Collection highlights, news about acquisitions, events and exhibits, and behind-the-scenes looks at the work and services of Rare Books & Special Collections (RBSC) at Notre Dame.
Rare Books and Special Collections is located on the main floor of the Hesburgh Library at the University of Notre Dame in northern Indiana, and is open to students, faculty, visiting researchers, and members of the community Monday through Friday from 9am-5pm (closed weekends and major holidays).
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.” 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.
 Ellen Carol DuBois, Suffrage: Women’s Long Battle for the Vote (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2020), 5.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
This year, we have no special announcement about closure for the Independence Day holiday, as the Hesburgh Library remains closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to serve our community remotely, drawing on digital images and other resources while working offsite, and we expect that the continuing challenges of limited in-person visits will demand more digitization.
As we move gradually back into our workspace, we look forward to working creatively with faculty and students to make the next semester successful for all and to figuring out how we can best serve our Notre Dame community in these different times.
In honor of Juneteenth (the June 19th celebration of freedom from slavery) and Black Lives Matter (BLM), RBSC highlights several collections about African American life in the United States over the last century. We also reflect on how social and cultural changes—some of them the result of protest movements like BLM—have reformed and are reforming collecting and practices in special collections libraries and archives.
One important collection is the National Ideal Benefit Society records, an African American cooperative and fraternal organization that spanned more than 50 years during the early to mid-twentieth century. Another is a late 1920s ledger book for the Birmingham Black Barons, an elite Negro League professional baseball team, that recorded the team’s financial transactions with players. The collections provide sources about the economic and working lives of African Americans and the unequal labor and social contexts of twentieth-century America.
The National Ideal Benefit Society was an African American insurance cooperative whose benefits supported people through illness, offered cultural events, and provided death benefits for survivors to assist with burial costs. The society was established in 1912 in Richmond, Virginia, by Alexander Watson Holmes (1861-1935). The collection holds correspondence from policy holders, official society publications and records, and letters to Holmes from individuals and institutions.
The Birmingham, Alabama, Black Barons were a professional baseball team during the sport’s long period of segregation. The ledger book records the club’s financial transactions with players over five seasons (1926-1930). The accounts include credits (monthly salaries) and debits (cash advances, equipment charges, fines, extra meals, taxi fare, phone calls, and so on). Satchel Paige was one of many notable players on the team.
These collections underscore the shift in collecting that has occurred over the last 40 years in special collections libraries.
Special collections such as ours, and archives also, collect unique and rare manuscripts and books to preserve our society’s cultural record. Until the late 1960s and early 1970s in the United States that cultural record largely consisted of the records of elite, white men, mostly from the Northeast with ancestors who came from the British Isles. A number of changes in American society led to a major shift away from this cultural identity in archives and special collections libraries.
Social reform movements that culminated in the 1960s and 1970s—for the rights and full participation of African Americans, women, Native Americans, Latinx, LGBTQ, and others in American life—fueled demands for archival collections that more accurately reflected and included the diversity of American society.
At the same time the rise of social history demanded new sources. Focused on writing the history of ordinary people and changes that came from the many rather than the few (history from the bottom up), social historians relied on documents of everyday life as well as social movements—letters, diaries, ledger books, and scrapbooks of the non-famous, as well as ephemeral printed materials like posters, broadsides, menus, annual reports, and programs.
More recently, archivists and special collections librarians have, as a profession, begun seriously to grapple with questions of power in archives: who is represented and who is left out in our collections? Are collecting decisions made independently, or under institutional or donor guidelines? How are people of color and non-elites and their accomplishments described in catalogs and finding aids? Is the archive open to community members, or are there professional or membership requirements to use the collections? Do staff working in the archive represent the diversity of the collections and their users? As we honor Juneteenth and confront Black Lives Matter’s challenge to truly achieve the promises of American freedom and democracy, these questions become even more sharply relevant.