arguing this was religious discrimination, the Zobrest family went to court.

Legal Brief, SCOTUS, Zobrest vs. Catalina Foothills School District, 1992. William Bentley Ball Papers, Special Collections, Catholic University.

The federal district court in Arizona held that furnishing a sign-language interpreter violated the First Amendment the interpreter would via sign language promote James’ religious doctrine at government expense. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision, stating that the interpreter would have been the instrumentality conveying the religious message with the local school board, in effect, sponsoring the religious school’s activities. The court admitted that denying the interpreter placed a burden on the parents’ right to free exercise of religion, but it was justified to ensure that the First Amendment was not violated. The Zobrests engaged the services of the progressive Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest. Their lawyer, Thomas Berning, teamed up with the Conservative Catholic litigator, Ball, the latter working again on a pro bono basis, to take the case to SCOTUS. Incidentally, Ball’s daughter had been young Jim Zobrest’s first sign language interpreter before the family had left Pennsylvania. In their landmark case, Ball and Berning were supported by the Department of Justice on the basis of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, the Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), Missouri Synod Lutherans, Southern Baptist Convention, National Council of Churches of Christ, and the National Association of Evangelicals. In opposition, were the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Jewish Committee, and the Anti-Defamation League (2).

On February 24, 1993, the case was held before the Supreme Court. Ball argued that the school district’s refusal was a violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, as well as the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.  Chief Justice William Rehnquist authored the majority’s 5-4 opinion, ruling that the service of a sign-language interpreter in was part of a government program distributing benefits neutrally to disabled children under the IDEA regardless of whether the school was public, private, or religious.  Rehnquist further held that the only economic benefit the religious school might have received would have been indirect and that aiding the student and his parents did not amount to a direct subsidy of the religious school because the student, not the school, was the primary beneficiary.  The Supreme Court thus ruled that there was no violation of the establishment clause, and the decision of the Ninth Circuit was reversed. Zobrest vs. Catalina is a significant case because it  marked a shift in the court toward interpreting the establishment clause to allow government-paid services for students who attend religiously affiliate nonpublic schools and was notably followed by Agostini v. Felton (1997), in which the court held that remedial services financed by federal funds under Title I could be provided in parochial schools.

The academic study and best account of the Zobrest case, The University of Illinois Press, 2020.

Although Jim had graduated before the SCOTUS decision the family was nevertheless compensated for the thousands of dollars a year they had scraped together for his sign interpreters. For Ball, this was perhaps his finest victory in the twilight of his notable career. The definitive account of this notable piece of legal history is Bruce J. Dierenfield and David A. Gerber. Disability Rights and Religious Liberty in Education: The Story Behind Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School District. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2020. Much of the source material is available in the aforementioned papers of William Bentley Ball at Catholic U. For access questions, please contact us at lib-archives@cu.edu.

Endnotes:

(1) Bruce J. Dierenfield and David A. Gerber. Disability Rights and Religious Liberty in Education: The Story Behind Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School District. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2020, p. 104.

(2) Ibid, pp. 131-132.

(3) Thanks to HK for her assistance.

The Archivist’s Nook: Towering over Campus – A Century of Student Journalism

Oct. 27, 1922 issue, The Tower – First issue!

On October 27, 1922, the first issue of the CatholicU student-run newspaper, The Tower, was published. A four-page issue, it introduced itself to the campus with a focus on local events and academic fare. Named after the turret-like tower of Gibbons Hall – the paper’s first editorial offices – it has continuously operated for the past century, documenting campus life, debates, and changes. In a new exhibit, Special Collections is highlighting some of the ways The Tower has documented the history and culture of Catholic University. This exhibit can be seen in person in Mullen Library during the fall semester 2022 and viewed online here.

With 100 years and 129 editors-in-chief (1), The Tower has gone through as many changes as the campus has experienced. It has altered its masthead dozens of times, changed its formatting and size, and even shifted to an online version in the past few years. But its dedication to documenting the thoughts and lives of Cardinals has remained unaltered.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Far be it from this humble archivist to pontificate on the merits of student journalism, but I feel qualified to discuss the important role that campus newspapers like The Tower play in preserving and telling the history of the University and its inhabitants.

The Tower remains one of the key resources for studying the history and culture of the Catholic University campus, particularly the undergraduate experience on campus. With most of the student population changing approximately every four years, it is often difficult to document the lives of the ever-changing residents on campus. Student organizations rise and fall, issues of concern are debated and settled, and students matriculate and soon graduate. While our staff works to archive as much as possible, we cannot capture the full range of the ever-evolving student experience.

Having a weekly newspaper, written and edited by undergraduate students, is thus a rich source of information related to the culture of the campus. It provides ample documentation and reporting on social events, campus gossip, ongoing debates (both on- and off-campus), moments of change, and numerous stories that may otherwise be lost to history.

April 5, 2013, The Towel: The Tower isn’t always all business! The April Fool’s issue of the Tower reveals a humorous take on campus culture.

For example, several of our posts on this very blog have often relied heavily on The Tower’s past reporting. This includes stories on how the infamous 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast was received on campus, spooky traditions involving ghost cars and coffin parades, the student response to the U.S. entry into World War II, an occupation of Mullen Library, the 2001 Cardinals-Globetrotters matchup, a dress coming to Drama, and even an otherwise-lost tale about a young senator visiting campus to give a talk. Not to mention a blog dedicated to the history of The Tower itself!

Our reference staff frequently uses the bound Tower collection and digitized collection to address inquiries about campus history, and we have even found amazing photos for social media or to share photos and stories with alumni.

April 24, 1998 The Tower, editorial cartoon: A shout out that may be appreciated by generations of Tower staff.

While there are innumerable examples to share about The Tower, we encourage you to explore the online exhibit to see more such examples. You may also browse the digital Tower collection online here: https://cuislandora.wrlc.org/islandora/object/cuislandora%3A67501

And don’t forget to support the ongoing editorial staff and their work by visiting The Tower’s current site: ​​http://cuatower.com/

 

(1) An earlier version of this blog referred to the “editors-in-chief” as “editors-at-large”. Special thanks to John Koppisch, ’78 (editor-in-chief of The Tower, 1977) for pointing out this error.