Mapping the Middle Ages: Marking Time, Space, and Knowledge — RBSC 2024 Spring Exhibition is now open

Rare Books and Special Collections’ spring exhibition, Mapping the Middle Ages: Marking Time, Space, and Knowledge, is open and will run through July 31st. 

The tension between literal and figurative arrangements of space, time, and knowledge during the Middle Ages is brought to the fore through the primary objects that remain. Geography, whether real or imagined, manifests on the page to convey a variety of spatial arrangements: topography, pilgrimage, peripatetic liturgical procession, diaspora, and boundary marking. The materiality of medieval manuscript books expresses a similar reality: geographic colophons mark time and space, prayers localize devotion, and the communal memory of a journey commingled with hope and desperation survives in liturgical readings. Even the scattering of manuscript leaves through biblioclasty creates the boundary of what a book once was and what it has become.

Detail of a T and O Map, a world map based on Isidore of Saville’s description of the physical world. The O represents the earth and the T marks its three divisions: Europe, Asia, and Africa.
(cod. Lat. d. 7, f. 157v)

To map the Middle Ages is to journey through the space created by the objects and the individuals who used them. If we embrace a manuscript in the totality of itself, we form a new bond and continuity with those who have come before us. The manuscripts in this installation are drawn from the collection of the University of Notre Dame’s Hesburgh Library.

This exhibit is curated by David T. Gura, Ancient and Medieval Manuscripts Librarian. This and other exhibits within the Hesburgh Libraries are generously supported by the McBrien Special Collections Endowment.

All exhibits are free and open to the public during business hours. Exhibition tours may be arranged for classes and other groups by contacting David T. Gura at (574) 631-6489 or dgura@nd.edu.

Upcoming Events: February 2024

Please join us for the following public events and exhibits being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, February 1 at 5:00pm | Italian Research Seminar: “Leonardo da Vinci’s Way of Seeing Water. Wetlands, Mapping, and the Art of Painting” by Francesca Fiorani (University of Virginia).

Thursday, February 29 at 5:00pm | Italian Research Seminar: M.A. Students Presentations (University of Notre Dame) — This semester’s speakers are: Fabiola D’Angelo and Peter Scharer.


In the spring exhibition, Mapping the Middle Ages: Marking Time, Space, and Knowledge, primary objects bring to the fore the tension between literal and figurative arrangements of space, time, and knowledge during the Middle Ages. Geography, whether real or imagined, manifests on the page to convey a variety of spatial arrangements: topography, pilgrimage, peripatetic liturgical procession, and boundary marking. The materiality of medieval manuscript books expresses a similar reality through geographic colophons, regional markings of book production, devotional locals, and even the dispersing of manuscripts through modern-day biblioclasty.

To map the Middle Ages is to journey through the space created by the objects and the individuals who used them. The manuscripts in this installation are drawn from the collection of the University of Notre Dame’s Hesburgh Library.

This exhibition is curated by David T. Gura, PhD, Curator of Ancient and Medieval Manuscripts.


The current spotlight exhibits are Football and Community at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and A Warning Against Rum in Early America. Both spotlights will change out in February, check our website for more details in the near future.

Welcome Back! Spring 2024 in Special Collections

Rare Books and Special Collections welcomes students, faculty, staff, researchers, and visitors back to campus for Spring ’24! Here are a variety of things to watch for in Special Collections during the coming semester.

Spring 2024 Exhibition: Mapping the Middle Ages: Marking Time, Space, and Knowledge

The tension between literal and figurative arrangements of space, time, and knowledge during the Middle Ages is brought to the fore through the primary objects that remain. Geography, whether real or imagined, manifests on the page to convey a variety of spatial arrangements: topography, pilgrimage, peripatetic liturgical procession, and boundary marking. The materiality of medieval manuscript books expresses a similar reality: geographic colophons, the regional markings of book production, devotional locals, and even the dispersing of manuscripts through modern-day biblioclasty.

To map the Middle Ages is to journey through the space created by the objects and the individuals who used them. The manuscripts in this installation are drawn from the collection of the University of Notre Dame’s Hesburgh Library.

Curated by David T. Gura, PhD, Curator of Ancient and Medieval Manuscripts.

This exhibition is being held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Medieval Academy of America, which will be hosted March 14–16, 2024, at the University of Notre Dame.

Stop in regularly to see our Collections Spotlights

Fall Spotlight, continued through the end of January: Football and Community at Historically Black Colleges and Universities

This exhibit features a selection of sources from the Joyce Sports Research Collection that document and preserve the history of football at Historically Black College and Universities (HBCUs). During the era of Jim Crow segregation, the vast majority of African American college students and student athletes attended HBCUs.

Many of the yearly gridiron contests between rival institutions developed into highly anticipated annual events that combined football with larger celebrations of African American achievement and excellence. The programs, media guides, ephemera, guidebooks, and other printed material on display document the athletic accomplishments, the celebrations, the spectacle, and the community-building that accompany football at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Curated by Greg Bond, Curator of the Joyce Sports Research Collection and the Sports Subject Specialist for Hesburgh Libraries.

December-January Spotlight: A Warning Against Rum in Early America

Displayed in the spotlight is a 1835 poster commemorating a Salem, Massachusetts minister’s attack on a neighbor for distilling and selling rum. This particular copy was partially hand-colored in watercolor, preserved with a cloth backing, folded, and bound into a pocket-sized leather cover. The broadside is part of Hesburgh Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections’ collection of prints, posters, and broadsides.

Curated by Rachel Bohlmann, Curator of North Americana at Hesburgh Libraries.

These and other exhibits within the Hesburgh Libraries are generously supported by the McBrien Special Collections Endowment.

All exhibits are free and open to the public during regular hours.

Special Collections’ Classes & Workshops

Throughout the semester, curators will teach sessions related to our holdings to undergraduate and graduate students from Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s College, and Holy Cross College. Curators may also be available to show special collections to visiting classes, from preschool through adults. If you would like to arrange a group visit and class with a curator, please contact Special Collections.

Upcoming Events

Thursday, February 1st at 5:00pm | The Spring 2024 Italian Research Seminar and Lectures will begin with a lecture by Francesca Fiorani (University of Virginia), “Leonardo da Vinci’s Way of Seeing Water. Wetlands, Mapping, and the Art of Painting.”

Learn more about this and other Events in Italian Studies.

Recent Acquisitions

Special Collections acquires new material throughout the year. Watch this blog for information about recent acquisitions.

Happy Holidays from Special Collections!

Rare Books and Special Collections is open Monday through Thursday this week (December 18-21, 2023) — appointments are recommended. After that, we will be closed from Friday, December 22, 2023, through Monday, January 1, 2024, in participation with the campus-wide holiday break for all faculty, staff, and students.

Special Collections will reopen on Tuesday, January 2, 2024.

This is the last blog post for 2023.
Happy Holidays to you and yours from
Notre Dame’s Rare Books and Special Collections!

The Christmas Number of the Lake Michigan Yachting News,
December 1925, published by the Chicago Yacht Club.
Special Collections, Rare Books In Process

by Greg Bond, Sports Archivist and Curator, Joyce Sports Research Collection

This post features images—including this colorful jack-in-the-box Christmas cover—from the Lake Michigan Yachting News, the official publication of the Chicago Yacht Club. The Yachting News covered all aspects of yachting and boating on Lake Michigan, reporting about sailing races, popular excursion routes, environmental conditions, sailing technology and equipment, and the social activities of the Midwestern yachting set.

The Yachting News also frequently relied on humor and satire in its columns as shown by the “Just a Few Merry Christmas Hints” column below. The journal’s tongue-in-cheek holiday gift suggestions included this advice:

If you have a friend who is a racing skipper you may give him a bunch of your old safety razor blades for splitting hairs on questions of rules. If you have a friend on the Race Committee, give him a drink—he will need it.

Hesburgh Libraries recently acquired a bound volume with 18 issues of the Lake Michigan Yachting News for the years 1925 and 1926. Worldcat lists only three other libraries with scattered holdings of this scarce publication.

Special Collections Goes to Hollywood

Fritz von Erich, The Iron Claw, and the Jack Pfefer Wrestling Collection

by Greg Bond, Sports Archivist and Curator, Joyce Sports Research Collection

“I make a much better heel than babyface.”

Thus wrote former Southern Methodist University football player turned professional wrestler Jack Adkisson to Dallas-area wrestling promoter Ed McLemore in a September 1953 letter. Using the inside language of professional wrestling, Adkisson was explaining that he had found success wrestling as a villain—or “heel”—instead of as a fan favorite—or “babyface.”

Adkisson, a Texas native, got his start as a professional wrestler under McLemore and then traveled to New England to get more seasoning under the tutelage of promoter Tony Santos, Sr. Adkisson elaborated on his new “heel” persona to McLemore: “I have been working as Fritz Von Eric, the German Giant from Munich, Germany.”

Less than a decade after the end of World War II, Adkisson gained prominence in the ring by riling up and angering wrestling crowds with his Nazi-infuenced German villain. He explained to McLemore:

“I have gone over exceptionally well with the crowds as a heel, and once or twice I have had to literally fight my way to the dressing room. In Revere [Massachusetts], Santos was trying to hold the crowd back from me, and he was practically trampled. That was one night that my heart was in my throat. I couldn’t have felt more helpless in a cage of wildcats.”

The star-crossed von Erich family, a mainstay of professional wrestling in the second half of the twentieth century, is the subject of a soon-to-be-released motion picture The Iron Claw starring Zac Efron. The origin story of Fritz von Erich, the family’s patriarch, is partially documented in the Jack Pfefer Wrestling Collection—one of the most popular and heavily used manuscript collections in the Joyce Sports Research Collection.

Jack Pfefer was a wrestling manager and promoter whose influential career lasted from the 1920s through the 1960s. Pfefer unapologetically embraced the showmanship and theatrical spectacle of professional wrestling, and he routinely advertised and emphasized the entertainment aspects of his bouts.

Envelope advertising Ed McLemore’s Dallas-based wrestling shows at the famous Sportatorium. Adkisson used this envelope to mail a letter to Jack Pfefer in 1953. (PFE850-12-77)

Pfefer also meticulously saved his records. His papers, which Hesburgh Library acquired in the 1970s, fill more than 200 boxes and include voluminous correspondence, financial records, thousands of programs, and tens of thousands of photographs. The Pfefer Collection is one of the largest publicly accessible wrestling archival or manuscript collections in the country, and it documents nearly all aspects of professional wrestling during the middle years of the twentieth century.

The full five-page letter Jack Adkisson sent to Ed McLemore in 1953 describing his success wrestling as “Fritz von Eric” in New England. (PFE850-12-77)

The 1953 letter from Adkisson to McLemore eventually wound up in Pfefer’s possession, and, along with other material in the Pfefer collection, helps to to chart the rise of Fritz von Erich to legendary wrestling status.

But in 1953, Addkisson was still toiling near the bottom of the industry, and he complained to McLemore:

“I am making a living from this, but that is all. I am not saving anything to speak of. And if a guy can’t save some money in this business, what’s the use in staying? I have got to put away some money…”

Nevertheless, Adkisson remained hopeful: “I am more optimistic about my potential as a bad boy,”

The November 1963 issue of Big Time Wrestling magazine featured an article on Fritz von Erich. The headline claimed that von Erich had insured his right hand, which he used for the Iron Claw, for one million dollars. (PFE780-1-2)

Adkisson was right about his potential. Using his signature maneuver, the “Iron Claw,” von Erich and his German “bad boy” routine, rose up the ranks of the sport to make him one of professional wrestling’s more famous and bankable stars in the 1960s.

Publicity photo of “Fritz von Erich the Worlds Greatest Athlete,” c. 1960. (PFE700-36-6)

von Erich did eventually succeed in saving money, and he became a wrestling promoter in his own right, particularly in his home state of Texas. Fritz von Erich also had six sons, five of whom followed him into the ring. Tragically, five of the von Erich sons died young, leading to talk of a family curse. Fritz von Erich died at the age of 68 in 1997.

The movie Iron Claw, which tells the story of the ill-fated von Erich family, opens widely in theaters on December 22, 2023. The Jack Pfefer Wrestling Collection is open and available to the public for research.

Women in Irish Prisons: Autographs of Prisoners in 1923

by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, Irish Studies Librarian (retired)

Autograph books, nicely-bound books full of blank pages, have been popular for a long time — from schoolchildren’s record of classroom friendships to collections of famous people’s autographs. The Hesburgh Library recently added to its collection a small but powerful document of women’s involvement in Ireland’s politics one hundred years ago. 

Our new acquisition is the prison autograph book of Aoife Taaffe (MSE/IR 1101). The autograph book, signed by her fellow prisoners in 1923, documents the women, and also their dates and places of imprisonment during the Civil War of 1922-23.

Aoife Taaffe, Political Prisoner. Four Courts, Mountjoy, N. D. U., Kilmainham. 1922, 1923.

Information given on this page tells us that Taaffe was a prisoner in the Four Courts, in Mountjoy Jail, in the North Dublin Union, and in Kilmainham Gaol. The book is filled with the signatures of other women who were imprisoned during the Civil War of 1922-23, and their signatures are usually accompanied by information on imprisonment places and dates.

Like many women activists of her time, Aoife Taaffe is not well-known today. Information gleaned from various sources tells us that she was very involved in theatre both as an actor and a director, and she was also involved in many commemorative events for the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence during the 1920s and 30s. While in Kilmainham Gaol, she marked the seventh anniversary of the 1916 Rising by producing P. H. Pearse’s The Singer, with a cast of women prisoners. 

Autographs in the book include those of Margaret Buckley, Kid Bulfin, Eithne Coyle, May Gibney and Margaret Skinnider. In all, the book features the names and signatures of dozens of women prisoners.

The history of women’s involvement in the Irish War of Independence and Civil War is still relatively unknown. Sinéad McCoole’s No Ordinary Women: Irish Female Activists in the Revolutionary Years 1900-1923 (2003) is an important history, and a number of articles and podcasts on the website of Century Ireland provide interesting perspectives on women’s history of the period. A major primary source is the Military Archives, particularly the accounts of service provided by applicants for a pension.

Seven years ago, we mounted a centenary exhibition, Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion, which featured books and documents on a small number of women. This autograph book encourages us to look more widely for sources of Irish women’s history, which is slowly being pulled from the shadows.

Upcoming Events: December 2023

Please join us for the following public events and exhibits being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, December 7 at 5:00pm | Italian Research Seminar: “Desire, Anxiety, Shame: Transatlantic (Re)Mediations and ‘Italian Culture'” by Loredana Polezzi (Stony Brook University).


The exhibition Making and Unmaking Emancipation in Cuba and the United States is now open and will run through the fall semester.

Tours of the exhibit may also be arranged for classes and other groups by contacting Rachel Bohlmann at (574) 631-1575 or Rachel.Bohlmann.2@nd.edu.


The December spotlight exhibits are Football and Community at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (August – December 2023) and TBD (December 2023 – November 2024).

Rare Books and Special Collections will be closed for Notre Dame’s Christmas and New Year’s Break
(December 22, 2023, through January 1, 2024).

We otherwise remain open for our regular hours during Reading Days and Exams, and welcome those looking for a quiet place to study.

Beat Generation Cookbook: Illustrated

by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian and Curator

As a holiday centered around a meal, Thanksgiving includes some introspection, as we pause to reflect on the past year and give thanks before tucking in. 

This Beat Generation Cookbook, although not a particularly Thanksgiving-themed one, takes an irreverent and somewhat alternative approach to meals and cooking, and by implication, to national holidays like Thanksgiving. The Beats—a loosely comprised, countercultural community of writers, poets, musicians, artists, and free-thinkers—coalesced as a cultural phenomenon during the late 1940s.

Published in 1961, this booklet appeared at a time when some Beat counterculturalism had crossed over into mainstream American culture. The recipes—of intentionally dubious origins and quality—are named for (and in some culinary way) connect to Beats who had achieved widespread notice, if not mainstream celebrity. The first recipe, naturally, is named for Jack Kerouac, author of On the Road (1957) and a core Beat figure. He was also one of the best known Beats by the early 1960s; and he loved milk. The “Kerouac Kocktail” a vile-sounding concoction of milk, yeast, sugar, and water, was fermented then refrigerated. The recipe promises that “[i]t beats instant coffee, and it’s effervescent!” 

A dessert recipe, “Billy’s Graham Cracker Pie in the Sky,” spoofed Protestant Evangelist Billy Graham’s successful New York City crusade at Madison Square Garden during the summer of 1957. A chocolate pie, the dish’s “appeal has spread to the barbarians and cannibals, partly for its austere simplicity and partly for its religious flavor” the Beat cooks claim. The recipe called for “¼ cup melted margarine (Protestant)” as well as “2 tablespoons water (Holy)” and “2 disengaged eggs.” It further directed the cook to “chill for Seven Days. Go directly to Hell. Do not pass Purgatory. Do not collect Novenas.” This silliness is paired with an illustration of a Pilgrim eating a slice. 

Hesburgh Library’s copy is missing its outer cover, which was bright yellow with the title in large, red lettering. Our copy also looks well-used–with food (and perhaps paint) stains on the cover as well as more food stains inside, particularly on the pages with recipes for Streetcar Pie and Dharma Buns (a play on Kerouac’s novel, The Dharma Bums). 

The Beat Generation Cookbook: Illustrated also includes recipes for a number of artists and writers the Beats considered important influences. Pablo Piccaso is included as is Kenneth Rexroth, a San Francisco-based poet who supported and helped launch the literary careers of a number of young Beats, including Allen Ginsberg. The Beat Generation Cookbook recognized Rexroth with Rex Broth: a very large, one-pot meal of meat (“beef, mutton, goat, or goose”), beans, barley, root vegetables, spices, and “1 cup Mr. Clean,” with which “to scrub the whole pot (& everything that’s in it).” 

Rare Books and Special Collections holds the Kenneth Rexroth Collection: a grouping of works by and about the artist, of which this tongue-in-cheek, cultural, and culinary masterpiece is a light-hearted example. The Rexroth Collection is part of a substantial RBSC collection of post-World War II small press and avant-garde literature published in the United States. 

Happy Thanksgiving!


Special Collections will be closed during Notre Dame’s Thanksgiving Break (November 23-24, 2023). We wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving 2022: Turkey for the People
Thanksgiving 2021: The Thanksgiving that Gave Us a Song, a Movie … and a Cookbook!
Thanksgiving 2020: Happy Thanksgiving to All Our Readers
Thanksgiving 2019: “Thanksgiving Greetings” from the Strunsky-Walling Collection
Thanksgiving 2018: Thanksgiving from the Margins
Thanksgiving 2017: Playing Indian, Playing White
Thanksgiving 2016: Thanksgiving Humor by Mark Twain
Thanksgiving 2015: Thanksgiving and football

On the Retirement of Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements

by Erika Hosselkus, Associate University Librarian for Scholarly Resources and Services

Aedin Clements, Irish Studies Librarian

Aedín Clements joined Hesburgh Libraries in 2005 as the organization’s first dedicated Irish Studies Librarian. During her tenure, Aedín has developed world class research and special collections in Irish literature, history, and adjacent fields. These include the near-comprehensive Irish Fiction Collection, the Jonathan Swift collection, a large Irish broadside ballads collection, and the Captain Francis O’Neill Irish music collection, among many others. A native speaker of Irish, Aedín has also envisioned and developed Hesburgh Libraries’ substantial Irish-language holdings. 

Along with her collection development activities, Aedin has worked extensively to support students, faculty, and visiting researchers and dignitaries interested in Irish Studies and Irish Language and Literature. As part of her broad outreach, Aedin has curated exhibitions on the writings of the Irish diaspora, Irish children’s literature, the Easter Rising of 1916, and Irish book arts. In 2018, she developed the Keough-Naughton Library Research Award, a partnership between Hesburgh Libraries, the Keough-Naughton Institute, and Notre Dame International offering research fellowships that enable external scholars to utilize the Libraries’ rare Irish collections. Most recently, Aedín collaborated with Hesburgh Libraries’ and Irish Studies colleagues to develop an app-based tour of Dublin featuring connections to materials in our Irish collections.

Aedín has built Hesburgh Libraries’ Irish collections and forged critical connections with campus partners and a global network of researchers. In anticipation of her retirement, we asked colleagues to reflect on her impact and the importance of her work at Notre Dame.

Sarah E. McKibben (Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Irish Language and Literature, University of Notre Dame):

Aedín was a simply marvelous colleague and we will miss her so much! She was so responsive and helpful whenever I located a text I thought we should acquire. She was always full of ideas for my own or my students’ research. She was eager to show my students around the library or teach a research methods session with them, or to help them find the perfect text for their final presentations. In fact, she was so enthusiastic, creative and inspiring that I know she helped many students fall in love with their topics and even pursue further work in Irish Studies.

Since she retired just a week ago, I keep thinking “oh I must email Aedín about this”…I must say, I’m a bit lost without her. She was one of the best hires ND has ever made in Irish Studies.

Aedín receiving a tune written for her by Seán Doherty, a lecturer Dublin City University and one of the recipients of the Keough-Naughton Library Research Award in Irish Studies in 2023.

Natasha Lyandres (Curator, Rare Books and Special Collections, Hesburgh Library, University of Notre Dame):

Almost a year ago, Aedín Clements, our dear colleague, started an epic countdown to her retirement. At the end of October she left the Hesburgh Libraries after serving as Irish Studies Librarian for almost twenty years. Aedín has had an incredibly successful career at Notre Dame. It’s been a real honor to work with her over the past ten years in Rare Books and Special Collections. 

Aedín contributed to the significant growth of Irish Collections by bringing major acquisitions and expanding the reach and impact of her collections through fruitful collaborations with the Keough-Naughton Institute, Notre Dame International, and with the Department of Irish Language and Literature. From teaching numerous classes and supporting graduate and undergraduate students, to installing exhibits and writing blog posts, to launching the Library Research Award in Irish Studies, to welcoming numerous visitors, to assisting scholars from all over the world with their research on campus, Aedín has been the driving force behind the Rare Books and Special Collections’ success and wide international recognition of our Irish collections.

We will miss Aedín’s infectious enthusiasm for Irish Studies, her cheerful personality, her dedication to the Libraries and the University, and also the beautiful sound of the Irish language echoing through the department. Congratulations, dear Aedín, on your retirement. You will always hold a very special place in our hearts.

We thank Aedín for her service, contributions, and collegiality and wish her the best in retirement.

A Revised Martyrology for 16th Century German Catholics

by Alan Krieger, Theology and Philosophy Librarian

Hesburgh Libraries has just acquired the first edition of an extremely rare German-language Catholic Martyrology that was edited by the famed Jesuit scholar-saint, Peter Canisius (1521-1597). The work, Martyrologium: der Kirchen-Kalender, darinnen angezeiget werden, die christlichen Feste und Heiligen Gottes beyder Testamente (Dilingen, 1562), was apparently undertaken by one Adam Walasser, who enlisted Canisius’ help while the latter was in Augsburg. Canisius’ name appears prominently on the title-page, while Walasser only takes credit in the dedication leaf—probably because Canisius was becoming well known by this time.

The purpose of this Martyrology seems to have been two-fold: first, the authors wanted to appeal to the German Catholic population in the German language, especially since Protestantism had been making significant inroads using the vernacular language; second, the authors recognized the need for a scholarly revision of Martyrological texts in order to conform more accurately with known historical facts. In this respect, Canisius anticipated the call for similar revisions by the Council of Trent (which would conclude the year after the publication of this work)—by the end of the 16th century, other revised Roman Martyrologies had been published.

We have found no other North American library holdings of this edition.