Protecting the Reader: A Banned Books Week Miscellany

Our colleague Doug Archer, a longtime activist for intellectual freedom and a Freedom to Read Foundation Roll of Honor awardee, has always used Banned Books Week as a time to raise awareness of threats to intellectual freedom. During this year’s Banned Books Week (September 27 to October 3), since Doug is enjoying his well-earned retirement, we decided to dive into our collections and identify books whose circulation has been impeded in different times and places.

In this post, you will find an assortment of examples that show various types of books and the ways that they have been withheld, by government or by church, nationally or locally, in various parts of the world.

This was the poster for our 2008 exhibit on the Index of Prohibited Books, curated by Benjamin Panciera (now Director of Special Collections and Archives at Connecticut College). The Freedom to Read and the Care of Souls: The Index of Prohibited Books since the Enlightenment examined how the Catholic Church sought to influence the circulation of ideas in the 19th and 20th centuries and what sort of material was considered dangerous.

Galilei Galileo. Dialogo dei massimi sistemi. Fiorenza: Per Gio: Batista Landini, 1632.
Special Collections Vault QB 41 .G1332 1642

The Index Librorum Prohibitorum, a list compiled by the Catholic Church over a period of four centuries, consisted of a large number of books that lay Catholics were not permitted to read. Galileo’s Dialogo dei massimi sistemi [Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems] was added to the Index in 1634 and was not removed until 1822. In addition, Galileo was tried for heresy in 1633 and placed under house arrest, where he remained until his death almost a decade later.

Ulysses first edition cover
James Joyce. Ulysses. Paris: Shakespeare and Company, 1922.
Special Collections Vault PR 6019 .O9 U4 1922

One of the most famous pronouncements on censorship of a literary work, which occurred in the U.S., is that of Judge Woolsey on James Joyce’s Ulysses. This was widely reported in newspapers at the time.

COURT LIFTS BAN ON ‘ULYSSES’ HERE

Ignores Single Passages

His Judging of Volume as a Whole, Not in Isolated Parts, Establishes a Precedent.

James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” a novel which has been banned from the United States by custom censors on the ground that it might cause American readers to harbor “impure and lustful thoughts,” found a champion yesterday in the United States District Court.

Federal Judge John M. Woolsey, after devoting almost a month of his time to reading the book, ruled in an opinion which he filed in court that “Ulysses” not only was not obscene in a legal sense, but that it was a work of literary merit.

New York Times, December 7, 1933.

As we have seen in the case of Galileo (above), in various places and at various times in history, censorship has not only prevented people from access to certain books, but has sometimes punished, imprisoned, or publicly shamed their authors.

This rare book is an example of early Stalin propaganda. It became the first and only Stalin-era book that glorified the use of slave labor in the massive building projects of the 1930s. An estimated 170,000 prisoners worked in subhuman conditions on Belomorkanal, moving stones and digging the canal using their bare hands or primitive materials and technologies. Tens of thousands of inmates died during the twenty-one months of its construction (1931–33).

Commissioned by Stalin and published in Moscow in 1934 to coincide with the opening of the infamous XVII Party Congress, this book was presented as a souvenir to Congress delegates to celebrate the success of the First Soviet Industrial Five-Year Plan. Thirty-six Soviet writers and many leading artists, including the avant-garde photographer Aleksandr Rodchenko, visited the Canal and contributed their essays and photographic images of prisoners to praise the “transforming power” of the Gulag. By 1937, at the height of the Stalin Great Terror, the policy of “reeducating” class enemies through corrective labor was replaced by mass arrests, imprisonments and executions. The new policy called for the physical extermination of the “enemies of the people” and the obliteration of their names from the public record, including books. Four years after its publication, even this blatantly propagandist piece was found suspect and withdrawn from circulation; most copies were destroyed, and its many contributors were sent to the Gulag.

Eric Cross. The Tailor and Ansty. London: Chapman & Hall, 1964.
Special Collections (Medium Rare) Medium DA 925 .C73 1964

While many countries have not taken such extreme measures against authors, censorship has sometimes been carried out along with public shaming.

In Ireland, books that portrayed indecency or behavior that was not approved by the Catholic Church were often subject to censorship. A famous case was that of The Tailor and Ansty, Eric Cross’s book portraying the storytelling and commentary of a rural couple, Tadhg Ó Buachalla and his wife Anastasia, or Ansty. Not only was the book the subject of government debate over a four-day period, but the couple were visited by a priest (or three priests in some accounts) and ordered to burn their own copy of the book.

The Gadfly
E. L. Voynich. The Gadfly. New York: International Book and Pub. Co., 1900.
Special Collections Rare Books Small PR 6043 .O78 G34 1900

In the first decade of Ireland’s Free State, the Censorship of Publications Act, 1929, was enacted to prohibit the sale and distribution of “unwholesome literature”. Over the next forty years, hundreds of books were banned from sale in Ireland.

Ethel Voynich’s popular novel, The Gadfly, first published in the U.S. in 1897, was banned in Ireland in 1943. We had occasion to pull this book off the shelves as a Notre Dame student who is writing her senior thesis on this novel is particularly interested in why the book, popular elsewhere in Europe, was little known and also banned in Ireland.

Land of Spices by Kate O'Brien
Kate O’Brien. The Land of Spices. Dublin: Arlen House, 1982.
Special Collections (Medium Rare) Medium PR 6029 .B65 L3 1982

Novels by Kate O’Brien were banned in Ireland and in Spain. The novel featured here, Land of Spices, was apparently banned in Ireland on account of one sentence in which the protagonist learns that her father was in a homosexual relationship. “She saw Etienne and her father in the embrace of love.” Thus the novel was deemed indecent and obscene.

Edna O’Brien, whose recent books include Girl (2019) and The Little Red Chairs (2016), is the author of novels that were very controversial in Ireland in the 1950s and ’60s. Her earliest novels, found offensive for their depiction of girls’ and women’s lives, including sexuality, were consistently banned by the Irish Censorship Board. O’Brien’s books circulated widely in spite of censorship, and the following account by Dónal Ó Drisceoil shows that the Irish Censorship Board was fighting a losing battle:

At a packed public meeting in Limerick in 1966, O’Brien asked for a show of hands as to how many had read her banned books: she was met with a sea of hands and much laughter.

Ó Drisceoil, 154
Frank O’Connor. Kings, Lords, & Commons. Dublin: Gill and MacMillan, 1970.
General Collection PB 1424 .K564 1970

The censorship in Ireland of Frank O’Connor’s Kings, Lords, and Commons continues to provide amusement as the content that raised the censors’ concern was O’Connor’s translation of the acclaimed poem “Cúirt an Mheán Oíche” written in the eighteenth century by Brian Merriman. Much praised and valued as a literary work, the original Irish language text, and even earlier English translations, had never been censored, but this translation by O’Connor, conveying the humorous, hard-hitting language of sexually frustrated women, suggested that such lively discourse could exist in Irish-language literature, but not in English.

Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. New York: Bantam Books, 1949.
Special Collections Rare Books Small PS 3515 .E37 F2 1949

Once again, the Republic of Ireland is the place where this book by Hemingway was banned. This book and many others in our collection that could be freely read in the U.S. might not have been available to readers in Ireland and in other countries where such censorship was practiced. Examples of American books not allowed in Ireland for some time during the twentieth century include Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell (banned 1933), Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos (banned 1934) and For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (banned 1941).

Moving from national censorship to local censorship, the Hesburgh Libraries’ shelves are filled with books that have been censored in some way, either by being removed from the shelves of libraries, or being challenged and banned by local school boards. This is the kind of censorship that is generally of concern to the American Library Association, and that is highlighted during Banned Books Week.

Judy Blume, an author whose books have often been removed from school libraries, has become a spokesperson against the censorship of books. Her 1970 book, Are you there, God? It’s Me, Margaret, has a young protagonist who muses on, and discusses, sexuality, menstruation, bras, and religion. Reasons that the book has been challenged and sometimes removed from library shelves include the sexual content and the treatment of religion.

Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, has frequently been challenged, e.g. by parents asking school districts to have the book removed from library shelves. The combination of science and religion in the book, along with a kind of magic or fantasy, is at the root of many of the challenges. The American Library Association’ Office for Intellectual Freedom compiles annual lists of books based on reports they receive from libraries, schools, and the media on attempts to ban books in communities across the country. For two decades, L’Engle’s novel was in the top one hundred challenged books.

More on the American Library Association’s findings on the books challenged throughout America may be learned by checking the Banned Books Week website.

References

Ó Drisceoil, Dónal. ‘The Best Banned in the Land: Censorship and Irish Writing since 1950’, in The Yearbook of English Studies 35 (2005), pp. 146-160. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3509330

Sharing from our Blog: Ethics and Responsible Use

Image from blog post ‘A Halloween trip to Mexico’, RBSC @ ND, October 28, 2019.

A recent request for information on publishing an image from our blog prompted us to consider how our blog interacts with other ways of sharing our resources.

If a teacher in Mexico or Ireland saw a picture in a recent post and wished to use it for teaching, or perhaps to share in a publication for colleagues, can she or he do this?

The usual answer is, yes, and this should be clear from the Creative Commons license in the blog’s left side-bar.

Our preferred way of acknowledging that the image is from our collection is as follows:

Reproduced from the original held by the Department of Special Collections of the Hesburgh Libraries of the University of Notre Dame.

However, it would be good to let your readers know where they can find the image online, and so you might also want to reference the blogpost.

Screen capture of Creative Commons license as it appears on this blog. "Unless otherwise indicated on an individual post, all work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.[link] 

RBSC abides by the Hesburgh Library Copyright and Takedown Policy[link]."

Five years ago, when we first began to share information about our collections and our work through this blog, we hoped that people would use it freely, and so we decided to use a Creative Commons license. We opted for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

This allows readers to copy and redistribute content from our blog as long as there is attribution, or as long as appropriate credit is given. On occasions when a blogpost has restrictions, this is stated at the bottom of the post. 

The Creative Commons website provides all the information on this license, which includes the condition of attribution, that is, making sure readers are informed in an appropriate manner where the material has come from.

Let’s imagine that I thought the Juneteenth blogpost by Rachel Bohlmann would be a great contribution to my local newsletter. According to the license, I would be free to take the whole post and publish it, or adapt it for my purposes. The Creative Commons license requires that I give appropriate credit. In any case, it’s just good manners to acknowledge the source of the text, and this is also helpful for my readers.

So I incorporate text from Rachel’s blogpost into my newsletter article, omitting some parts, and I help my readers with more information, at the same time satisfying the requirements of the CC license, with the following statement:

Adapted from the following: Rachel Bohlmann: ‘Juneteenth, Black Lives Matter, and Archival Collections’ RBSC @ ND, June 15, 2020. Hesburgh Libraries of the University of Notre Dame. https://sites.nd.edu/rbsc/juneteenth-black-lives-matter-and-archival-collections/

The most attractive items on our blogpost, however, and the most valuable, are the images from the Special Collections. Here, there is some ambiguity between the Creative Commons License of the blog and our normal procedure for providing images on request. The best way to sort through this ambiguity is to look at the different ways of obtaining images and their different uses.

Readers are welcome to request images from our collections, which we are happy to provide if possible. If they wish to include those images in a publication, this is usually straightforward as long as the item is in the public domain, that is, old enough so that copyright restrictions do not apply. Otherwise, readers may need to obtain permission from the owner of those rights. Discovering who owns those rights is not always straightforward, and may be a significant research project.

When we supply an image, which we can provide in a higher-resolution format than that on our blog, we also provide an agreement, signed by us and by the requestor. This agreement includes the required statement to be included in the publication, as follows:

Reproduced from the original held by the Department of Special Collections of the Hesburgh Libraries of the University of Notre Dame.

Image from blog post ‘Art in an Irish Country Home: The Edgeworth Family Album’, RBSC @ ND, August 19, 2019.

Let’s imagine you are writing about the famous Edgeworth family of Ireland and you happened upon our blogpost describing the family’s album of drawings. You might take an image from our blogpost and cite the blog appropriately, thus satisfying the conditions of the CC license.

But you might also contact us, discuss the publication with the curator, and discover that another image from the book is even more appropriate for the intended publication, or that the image in the blog is a cropped version of a larger image that is available. We could then provide you with high-resolution images as well as the Agreement for Publication of Reproductions from Materials held by the Hesburgh Libraries of Notre Dame.

For more information, see our page on Reproduction Polices, Fees, and Forms.

Recent Acquisition: Biography of a Spanish philosopher and theologian

by Alan Krieger, Theology and Philosophy Librarian

We are happy to announce that Hesburgh Libraries has just acquired a very rare first edition, Bernardo Sartolo’s El Eximio Doctor y Venerable Padre Francisco Suarez (Salamanca, 1693), a biography of the highly influential early modern Spanish philosopher and theologian, Francisco Suarez (1548-1617). Suarez was a leader of the “Second Scholastic” period, which revitalized philosophical and theological thought in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries within the tradition of Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus and other medieval scholastics. Bernardo Sartolo (1654-1700) was a well known Spanish Jesuit and author.

A second edition of this title followed in 1731.

While a small number of copies of this edition may be found in libraries in Spain, we have located only two other copies in North American libraries.

Labor and Linen — The Prints of William Hincks

by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, Irish Studies Librarian

For Labor Day, we decided to feature people involved in the various stages of the linen industry. These illustrations belong to a recently acquired set of prints: William Hincks: The Linen Industry: A set of twelve sepia printed and coloured aquatints. London: Published as the Act directs by R. Pollard, Spafields, June 20, 1791.

Waterford-born artist William Hincks created a set of prints depicting linen production in the north of Ireland. It is assumed that he spent some time in Ulster, but this has not been documented. He published the prints in London in 1783, and the set was republished in 1791 by R. Pollard of Spafields, London.

The linen industry played an important part in Ireland’s economy, accounting for the occupations of a large proportion of the people of Ulster in the eighteenth century. The prints show a whole range of tasks performed in the pre-industrial production of linen, from ploughing and sowing flax seeds in a County Down field, to selling the linen at Dublin’s Linen Hall.

The fourth plate is the first with an indoor setting. Women, girls and a man are engaged in beetling, scutching and hackling. These were all very unfamiliar verbs for me, and I recommend the video of Ulster Folk Museum curator, Valerie Wilson, who describes the process of linen-making from beginning to end. The video is at the end of her blogpost, Warp and Weft: The Story of Linen in Ulster.

This print, the sixth in the series, shows women spinning, reeling, and boiling the yarn or thread.

Following spinning and boiling, the next print shows a weaving shed, with the tasks of winding, warping and weaving. At this time, Ulster had an estimated 40,000 weavers, so one can imagine that the activities depicted were common in villages and towns throughout the province.

The prints will be available for viewing on request once we are able to have a fully open reading room. Also in our collection is a helpful booklet, Illustrations of the Irish linen industry in 1783 by William Hincks, by the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, which describes and discusses this print collection.

As Irish economic history forms an important part of the Irish collections at the Hesburgh Libraries, we have many books treating various aspects of the linen industry. We are glad indeed to have a set of William Hincks’ prints, with their view of activities and equipment that were once an important part of Irish life.

RBSC is closed Monday, September 7th, for Labor Day.

Compendium Animalium: (Re)creating an Early Modern Book

by Erika Hosselkus, Curator, Latin American Collections and Jen Hunt Johnson, Special Collections Conservator

In the fall of 2019, my fellow curator, Julie Tanaka, and I planned our exhibition, Paws, Hooves, Fins, and Feathers: Animals in Print, 1500-1800. This exhibition was an opportunity to share Rare Books and Special Collections’ holdings with South Bend community youth as much as a showcase of our natural histories featuring animals. We promoted the show with local school districts and arranged visits for first graders, second graders, and high school students.

Beyond tours, which are primarily a visual and aural experience, we wanted to provide a fun, hands on opportunity for local kids related to our exhibition. Touching, holding, and even smelling is integral to the experience of handling a book—especially an old book. We wanted young students to be able to feel the weight of traditional early modern wooden boards and handle a half leather binding. We wanted them to be able to view our woodcuts and engravings of an early modern rhinoceros, elephant, sloth, and other critters up close! 

This desire to share the physical experience of a rare book with kids prompted us to explore the possibility of creating a facsimile of an early modern book that students could handle freely. As curators in a special collections setting, we interact frequently with conservators, our colleagues skilled in the treatment and preservation of books. They provide guidance on handling rare materials and perform repairs that facilitate use of our materials on a daily basis. This project, however, was a special opportunity to collaborate with our preservation department, particularly one of our conservators, Jen Hunt Johnson, and our current Gladys Brooks Fellow, Maren Rozumalski. The COVID-19 pandemic presented a challenge and has postponed our use of the facsimile, but it has nonetheless been completed! This blog post is an opportunity to share the facsimile with readers and to highlight the collaborations that often occur between curators and conservators.

Julie and I met with Jen, Maren, and Sara Weber, our digital project specialist (and the constant force behind this blog!) to flesh out the details of this project. Ultimately we decided to create a sort of composite facsimile volume comprised entirely of images selected from the works featured in our physical exhibition. Sara photographed the images that Julie and I selected. They were formatted and printed on heavyweight paper chosen to mimic the look and feel of early modern rag paper. Jen and Maren then performed the heavy labor to construct this artifact! In the following paragraphs, Jen describes her work on, and experience with, this project.

Creating opportunities to promote our collections is a goal that’s shared between curators and conservators. As the facsimile provides an opportunity to bring elements of the RBSC exhibit to a broader audience through school visits, and other programming, the project also introduces participants to the work that conservators do in the library to treat and preserve books. Handling this book offers a tactile experience to illustrate the ways in which an historic book structure functions, and allows the audience, particularly children, to handle materials such as paper, leather, and wood, that they may be less encouraged to interact with when encountering our rare and fragile materials. This is an opportunity for participants to feel engaged in an environment where there are often barriers and restrictions to objects that can limit the sense of personal connection.

Creating the facsimile during the initial outbreak of a pandemic was not without its challenges. Working remotely restricted access to tools, equipment, and a proper surface to work on. Coordinating decisions regarding printing, sewing, material choices, and also foreseeing and troubleshooting problems was much harder to do through emails and still images, as compared to face-to-face meetings, and ready access to materials and supplies. In the end, a patio table and clamps set up in my living room served as a sturdy station for preparing wooden boards. A lying press, non-slip foam shelf liners, and careful balancing made do for a job backer to secure the material being worked. A 12 x 12” granite floor tile made a reasonable weight, applying even pressure when drying large areas like endsheets when a book press was unavailable. I even had to source material from a mail order wood shop when I realized the original wooden board I had purchased to work with was too thick to fit our textblock, and local vendors were closed due to the pandemic. None of these situations were ideal, but working through the process and figuring out what worked was ultimately rewarding, and fun!

We are very excited about the final product that has emerged from this collaboration. Here we share some photographs of our unique creation, Compendium Animalium, and we look forward to sharing the volume in person in the future with students on campus and in the South Bend community!

“‘Men and women should stand as equals’: American Women and the Vote” online exhibition

by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian and Curator

August 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. In honor of the centenary, Rare Books and Special Collections has created an online exhibition of materials from both special and general library collections. The quotation in the title comes from a speech by Mary Duffy, a working class woman from New York who addressed the state’s legislature in 1907. She argued that of course women needed the ballot for political reasons—so that they were represented in government. But, she maintained, women needed it even more urgently so that the men around them—from bosses to fellow trade unionists to family members—would take women seriously as people, as equals.

This exhibition tells a full (though not complete) story of the long fight for suffrage. It begins well before the Civil War and extends through the mid-1920s, after passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. It focuses on the laborious processes of building a movement, of forging alliances, of creating a culture of reform that was broader than voting rights but that, in the end, became defined by that singular goal. It shows how women, white and black, elite and working class, native born and immigrant, moved themselves from outside of political power to inside; from second-class citizens with a limited public voice and no direct representation, to citizens with some of the tools of democracy at their disposal.

The Nineteenth Amendment was a stupendous political achievement. As political outsiders, women persuaded enough men within the political system voluntarily to give women political power. It doubled the American electorate, making its passage the most powerful democracy-building piece of legislation in US history.

Still, the victory was incomplete, or at least, a work in progress. As New York suffragist Crystal Eastman put it in 1920, “men are saying thank goodness that everlasting women’s fight is over!” but women are saying “now at last we can begin.”[1] Eastman’s observation makes an important point about the complexity of marking this centenary solely as a victory. Suffrage for women was not turned on like a tap in 1920, nor did it flow for every woman after the Nineteenth Amendment. Many women voted before the amendment, and many women did not cast ballots after it. The reasons for these differences have much to do with racism and white supremacy, as well as religious and class prejudices, within and outside the movement.

This exhibition includes books, pamphlets, magazines, and posters—materials designed to appeal to broad, popular audiences. Scattered through these once popular books and magazines we can gain an angle of view on what many, if not a majority of, Americans thought about women’s work, their place in the family, and their civic responsibilities. At the same time, this exhibition represents the breadth of the women’s movement and how it propelled the fight for suffrage despite resilient opposition.

https://collections.library.nd.edu/american-women-and-the-vote

 

 

[1] Ellen Carol DuBois, Suffrage: Women’s Long Battle for the Vote (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2020), 5.

Inquisition Edicts and Book Censorship

by Erika Hosselkus, Curator, Latin American Collections

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic limits our ability to handle physical collections, Rare Books and Special Collections strives to provide patrons with the next best thing — access to digital surrogates. Last week, we responded to a request for a high quality image of an Inquisition censorship edict, from Mexico, dating to 1809.

Inquisicion de México, Public edict regarding banned works, August 5, 1809. (Inquisition 401, recto)

This item is part of our Harley L. McDevitt Inquisition Collection, which contains manuals, edicts, trials, certificates, accounts of autos de fe, and other materials produced by and about the Inquisition in Spain and the Americas. Revisiting this document at the request of a patron provides an opportunity this week to highlight Inquisition edicts, a major component of our Inquisition manuscript holdings.

This edict is a large format document that would have been posted on a wall or door for public consumption. Edicts such as this one supplemented and updated the more voluminous indices of banned books published and maintained by the Inquisition beginning in 1551. This particular example is quite lengthy and also attests to the Inquisition’s perseverance into the nineteenth century and to its presence in Spain’s American colonies. It bans some 55 works and is signed at the bottom by Inquisition officials.

Titles banned include, of course, works pertaining to Lutheranism. Also on the list are historical works, especially those that are anti-monarchical such as Histoire des révolutions de France, by an anonymous author, and Recherches politiques sur l’état ancien, et moderne de la Pologne. Each of these titles treats the French Revolution. Inquisitorial concern over them speaks to the political situation in Spain, where Napoleon Bonaparte had recently placed his brother on the throne. Mere months after the issuance of this 1809 edict, armed uprisings in support of independence from Spain would begin in Mexico.

The edict also prohibits theatrical plays deemed to include seditious content, due in part to the fears regarding rebellion against Spain in the American colonies. This last category includes a piece entitled, “El Negro, y la Blanca,” (“The Black Man and the White Woman”) by playwright Vicente Rodriguez de Arellano, said to be revolutionary in spirit, with ability to engender civil, political, and moral ruin. It also includes “El Negro Sensible”  (“The Sensible Black Man”), a manuscript play said to encourage enslaved people to rebel against their owners. This play, by Spaniard Luciano Francisco Comella, indeed highlights the evils of slavery. The main character, an enslaved man named Catúl, asserts his humanity and tells his owner that the souls of black men and white men are the same. This work was the inspiration for the later and eponymous play by one of Mexico’s best known authors, José Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi.

The Harley L. McDevitt Inquisition Collection has both a finding aid and a dedicated website which includes thematic essays that explore the different types of documents generated by the Inquisition, with references given for further reading. The collection contains over 150 edicts dating from the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Here are two additional examples of censorship edicts:

Antonio de Sotomayor, Banned books edict, June 30, 1634. (Inquisition 227, recto and verso)

Inquisicion de Mexico, Public edict regarding banned works, June 1655. (Inquisition 239, recto)

Welcome Back: Fall 2020 overview and COVID-19 impact on RBSC

RBSC welcomes all back to campus for Fall ’20! As we welcome students, faculty and staff back from the strangest summer break yet, we want to let you know about a few things to watch for with regards to currently modified library spaces and in-person services.

Hesburgh Libraries’ health and safety protocols include limiting our building population. The Hesburgh Library remains open to current students, faculty and staff of Notre Dame, St. Mary’s and Holy Cross College.

Members of these communities may request appointments to access Rare Books & Special Collections materials. Please email Rare Books & Special Collections for research and course support or to make an appointment. Research requests by non-ND-affiliates are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, per the University’s Campus Visitors Policy.

Visit the Hesburgh Libraries Service Continuity webpage for up-to-date information about how to access expertise, resources, services and spaces.

Special Collections’ Classes

Our curators love to introduce classes to the collections. As class visits are not possible this semester, we are devising alternative ways to teach and to allow students to explore the books, pamphlets, manuscripts and posters that help them to contextualize their studies.

For instructors who wish to take their classes for a Rare Books and Special Collections session, we would be delighted to explore alternative possibilities. Please email RBSC, contact Aedín Clements, or contact the curator with whom you normally work to discuss your classes’ needs.

Fall 2020 Exhibits

Because the department is currently available by appointment only due to restrictions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and thus closed to walk-in traffic, we have temporarily suspended our physical exhibits program.

The planned fall exhibit celebrating the Centenary of the 19th Amendment and exploring the Women’s Suffrage movement is being organized digitally rather than physically. Watch this space for an announcement when the digital exhibit is published.

Events in Special Collections

RBSC is not hosting lectures, receptions, or other events this fall. Some events usually hosted in RBSC, such as the Italian Research series of lectures, are going online — when we are aware of such plans, we’ll continue to share the information here. However, given the fluidity of plans in the current environment, it is best to watch the organizing program and department websites for the most accurate information.

We look forward to resuming lectures and events when it is safe to do so.

Special Collections Online Resources

From digital exhibits to online finding aids, there are various ways to discover digitized portions of our collections. Our website’s page on Digital Projects provides a directory of these resources.

Explore our collections by browsing the various subject sections on our website, including Latin American Studies, Irish Studies, and Sports Research.

Digital exhibits are a great way to explore a topic or collection in depth. Learn about Catholics in the Early American Republic, Newspapers and Magazines in 19th-century Peru. or view American diaries written in eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.


Books and serials are cataloged in the Hesburgh Libraries Catalog. Manuscripts, collections of ephemera, and other non-book items are typically described and listed in online finding aids. These may be searched on the Hesburgh Libraries’ ArchivesSpace. 

And lastly, as you are reading this blogpost, remember that you can always explore this RBSC at ND Blog to find many interesting posts about our collections.

Broadside Ballads: Social Media of Earlier Times

by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, Irish Studies Librarian

The Irish Broadside Ballads are a treasure trove of nineteenth century social media, including commentary on economic affairs, accounts of crimes and tragedies, and political news and opinions.

We thought our readers might enjoy seeing a sample from our collection. The collection may be viewed online.

While the authors of many ballads remain unknown, some ballads may be traced to their author. This ballad, ‘A New Song on the Happy Return of Moody and Sankey‘, is described in an engaging article by Robert Gahan, ‘Some Old Street Characters of Dublin’, in the Dublin Historical Record of December 1939.

Gahan describes a trio of street musicians known as Hamlet, Dunbar and Uncle, who performed together on Dublin’s streets on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights in the 1870s. He goes on to tell us the circumstances that led to this ballad:

In 1874 the eminent Evangelists, Moody and Sankey, came to Dublin ; walls and hoardings were covered with posters announcing their meetings, and Dublin was, as a prominent newspaper said, “greatly stirred.” “Hamlet” was stirred too, but it was to compose in “appreciation” of the evangelists. The song the trio let loose upon Dublin… is “A New Song on the Happy Return of Moody and Sankey.”

Gahan, 42.

The collection contains many more commentaries on events of the time, including the imprisonment of Fenian leaders, the Great Chicago Fire, the Phoenix Park Murders, to name only a few. A form of social media, they often circulated widely, passed along by oral transmission as well as via the printed sheets.

To examine these ballads, visit the Irish Broadside Ballads page.

Five Years of RBSC Blog Posts

Since July 2015, when RBSC head Natasha Lyandres welcomed readers to the Rare Books and Special Collections blog, we have enjoyed using this forum to tell readers about new and recently acquired items, as well as using it to describe well known materials and hidden gems. We published posts to help you, our audience, better know who we are and what we do, and we have provided regular updates on exhibits and other events hosted by RBSC.

To mark the five-year anniversary of our blog, we have selected a few of the 246 posts we have published so far, written by a variety of curators, librarians and guest writers. Scroll down to find some interesting snippets from our first five years.

Recent Acquisitions


All of our Recent Acquisition posts can be browsed by clicking on the “Recent Acquisition” tag at left.

Irish Studies

All of our Irish Studies posts can be browsed by clicking on “Irish Studies” in the Categories menu at left.

Who’s Who and What’s What

The tags “who’s who” and “what’s what” gather posts relating, respectively, to the people who work in and with Notre Dame’s Special Collections, and both the materials to be found and the work happening within the department. Included in the latter category are posts related to the Category “Instruction and Class Visits“, some of which are shown here.

US History & Culture

All of our US History & Culture posts can be browsed by clicking on “US History & Culture” in the Categories menu at left.

Exhibits and Events

Latin American Studies


All of our Latin American Studies posts can be browsed by clicking on “Latin American Studies” in the Categories menu at left.

Holidays and Just for Fun