OLL Blog – Farewell to a Friend of Books

Manoel de Oliveira Lima offered to bequeath his library to Catholic University in a letter to the University's Rector in 1916
Letter from Manoel de Oliveira Lima to Bishop Thomas J. Shahan, Rio de Janeiro, 10/12/1916. American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, The Catholic University of America.

Today marks the 92nd anniversary of the passing of Manoel de Oliveira Lima. The Brazilian diplomat and world renowned scholar had moved permanently to the United States with his wife Flora de Oliveira Lima to fulfill a dream. They arrived in 1921, settling in the nation’s capital with one main goal in mind : organizing his colossal personal library of approximately 40.000 volumes at the Catholic University of America (CUA). The donation of this treasure trove of books, manuscripts, maps, photographs, works of art and memorabilia was formalized in 1916 in a letter sent to University’s rector Bishop Thomas J. Shahan. The Board of Trustees promptly accepted the donation and agreed to the conditions imposed: Dr. Lima himself would be the librarian in charge, the collection should bear his name, and it was never to be dispersed or incorporated in the university’s general library. 

Ever since his retirement from the diplomatic service in 1913, Dr. Lima was planning to devote the rest of his life to become a full time scholar. He had travelled extensively, lecturing in the United States in 1912 after teaching a course in Stanford. In the fall of 1915, he had the honor to be invited by Harvard University to be the first occupant of the newly created Chair of Latin American History and Economy, which he accepted. Returning to Brazil in 1916, the Oliveira Limas had to patiently wait for safer travel conditions and ended up staying in their hometown of Recife in Brazil during World War I. 

Our Professorial Corner, The Harvard Illustrated Magazine. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Illustrated, v.17 (1915-1916), p. 87.

Boxes filled with books were shipped  straight to the CUA campus not only from Brazil but also from London and Brussels, the last locations of the diplomatic residencies in Europe. The organization of the library took longer than Dr. Lima and his wife expected. The extenuating work took a toll on his already fragile health and they went for a health-related trip to Europe in 1923. A tireless scholar, Lima found time to give a series of lectures to inaugurate the Chair of Brazilian Studies at the University of Lisbon before heading to Karlsbad, a famous spa town. The time spent in Lisbon, where he grew up and was educated, and the treatments at the sanatorium were reinvigorating, but more work awaited him back home. 

J. De Siqueira Coutinho, Manoel de Oliveira Lima, Bishop Thomas J. Shahan, Fr Bernard A. McKenna, Ruth Holmes at the Oliveira Lima Library on the 3rd floor of McMahon Hall. The Oliveira Lima Library, The Catholic University of America.

Upon his return, Dr. Lima was appointed Associate Professor of International Law in the School of Canon Law at Catholic University. He took great pleasure in lecturing and advising students while simultaneously focusing on the organizational work of the library, however his health continued to deteriorate. With the support of his wife and the librarian Ruth Holmes, he finally opened the Oliveira Lima Library to the public in 1924. The custom-made wooden shelves occupied rooms on the third floor of McMahon Hall while construction of Mullen Library was on the way. 

Unfortunately, Dr. Lima did not live to see his library installed in the space he had selected in the new building. On March 24, 1928, the founder of the Oliveira Lima Library passed away in his home in Washington DC. Bishop Shahan celebrated the Requiem mass at the Shrine, during which he described the late Professor as ”one of the foremost men of letters of the time”  and a “pioneer in the work of establishing Pan American amity and universal peace”.  (The Tower, Wednesday, March 28, 1928, p. 1 ).

Manoel de Oliveira Lima was buried at the Mount Olivet Cemetery in Washington DC. Per his instructions, his epitaph in Portuguese says only “Aqui jaz um amigo dos livros” (“Here Lies a Friend of Books” in English). 

Mount Olivet Cemetery, Washington D.C.

The Archivist’s Nook: Special Collections – Your Virtual Classroom

Digital copies of textbooks from our Commission on American Citizenship can be found via our digital collections page. The Commission created civics textbooks used in most parochial schools in the United States, 1943-1970s.

Special Collections has thousands of free online digital objects for use in your virtual classrooms.

Our digital materials are organized by type:

  1. Digital Collections. A digital collection is a set of digital objects with minimal supporting information. These are either entire collections, or parts of collections that have been digitized and posted on our site with basic descriptive information such as collection description, title, date, and subject of object. We have 39 collections online, with materials ranging from Catholic University’s yearbook, The Cardinal, to The Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact Catholic comic book.

    John F. Kennedy tours the North American College in Rome with Archbishop Martin J. O’Connor, Summer 1963. Kennedy met the newly elected Pope Paul VI during the same trip. From the Remembering President John F. Kennedy digital exhibit.
  2. Digital Exhibits. Digital Exhibits are selections of digitized materials curated by Archives staff. Our trained staff, in addition to guests from various University departments, have curated several online digital exhibits for public use. These range from historical tours of the University campus to selections from our collections related to Irish nationalism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
  1. Digital Classroom. The American Catholic History Classroom is a continuously-updated primary document site featuring a range of materials related to the American Catholic experience. The sites also feature contextualizing materials and educational resources created by historians. Topics range from the immigration and the Catholic Church to Catholics and Politics in the 1930s.

    Image from a Book of Hours from the Rare Books Collection. This Book of Hours dates from the fourteenth century, likely France. It was gifted by Msgr. Arthur Connolly in 1919. Interestingly enough, the front and rear pastedowns are fragments of a ninth- or tenth-century manuscript.
In 1964 the Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact ran a series of panels on an African American candidate for president achieving the nomination by a major U.S. Party, as the final panel pictured here shows. You can read more about it in the Pettigrew for President classroom site.
  1. Rare Books. The holdings of the Rare Books Collection, some 70,000 volumes, range from medieval documents to first editions of twentieth-century books. We certainly don’t have all of these materials digitized, but you can find some of the rare books collection online.

 

  1. The Archivist’s Nook. Finally, Archives staff and guests publish timely and interesting blogposts related to Special Collections materials. Topics covered include everything from weird University happenings to short overviews of some of the interesting characters populating our collections.
History graduate student Mikkaela Bailey guest blogged on her experiences curating catechisms from our Rare Books Collection with her public history class last semester in this edition of “The Archivist’s Nook.”

Special Collections also has a limited capacity to digitize on demand, and we may have digitized materials available, though not yet online. Please contact Maria Mazzenga, mazzenga@cua.edu, if you have a request for a specific set of digital materials for use in your classes. Special collections staff are available for virtual assistance, just email us at lib-rarebooks@cua.edu with your requests.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Archivist’s Nook: George Washington Sleeps Here – Special Collections of Catholic University

A page from the 1790 exchange in print between American Catholics and President George Washington. Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

While not a Roman Catholic, George Washington (1732-1799), renowned military leader of the American Revolution and groundbreaking first President of the United States, instead was a moderate Anglican in faith. However, throughout his life he socialized with many Catholics, ranging from the prominent Carroll family of Maryland to his many French and Polish born army officers, such as the Marquis de Lafayette and Kosciuszko. Washington also once attended a Catholic mass in Philadelphia and contributed funds towards the construction of a Catholic church in Baltimore. As Commander-in-Chief, he diplomatically banned the raucous anti-Catholic Guy Fawkes celebration in November of 1775.[1] Washington subsequently evolved into a mythic ‘Father of His Country,’ with Americans of every stripe honoring his memory and collecting relevant documents, art, and other memorabilia. American Catholics have certainly been part of this process. The President’s Day national holiday is a fitting time to take a look at the many Washington related collectable items housed in the Special Collections of The Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, D.C.

Copy of the Landsdown Portrait of Washington that was on display for several decades in Mullen Library. It is now in storage pending restorative work. Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

The Rare Books Department of Special Collections includes two notable Washington items. The first is a 1790 exchange of addresses with American Catholics, bound together with an 1857 edition. John Carroll of Maryland was selected as the first Roman Catholic bishop in the United States in 1789, the same year Washington became the nation’s first President. As one of his first official acts as bishop, Carroll wrote an address in March of 1790 on behalf of American Catholics congratulating the President on his office and complimenting him on his “respect for religion” and “unwearied attention to the moral and physical improvement of our country.”  In reply, he assured Catholics they were “equally entitled to the protection of civil Government” as well as thanking them for their Revolutionary War service. The second is a 1921 pamphlet titled George Washington and the Constitution of the United States authored by James Gibbons, Cardinal Archbishop of Baltimore and a founder of Catholic University. In it Gibbons extolled the virtues of The Constitution “as the greatest instrument of government that ever passed” and argued that by securing its adoption Washington “made all mankind his debtor forever.”

A piece of Cambridge Elm Tree associated with Washington, currently on display in the Aquinas Hall, Room 101, Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

The University Museum also has two interesting Washington related items. The first, originally thought to be the famous 1796 Landsdown Portrait by Gilbert Stuart or a Stuart sanctioned copyist, now appears to be one of possibly four or five apparently rogue copies by English born American landscape artist William Winstanley. After being on display in The Catholic Club of New York, it was donated to Catholic University ca. 1940 by Cardinal Francis Spellman. The second, is an alleged piece of the elm tree in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where, according to local legend, Washington assumed command of the Continental Army on July 3, 1775, during the Siege of Boston against the British. Sadly, the tree was chopped down in 1923.  However, a thousand pieces were salvaged as relics and distributed to interested parties. Father John J. Ryan gifted a piece to Catholic University in 1924, with an attending plaque stating it was “Presented by the city of Cambridge.”

National Catholic Celebration of the George Washington Bicentennial, May 28, 1932, at Catholic University. Special Collections.

The records of both the University Archives and The American Catholic History Research Center contain materials documenting the participation of Catholics in the bicentennial celebration of Washington’s birth. The George Washington Bicentennial Commission, established in 1924 by a joint resolution of the Congress of the United States and signed by President Calvin Coolidge, sponsored a series of nationwide celebrations in 1932 to the 200th anniversary. The Commission presented Washington on national, state, and local levels as farmer, soldier, and statesman rather than the largely fictitious caricature of popular culture. The National Catholic celebration was held on Memorial Day, 28 May 1932, at Catholic University, with nearly 60,000 people attending. A military field mass conducted in the Stadium as the service was broadcast from coast to coast on radio.[2] Finally, the Archives’ popular Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact comic book collection, widely distributed in Catholic parochial schools, includes their colorful take on the familiar story of the eventful life of the young Washington published in a 1947 issue.[3]

‘Young George Washington,’ Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact, vol. 2, n. 13, February 18, 1947. Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

For more on Catholics and the American Revolution see also the July 3, 2016 Catholic News Service story.

[1] https://www.catholicstand.com/george-washington-catholics/

[2]George Washington Bicentennial Observance Collection Inventory, Catholic University.

[3]Thanks to TSK and MM.

The Archivist’s Nook: Curating the Catechism

This week’s post is guest-authored by Mikkaela Bailey is a PhD student at CUA studying medieval history with special interests in women’s history, public history, and digital humanities. You can find her on Twitter: @mikkaela_bailey

Curation is a long, detailed conversation between individuals, offices, texts, and objects, as students from Catholic University’s History and Public Life class learned this semester.

It’s easy to evaluate an exhibit and poke holes in the choices made by its organizers. It’s far more difficult than I imagined to craft an exhibit.

With most of the logistics arranged long in advance by our professor for the class History and Public Life, Dr. Maria Mazzenga, our job as a class was focused on assembling and advertising the physical exhibit itself.

The first thing we had to do was break up the objects into thematic categories so we could decide what should be included in our display. Then, we had to plan how to best demonstrate the common themes between them and also establish continuity in the display. After that, we had to craft captions and marketing materials that communicated why our visitors should care about our work and choose to come see it.

We used minimal materials to set up the exhibit. Aside from the items featured, we added captions and some text as well as stands for the books and weights to keep the books open for display.

One of the ideas about organizing the books rested on the idea that the Eucharist is a central and essential element of the catechism and one’s first Communion is an important life event. Since our audience is likely to be heavily Catholic, there is resonance with their own experiences in the exhibit here. This thematic approach connected well with the objects in the exhibit, and inspiration flowed from that idea as we assembled catechisms aimed at children and teens in the same display case. One thematic element of change over time was the implementation of more children’s catechetical education as the age for first Communion shifted from around 13 to around 7 years of age.

The caption writing process was difficult, and you can see unique touches from the students who collaborated on them. We divided them between ourselves, working in groups of two or three to write them.

But, there were still two more cases to fill and many more objects to consider. In the first case, which we actually finished last, we installed the oldest books, including a Latin catechism from 1566. These 16th and 18th century books were connected by the vernacular languages in which they were printed. Printing educational materials in the vernacular was a very important emphasis of the Tridentine Catechisms, so grouping these non-English catechisms gave emphasis to the importance of the catechism worldwide, outside our own framework, and outside the Latin-based world of the church.

The central case features several interesting pieces, but it also provides context for the cases flanking it. This is where we chose to place the bulk of our textual engagement through questions we are asking the audience and a QR code linked to the digital exhibit.

A sneak peek at the finished display cases that will be on exhibit for the next few weeks!

At the end of this process, I am so thankful for teammates who were engaged from the beginning and expressed great passion for this project. I shudder to think of undertaking something like this alone! In fact, looking at the finished product, I feel as though no idea I had for the display was totally my own and I think almost every decision made was by committee. From the marketing materials to the captions and display case arrangements, this exhibit was completely collaborative and has benefitted from open communication and easy acceptance of constructive criticism. In public history, I think all of these qualities are essential for a successful, cohesive exhibit. This experience has been the highlight of my first semester as a PhD student at CUA!

This is an “insider’s perspective” of what it was like to arrange the items in the case while my co-curators directed me from outside the case. We had a challenging time arranging many of the items and it took a lot of collaboration to put it together.

The Archivist’s Nook: A Paradox of Uniformity – Catechisms in Rare Books and Special Collections

The Rare Books Collection at The Catholic University of America contains many treasures among its 70,000 volumes, ranging from medieval documents to first editions of twentieth century authors. Among these are nearly 300 Catholic catechetical texts: written works containing summaries of the beliefs of the Catholic faith compiled as teaching tools.

“A Catechism for Pastors by Decree of the Council of Trent in 1566,” also known as “The Catechism of the Council of Trent,” or the “Tridentine Catechism,” was first published in 1566. This is Rare Books and Special Collections’ oldest catechism.

In one sense, these texts, which span from 1566 to the 1980s, are remarkably similar. The Catholic catechism has contained the same several parts for nearly 500 years: The Apostles Creed, The Lord’s Prayer, discussion of the seven sacraments (Baptism, Reconciliation, the Eucharist, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders, Extreme Unction), and the Lord’s Prayer. But there were slight tweaks to the catechism over time. For example, as Berard Marthaler points outs, a “medieval fascination with numbers” caused theologian Hugh St. Victor to organize doctrine into units of seven as a mnemonic device. Hence, catechetical teaching of the time featured doctrine organized into units of seven: the seven capital sins, seven petitions to in the Lord’s Prayer, seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, seven Beatitudes, and seven virtues.[1]

“Catholic Anecdotes; or, the Catechism in Examples” (New York: 1873) by Mrs. J. Sadlier, also known as Mary Anne Sadlier. Two of the Sadlier family, Denis and James, migrated to the U.S. from Ireland in the 1830s and began publishing Catholic inspirational works. Mary Anne, (also an Irish Immigrant) and James married, and Mary Anne went on to publish more than 60 works related to Catholic devotional life. This volume is comprised of various stories underscoring devotion to Catholicism, but it also contains catechetical material, and is an example of how the basic teachings were sometimes merged with supporting texts.

By the Tridentine Era, so called for the Council of Trent that took place 1545-1563, a basic formula for the catechism was issued by the Council. This was partly due to the rise of Protestantism in Europe in the sixteenth century, but also due to a desire to teach the fundamentals of the faith on a regular basis using a uniform text. The Tridentine Catechism issued by the Council of Trent in 1566 contained the basics of the modern catechism: Apostles Creed, seven sacraments, Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer.

 

 

 

 

 

This “Illustrated Catechism” published by the Confraternity of the Christian Doctrine in 1944 aimed at educating younger children in Catholic teaching.

The uniform content of most of the catechisms produced after 1566, however, did not mean they would all look exactly the same. Coinciding with the rise of the printing press in Europe, the catechism could be reproduced in multiple languages, and with a variety of designs.

By the twentieth century, Pius X (Pope from 1903-1914) turned his attention to improving catechetical instruction once again, and emphasized greater uniformity in such instruction, and instruction in the sacraments at younger ages. Certainly, this would be more feasible as literacy spread throughout the Christian world, and as small, portable catechisms became easier to produce. The catechisms, uniform as they are in general content, reflect the cultures and trends from which they emerged.

This image from The Visualized Catechism published by the Trinity Guild in 1947 uses a more unusual style of graphic illustration—stick people—but again, it covers the same basic material.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The catechisms can be viewed by appointment; email: lib-rarebooks@cua.edu or call 202-319-5065.

 

 

 

[1] Berard Marthaler, Catechesis: “A Semantic Evolution”? Liturgical Ministry 18 (Winter 2009), 1-10, 4.

The Archivist’s Nook: Protecting the Faithful – Knights of Malta at Catholic University

Popular image of the Knights Hospitallers as valiant warriors, courtesy of YouTube, 2019.

The Knights of Malta were among the earliest military or chivalric orders, founded as the Knights Hospitallers[1] in Jerusalem in the 11th century to care for and protect pilgrims in the Christian Holy Land. After the fall of the Crusader States in 1291, the Knights were in Cyprus, then on the Isle of Rhodes, which they stubbornly defended until ejected by the Turks in 1522.  Strategically located near Sicily, the island of Malta was given in 1530 to the Knights by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. They were based there until driven out by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1798.  The British expelled the French and ruled Malta until granting independence in 1964. The Knights were fragmented after the French expulsion with a complicated constitutional history. Centered in Rome in the twenty-first century they are widely recognized as a sovereign entity in international law, maintaining diplomatic relations with over 100 countries and with a permanent observer mission at the United Nations. The Order has over 13,000 members and employs over 40,000 medical personnel assisted by over 80,000 volunteers worldwide, regardless of distinction, to assist sick, homeless, and otherwise distressed persons.

Goussancourt, Mathieu de. Le martyrologe des Chevaliers de S. lean de Hiervsalem, dits de Malte. Contenant levrs eloges, armes, blasons, preuves de chevalerie,and descente genealogique de la pluspart des maisons illustres de l 1Europe. Avec la svitte des grands-maistres, cardinaux •••Et le catalogue de toutes les commanderies du mesme Ordre ••• Paris, Simeon Piget, 1654. A book devoted to fallen Knights. Catholic University Malta Collection.

Foster W. Stearns (1881-1956) was a native of Massachusetts and graduate of Amherst College, Harvard University, and Boston College. He was a librarian at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and State Librarian for Massachusetts prior to military service in World War I. Thereafter, he worked for the U.S. State Department until 1924 when he returned to librarianship at Holy Cross College, Worcester, Massachusetts. He served as a Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1939-1944, was also a Privy Chamberlain of Sword and Cape to Pope Pius XI, and a Knight of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. His collection, donated to Catholic University in 1955, covers over 800 years of history from the founding of the Order in Jerusalem in the 12th century, containing two hundred eighty one items described in a 1955 catalog by Rev. Oliver Kapsner, O.S.B.[2] Materials include Order statues and early papal privileges, member lists, chronologies, and histories of the Order as well as of Rhodes and Malta. As an addendum to the Stearns Collection, Catholic University added nearly one hundred additional items, such as maps and periodicals, via gift and purchase.

The Carol Saliba Family Collection was gifted to CUA in 1999 by Dr. N. Alex Saliba of Louisville, Kentucky, a retired physician born in Malta. He inherited this collection of letters and documents from his father, Carol, a longtime Commander of the St. John Ambulance Brigade of Malta (an English branch of the Order). The Saliba Collection consists of one hundred forty two manuscripts, including autograph[3] letters and documents, both originals and copies, primarily from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. The material has a focus on the Order’s internal affairs as well as their involvement in European politics, especially the Napoleonic era when they lost Malta and were unable to elect a Grand Master. Included are Maltese stamps and coins, memorabilia of Carol’s service in the Ambulance Brigade, and a seventeenth century water color of the flag and coat of arms of the Order.

Re-engraving of the map originally published by Nicolás de Fer;  printed post 1732, when Mattaeus Seutter became imperial geographer under Emperor Charles VI. Catholic University Malta Collection.

Most of the Foster Stearns collection is cataloged and both collections were the focus of the 2015-2016 collaborative digitization project with the Malta Study Center at the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. Access to original Malta and Order materials at The Catholic University of America is by appointment only, please contact lib-rarebooks@cua.edu. For more on CUA Rare Books in general please see the earlier blog post by my colleague, Shane MacDonald.

[1] Officially the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta (Latin: Supremus Militaris Ordo Hospitalarius Sancti Ioannis Hierosolymitani Rhodiensis et Melitensis), commonly known as the Order of Malta.

[2] Oliver L. Kapsner, O.S.B. A Catalog of the Foster Streans Collection on the Sovereign Military Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Called, of Malta. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Library, 1955.

[3] In this case, meaning original, handwritten documents.

 

New appointments in Special Collections

The University Libraries is pleased to announce new appointments in our Special Collections. John Shepherd has been named as the new University Archivist and Head of Special Collections at the Catholic University of America. Dr. Maria Mazzenga has been named as the new Curator for the American Catholic History Research Center at the Catholic University of America. Shane MacDonald will also officially take on expanded responsibilities as our Special Collections Archivist.

Mr. Shepherd earned his MA in History in 1986 from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He has been employed at Catholic University since 1989, most recently serving as the Associate Archivist since 2002 and Acting University Archivist since April 2018. He is the creator, editor, and a principal writer for the blog, The Archivist’s Nook. He has served as a panel grant reviewer for The National Endowment for the Humanities. He has contributed to numerous books and authored many articles on military, Mid-Atlantic, and U.S. Catholic histories.

Dr. Mazzenga has served as Education Archivist at Catholic University since 2005. She has taught in the Departments of History and of Library and Information Science. She received her Ph.D. in U.S. History from Catholic University in 2000 and has presented and published in the field of American Catholic history and Archival Education and Outreach for more than a decade.

The Special Collections unit of the University Libraries oversees: the University Archives, the American Catholic History Research Center, the Museum collection, and the Rare Books collections. The mission of Special Collections is to collect, organize, preserve, make accessible, and promote scholarly and public understanding of the records of The Catholic University of America and the unique books and materials which document our Catholic intellectual and cultural heritage.

The Archivist’s Nook: Introducing Students to Rare Books

Stacks of the Clementine Library. I would best describe its scent as warm and toasty.

Think back to the last book you read. How old was it? Were the pages brittle or waxy, thick or thin? How did the cover and pages feel in your hands? Was there a smell to the book – freshly printed or a musty odor? Did the book catch the eye with its cover, type, or images? Did it make a sound when opened – a crisp snap of a never-before-opened spine or the dull groan of well-worn binding? Was picking up this book an experience of all the senses?

While we certainly do not taste our books, there is no way to avoid having an otherwise full sensory experience when entering Rare Books and Special Collections. Contained within its stacks are 70,000 volumes, spanning 10 centuries. The collection includes a wide range of materials from medieval legal texts and early modern musical pieces to twentieth century textbooks and first edition novels. The aroma and sights immediately catch one’s attention, and the feel and sound of each book as you open it offers a reminder of its age.

This past academic year, the Archives staff has been assisting in Rare Books. In addition to answering reference questions and exploring the materials contained within its stacks, we have hosted three classes in the space. Each class came from a distinct program and reviewed different materials with varying learning goals in mind. Much as we are whenever a class comes to handle archival documents for the first time, we were excited to provide the students with their potential first experience of accessing rare books.

Tafsīr wāsiʻ ʻalá al-taʻlīm al-Masīhī (Translation of a Catechism for Confession and Communion), 1770.

In the fall, we hosted students from the School of Theology and Religious Studies as part of a “History and Theory of Catechetics” course. During their visit, the students were able to work with dozens of catechisms spanning several continents, numerous languages, and six centuries. Tapping into the collections of sixteenth-century folios and assorted Catholic theological and lay devotional publications, we were able to create an evolutionary display of catechisms from the fifteenth century to the present. Among the highlights were an Arabic catechism from 1770, a Navajo catechism from 1937, and a series of pocket catechisms from the nineteenth century. Supplementing this collection with materials from the Archives, we were able to bring the students from the Council of Trent to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

As the new semester began in the cold of January, our staff prepared to host another visiting class, this time from the School of Philosophy. Entitled “Before Printing: The Establishment and Transmission of Ancient and Medieval Texts,” the course’s professor wished to expose her students to the physicality of the manuscripts they would study over the coming months. From our medieval manuscript and incunabula collections, we provided several Thomistic philosophical and theological treatises. Through a partnership with the Semitics/ICOR Library, the class was also able to review Arabic philosophical texts. While the students would primarily continue to work with facsimiles and digital copies of manuscripts this semester, having that initial opportunity for a full sensory experience is key to both contextualizing the sources and eliciting excitement.

Lectionarium, ca. 1200 (MS 158). Some of the volumes have intricate bindings and clasps, added by much later owners. This particular binding is seen in numerous manuscripts in our collections.

My own first exposure to manuscripts was in Rare Books at Catholic University. Working with a medieval copy of Gratian’s Decretum as part of a class project helped me appreciate the beauty and wonder of these texts, and solidified my excitement for curation and historical research. I would never have guessed I would be helping provide access to these same materials years later!

Finally, our most recent academic visitors came as part of a Greek and Latin course, “Latin Paleography.” In addition to two codicology workshops held in Rare Books, the students will each work closely with a medieval manuscript in our collections to create a catalog entry. The manuscripts held by the University are thus providing valuable tools for the students to better understand the materiality and scribal norms of the medieval written word.

In addition to its strengths in Catholic history, Rare Books contains several unique collections, including a Malta collection, the Clementine Library, the Connolly Irish Collection, the Richard N. Foley Modern English Collection, its American Catholic Pamphlets and Parish Histories Collection, and much more.

Book of Hours, ca. 1460 (MS. 136b)

Fundamentally, the collection’s value to the Catholic University community and broader scholarly world lies in its ability to provide students and scholars with opportunities to connect with the history of the written word as well as the contexts and ideas provided by each text. Plus, as the class visits illustrate, it is a wonderful source of collaboration for its sister special collections on campus!

For more information on Rare Books, see: https://libraries.catholic.edu/special-collections/rare-books/index.html

Questions may be addressed to: lib-rarebooks@cua.edu

Unigenitus cataloging project update

Three hundred early eighteenth-century French and Latin titles from the Albani collection, many of them the only exemplars in the United States, are now cataloged and available to researchers in Rare Books and Special Collections (214 Mullen). A sampling of their content may be found at the RBSC blog:   http://ascendonica.blogspot.com/

BOOK SALE 26-28 October

The annual Friends of Rare Books benefit sale, open to the public, will be held in Mullen Library,  Room 214.

Hours are:

Friday 26 Oct. 12 noon to 6 PM

Saturday 27 Oct. 9 AM to 5 PM

Sunday 28 Oct 12 noon to 5 PM

Books include art, literature, philosophy, classics, biography, medieval studies and more. Prices are 50 cents per volume and up.  Sunday’s sale: buy 2 get one free.