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. 

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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

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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.

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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.

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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: 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: 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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: Adeptio-Rare Book Acquisitions, 2021-2022

Special Collections, including the Rare Books Department, like the rest of the world, is continuing to emerge from the shadow of the COVID Pandemic. We continue to purchase new books and related materials, which we reported on in our November 2020 and November 2021 blog posts, and are pleased to announce further acquisitions during the 2021-2022 fiscal year from reputable dealers in order to further enhance our collections. This was a banner year, with eight purchased Rare Book acquisitions, four of which are featured below. The others are listed in the footnotes and more information is available upon request.

[Reverendissimo patri domino] Hipolito Aldobrandino Mantuanorum feudorum Processus de partibus vigore compulsorialium generalium factus pro partas perillustris et reverendissimi Claudii et eius consortium de Gonzaga per compulsiv… Die30martii 1583…SpecialCollection,The Catholic University of America.
The first item is a Sixteenth century Italian manuscript, 11 x 8 inches, regarding a dispute between the Gonzaga family of Mantua and the Vatican represented by its auditor, Ippolito Aldobrandini (1536-1605), later Pope Clement VIII (1592-1605). The manuscript is a notarial deed concerning the February 4, 1583 trial held in Mantua in the San Pietro Cathedral.  It is a certified copy written in the Bishop’s Mantua palace on March 16, 1583 and given to Aldobrandini, who was representing the Holy See appearing in this trial as the judge commissioner. The trial, initiated at the request of Claudio Gonzaga, Abbott of the Benedictine Church of Santa Maria di Felonica in Mantua, addressed the validity of feudal rights claims by Felonica concerning properties used by the church. The manuscript has 90 leaves, or 180 written pages, with contemporary inscriptions on front cover and many pages with a notary stamp. This was purchased in June 2021 from Portuguese dealer Sandra Antunes, who in turn obtained it from Sotheby’s of Italy, in 2005.[i] Incidentally, it is often claimed that the spread of Coffee’s popularity is due to Pope Clement VIII’s influence. Supposedly responding to criticism of the beverage as ‘Satan’s drink,’ he tasted it, declaring it would be a pity to permit infidels to have exclusive use of it, so he blessed the bean, arguing it was better for people than alcohol.

Fifteen (15) items in one volume, 1682-1709. Bound in contemporary sheep with gilt title on spine (“Paneg[yrique]. Jans[eniste]. [et] Div[erse]. Autre Ecrits”. Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.
The second purchase is a remarkable Sammelband, 7.6 x 6 inches, of fifteen Jansenist tracts, 1682 to 1709, in contemporary binding titled “Paneg[yrique]. Jans[eniste]. [et] Div[erse]. Autre Ecrits”.  Several of the items are not recorded in any American institutional library. The rarity of these tracts may be due to their heterodox nature as at least seven were added to the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (Books prohibited to Catholics) soon after publication. Many were written anonymously by Gilles de Witte (1648-1721) who followed Jansenist ideas of reading the Bible in the vernacular. He had already attracted the attention of the authorities by publishing a Dutch translation of the New Testament in 1696. He also wrote approvingly of Cornelius Jansenius with a biography of the Bishop of Ypres and an overview of the Jansenist conflict, affirming that many Jesuits has similar views and had not been condemned.[2] This was obtained in September 2021 from David Rueger of InLibris.

The Church Affirms its Stance on Abortion – Printed in Mexico Rodríguez, Mathías (active 17th c.); Innocent XI, Pope (reg. 1676-1689), 1684.

The third accession was a book printed in Mexico, then a province of Spain, by Por Dioego Fernandez de Leon in 1684, titled: Explicacion de las sesenta, y cinco proposiciones prohibidas por la santidad de N.M.S.P. Innocencio XI. mandadas publicar por el Excellentissimo Señor Don Diego Sarmiento de Valladares, obispo inquisidor general: y publicadas por el Santo Tribunal de la Inquisicion de esta Nueva España en siete de abril de mil seiscientos, y ochenta. Author el padre fr. Mathias Rodriguez, predicador, y confessor, de la Santa Provincia de San Diego de religiosos descalços de N.P.S. Francisco de esta Nueva España ; dedicada al Capitan Don Francisco de Alarcon, y Espinosa alcalde ordinario, que fue de la ciudad de la Puebla de los Angeles, su regidor, y thesorero general de la Santa Cruzada.  This is a first edition, 7.5 x 6 inches, with an armorial woodcut on the second leaf, bound in contemporary vellum with remnants of the original ties. The text was written by Fransican friar Mathias Rodriguez of San Diego, New Spain, examining a papal bull condemning sixty-five supposed heretical propositions or ‘laxism’ by Jesuits relating to fornication, gluttony, robbery, and usury. This includes the original Latin of the bull, the Spanish text of the heresies, and Rodriquez’s commentary. In order to expand their ministry, many Jesuits adopted a less stringent approach to theology (‘probabilism’), resulting in Pope Innocent XI’s condemnation in 1679 reasserting Conservative ‘rigorism.’[3] Among the condemned propositions in this book are two related to abortion. Obtained in January 2022 from Liber Antiquus.

Salesman’s Sample Book, Saint Etienne, les Succs de Bochard. Ca. 1935.

The fourth acquisition is a salesman’s sample book of sacramental textiles from the French firm of G. Bochard, which operated in St. Etienne from the late nineteenth century until the mid-twentieth century. The company focused primarily on embroidered silks, not only for vestments, but also table cloths, banners, and book braids. Examples in this volume include swatches of numerous priestly vestments, including cincture, maniple, stole, chasuble, cape, dalmatic, surplice, and cotta represented in vivid woven silks as well as embroidered and tapestry fabrics, many with stock notes, and other related marginalia in French. This burgundy board scrapbook, ca. 1935, has a string tied with matching silk braid, approximately 10.5 by 8 inches, containing 16 card stock leaves mounted recto and verso with 92 original silk sample swatches. There are also three black and white mounted photo illustrations of finished patterns.[4]  This was purchased in March 2022 from Type Punch Matrix.

In addition, there were four other purchased acquisitions, listed below. These new arrivals are a further enhancement to the diverse Rare Books Department of Special Collections at Catholic University. They are already making an impact via perusal by patrons and instructional purposes for various university classes. If you are a faculty, student, or alumni with interest and expertise in rare books and have acquisition suggests, please contact us. We can not make any promises but will seriously consider any proposals.

[1] Sandra Antunes, R. Dr. Augusto Jose da Cunha 9 Menos-2C,1495-240 Alges, Portugal.

[2] David Rueger, Inlibris LLC, 245 9th Ave, #166, New York, NY 10011.

[3] Paul Dowling, Liber Antiquus, 7306 Brennan Lane, Chevy Chase, MD, 20810.

[4] Type Punch Matrix, 1111 E. West Hwy, Suite 300, Silver Spring, MD, 20910.

[5] Small format Prayer Booklet to the Holy Family, partially titled, ‘Tierna, Y Dulce Memoria…’ printed in Puebla by Manuela de la Ascension Cerezo, 1753, purchased in June 2021 from W. S. Cotter Rare Books, 4615 Cedar Point Drive, Auston, TX, 78723.

[6] Broadside by Adolph Sutro, titled ‘Sutro and the A.P.A.’, printed in San Francisco, 1894, regarding the anti-Catholic American Protective Association, obtained in June 2021 from David Lesser, Fine Antiquarian Books, One Bradley Road, Woodbridge, CT, 06525.

[7] Two catechisms in English and Odjibwe, titled ‘Katolik Anamie…’ 1880, and ‘A Baltimore Short English-Odjibwe Catechism..’ 1896, bought in February 2022 from William Reese Company, 409 Temple Street, New Haven, CT, 06511.

[8] Collection of Sixteen Anti-Catholic Pamphlets from the Rail Splitter Press, ca. 1920-1935, acquired in April 2022 from Walkabout Books, P.O. Box 22, Curtis, WA, 98538.

The Archivist’s Nook: Rare but Numerous – ‘Imitation of Christ’ in Rare Books

Thomas à Kempis, De Imitatione Christi, Leiden, 1658

“Why do you need so many copies of the same work in your collection?” Such a question can be easily asked by any patron after finding in the library catalog that Rare Books houses 36 cataloged copies of The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. It blows some people’s minds and raises questions: Why so many? Is not one or two copies enough, especially since there are multiple modern editions and translations available in the general stacks?

As the matter of fact, most of the books, pamphlets, and other kinds of resources housed in Rare Books are preserved on our shelves not only because of the text they contain (though this may be the case for some extremely rare or unique editions) but rather because of some other unique or special features of the books as physical objects, such as print and type, binding and tooling, illuminations and miniatures, paper and watermarks, corrections and marginalia (personal notes, images, and doodles left on margins by previous readers), bookplates and inscriptions, association with prominent historical figures, items left between the pages, and many more. Similar to twins, that develop unique features of their look and character as they grow, so the books even if they came out of the same printing press on the exact same day, will differ significantly in their appearance and each will have its own story to tell.

Scholars in various disciplines study rare books as objects that possess historical, evidential, and informational value through their physicality. They can provide insights on the history of book printing and binding, circulation and ownership, reading habits and purposes (both recreational and educational), aesthetic preferences, changes in society, and more. That’s what makes our books special: they are always ready to give a personal witness to the past.

Thomas a Kempis, De Imitatione Christi, Cologne, Germany, 1507
Thomas à Kempis, De Imitatione Christi, Cologne, Germany, 1507

“The Imitation of Christ” is one of such popular works translated and reproduced abundantly through the centuries. It has always and continues to be deeply respected, loved, read, studied, and praised by many, religious and laypeople, artists and soldiers, and novelists and scholars alike. It has brought comfort to many historical figures, such as St. Theresa of Avila, George Eliot, Thomas Merton, and St. Thomas More, who, according to some, had a copy of The Imitatio with him while waiting for his execution, as well as fictional characters such as Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, who used to keep a copy at her bedside and read a few chapters every night. But the main reason, it has been chosen as the hero of this story is its astounding 600 years jubilee which we celebrate today.

Well, not exactly “today,” for we do not know the year in which De Imitatione Christi was composed. Various scholars agree only on the timeframe between 1410 and 1425, which gives us still plenty of time to commemorate the date and salute this great work. Though it first appeared anonymously, De Imitatione Christi is now commonly attributed to a German-Dutch canon regular and member of the modern devotional movement (aka Devotio Moderna) Thomas Hemmerken from the town of Kempen, better known as Thomas à Kempis (c. 1380 – 1471). 

In homage to his inspirational work, we’d like to highlight today three of our special copies of The Imitation of Christ, offering also a glimpse into Rare Books holdings and encouraging everyone interested to come and see the original volumes in person.

A copy with a secret (Cologne, Germany, 1503)

Various museums and libraries in the U.S. and overseas preserve peculiar books that have a hidden compartment in their bindings. Sometimes it can be as wild as a place to hide a pistol. Our volume is not a book of a criminal or a smuggler, but rather of an early 16th-century passionate reader, who just wanted a convenient spot to keep their reading spectacles and to never have to ask one of the eternal questions of mankind: “where did I put my glasses?

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An annotated copy (Cologne, Germany, 1507)

There are always people who like to make notes on the margins of a paper book one studies deeply: agreeing or arguing with the author, developing their own ideas about the topic, or recording insights and expanding the perspective. That is one of the ways to collaborate with the author and create a personal relationship with the book: both, the work and the object (Though we don’t encourage it in any other than one’s own books!). Another of our early 16th-century copies of the Imitatio, which was previously part of the collection of a book lover and our great donor Msgr. Arthur Connolly, holds marginal notes of a scholar who was deeply immersed in the text. It’s still waiting for its researchers who would like to transcribe and study the thoughts and insights of this early reader of the Imitation of Christ.

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The Musica Ecclesiastica (New York, 1891)

As a devotional work, The Imitation of Christ was meant to be not only studied by the educated but read and put into practice by anyone. To assist with that, there were numerous attempts conducted to translate it from Latin into vernacular languages making it accessible to everyone. There are multiple translations of the Imitatio known and available today, but in this unique late 19th-century American edition, the translator, an English theologian, Oxford professor, and a personal friend of Lewis Carroll, H. P. Liddon, endeavored to preserve its original beauty. According to him, the Imitatio was also called “Musica Ecclesiastica” or “The Church Music”, because of the rhythm and melody of the original Latin, which the translator wished to catch and preserve. Maybe it’s not as old as other copies that are shown here, but it is trying to be faithful to the original intent of the author as well as is faithful to the spirit of its own time: in its language, appearance, binding, and other features.

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Each one of these books, as well as any other copy of The Imitation of Christ in our collection, 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:

  • Becker, Kenneth Michael. From the Treasure-House of Scripture: an Analysis of Scriptural Sources in De Imitatione Christi. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2002.
  • Thomas, à Kempis. The complete Imitation of Christ. Translated and commented by Father John-Julian. Brewster, Mass.: Paraclete Press, c2012.
  • Thomas à Kempis, De Imitatione Christi, Leiden, 1658

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The Archivist’s Nook: A Patron “Saint” – The Bookish Legacy of Msgr. Arthur Connolly

The man, the myth, the patron. Msgr. Arthur Connolly portrait, donated on his birthday (December 2) in 1930. The plaque reads, “Rt. Rev. Msgr. Arthur Theodore Connolly 1853-1933 Library Patron”

I am glad to place this collection where it will be of so much benefit to students of history, yet I must confess I feel as if I were bidding good bye to friends who have become very dear to me…I have grown to love them for the many hours of pleasure they have afforded me.

-Msgr. Arthur Connolly to Rector Bp. Thomas Shahan, April 25, 1917

Anyone who spends time in the Catholic University Special Collections will soon become acquainted with the names of consequential donors and collectors. Ranging from Fr. James Magner and James Cardinal Gibbons to Mercedes McCambridge and Dorothy Mohler, there are several patrons whose legacies ripple through our collections and the campus. Few of these donors span the full scope of our collections, with their bequeathed items in the museum, rare books, and archives. But one Boston-area priest’s influence  is present in the stacks of the archives and rare books, as well as in the paintings and sculptures displayed around campus – Msgr. Arthur T. Connolly (1853-1933).

Born December 2, 1853 in Waltham, Massachusetts, Connolly was the son of Irish immigrants. He was a product of public schools and later attended Boston College then St. Charles College in Ellicott City, Maryland. From there, he would go on to study theology at the Grand Seminar in Montreal, Quebec. On December 21, 1876, Bishop Édouard-Charles Fabre ordained Connolly to the Catholic priesthood. (He would be given the title Monsignor in 1926.)

Relocating back to his native Boston, Connolly would remain a lifelong parish priest. His longest tenure was as the inaugural rector for the Blessed Sacrament Parish in Jamaica Plains neighborhood in Boston, serving from 1892 until his retirement in 1931. But beyond serving his parish community, Connolly was an avid collector and traveler. On multiple trips to Europe and South America, he acquired numerous books and art objects. Of particular note was his collecting of ivory artwork, religious manuscripts and incunabula, and Irish history and early American publications.

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But beyond merely collecting, Connolly was a generous benefactor. His love of knowledge was only surpassed by his love of libraries! From 1916-1932, Connolly served as a Trustee of the Boston Public Library, acting as the Library’s Board President from 1923-24 and 1927-28. (There is even a branch of the Boston Public Library named after him to this day.) His engagement was not limited to his local libraries, as he donated thousands of volumes to his alma mater, Boston College. And in 1915-16, Connolly began the first of many generous donations to Catholic University.

This first shipment to the University focused predominantly on books intended for the general reference stacks in the campus libraries. A second wave of materials arrived in 1918, which included medieval manuscripts, early printed incunabula, and chromolithographic prints as well as Renaissance-era artwork sculpted from ivory. Over the next 15 years, Connolly continued to send books, art, and papers to campus. By the time of his passing in 1933, the Connolly Library – as it was called at the time – had amassed approximately 16,000 titles located in its own designated spaces in McMahon Hall and Mullen Library. Among the many, many special collections that existed in the Library from the 1890s until the 1960s, Connolly’s stood out as among the largest and most eclectic.

Connolly’s bookplate. Motto: Patientem ovem agnus eucharistiae regit illluminat levat et coronat. (The Lamb of the Eucharist rules, illuminates, supports and crowns the suffering sheep.) Connolly seems to have commissioned this piece in December 1896 by Boston-based engraver Sidney L. Smith, whose initials (and the date) can be seen in the lower right corner.

In the early 1960s, these many collections would be reviewed and combined into the present Rare Books Library, which today is part of the broader Catholic University Special Collections. The Connolly Library remains a significant part of the collection, and his legacy can be seen by all visitors to Rare Books and campus. Researchers often encounter his handwritten notes and personalized bookplate in medieval manuscripts and early printed works, while visitors to campus may see one of the many donated sculptures or paintings he donated displayed in an office. 

Today, there are thousands of unique theological, historical, and literary works in the stacks from Connolly. These include 30 medieval manuscripts, 11 incunabula, and over a dozen pieces of art displayed around campus.

Connolly passed away on November 10, 1933. As a beloved local figure, his funeral would see over 3,000 people in attendance, including delegates from the Catholic Archdiocese and City of Boston. His legacy continues in the many collections he donated to his home city’s institutions, as well as to the Catholic University community.

To learn more about our rare books and museum collections, please visit our website: https://libraries.catholic.edu/special-collections/archives/index.html

Questions can also be directed to: lib-archives@cua.edu 

Special thanks to the Boston Public Library and Catholic University Special Collections for providing documentation on Connolly’s life and collections.

The Archivist’s Nook: A Man for All Reasons – Curating St. Thomas Aquinas

 

I first encountered Aquinas during my time as a philosophy undergraduate at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill, NY, and his proofs for the existence of God had a great impact on my “reconversion,” my coming back home to the Catholic Faith, after years of falling away as an atheist. Thus when I learned about the Thomistic Institute Intellectual Retreat to be held in October of 2020 and  entitled “Choosing Well: Practical Wisdom in an Unpractical Time,” I jumped at the opportunity to apply, and to steep myself more in Aquinas’ works with the guidance of professors who knew him best. It was a life-giving weekend that proved to leave a huge impact on me. I experienced the Divine Office in its entirety for the first time, and was transfixed by the beauty of the chanted Psalms. I was also energized by the presence of other young adults, some who were in graduate school, some who were young professionals, all of whom were on fire for their faith. It was an inspiring environment, and it led me to consider how I could incorporate the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas into my own work. 

Now I had the inspiration, but what was I supposed to do next? I wanted to work with the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, but I’m not a scholar. Still, there must be a way to merge what I do on a daily basis with his work. That’s when I recalled that Special Collections, where I work, has some manuscripts related to his writings! I sought the advice of my colleague Shane MacDonald, the  expert on our Rare Books Collection, and together we discovered that we did indeed have two manuscripts from the 15th century related to St. Thomas Aquinas – MS200 and MS201. MS200 is a copy of the first half of his Commentary on Book IV of the Sentences of Peter Lombard and MS201 is a copy of his Quaestiones de duodecimi quodlibet. After inspecting these two items closer and consulting our catalog entries for them, I determined that,  given their historical significance and the fact that they are manuscripts, they would be the centerpiece of the exhibit. 

But two books does not an exhibit make! In order to make a digital exhibit, I would need to incorporate many more items, which I would then pick out of if I choose to create a physical exhibit. I turned to our catalog and found over 100 items related to St. Thomas Aquinas in our collection. This would require some sorting and refining of what I wanted to focus on! I considered my prospective audience – I wanted to reach the widest audience possible on the Catholic University campus, which meant that I would want to highlight the most “popular” works of Aquinas, to create a sort of introduction to his thought, while also emphasizing the importance of Aquinas to Catholic University.

After a month of research and browsing our stacks, I narrowed my list down to fourteen items – two manuscripts, two incunables, four examples of the Summa Theologiae, four examples of 16th century folios, and two pamphlets. This variety would create a visually dynamic experience – books of various sizes, colors, and lengths – while providing an appropriate scope for beginners to experts in St. Thomas Aquinas. I plugged in all of the research, writing, and photographs I had worked on over the spring of 2021 into Omeka, a web-publishing platform for digital collections, and published the site after receiving feedback from my colleagues. 

I could have stopped at just the Omeka site, but I wanted to stretch myself and exercise some of the skills that I learned in my Library Science courses, such as website building. Using Wix, I wanted to  create an accessible space for visitors, with an attractive environment that could fully convey the mission of the exhibit, but in a way that had more creativity and flexibility than Omeka. This was one of the parts of the project that I was most proud of. You can visit the Wix site here, and the Omeka site here!

Although I was extremely happy with the results of the digital exhibits, I still felt that we could reach a wider audience, and an in-person exhibit in the main library might be just the thing to do this. I discussed my idea with the University Archivist, John Shepherd, and we began the process of planning.

“Thomism Through Time” Exhibit Cases

I decided to take a three pronged approach with this exhibit, as there would be three cases. The first case would have three items – the two manuscripts and one of the incunables. Its purpose would be to feature our oldest items, and introduce guests to rare book terms. The second case would include the different copies of the Summa Theologiae, in order to showcase the various sizes and editions of Aquinas’ most important work. Finally, the third case would have selections of current publications from the Catholic University School of Philosophy, School of Theology and Religious Studies, and from the CUA Press. The goal of this last case would be to make students aware of the fact that current work is being done on St. Thomas Aquinas, possibly even by their own professors. I wanted to tell the story of the works of St. Thomas Aquinas not only in his time, but in ours as well.

The exhibit was kicked off by a special event, held on September 24th, 2021 by the co-sponsorship of the university Special Collections and the Thomistic Institute. CUA professors Dr. Kevin White and Msgr. John Wippel, through whose efforts the two manuscripts, which are the focal point of the exhibit were acquired, were both speakers at the event, as well as Fr. Dominic Legge, the Director of the Thomistic Institute. We had a total of 52 attendees, and the entire staff of the Catholic University Special Collections was thrilled with the turn-out. Our goal is always to reach as many people as possible through our collections, and we  hope that through exhibits such as Thomism Through Time, more students will be able to experience that same burst of invigoration and inspiration that I did upon first discovering him. 

 

St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!

 

If you wish to see the exhibit yourself, it’s running in the Main Reading Room of Mullen Library until November 24th, 2021!