A 17th Century Reexamination of a 4th Century Saint’s Legend

by Alan Krieger, Theology and Philosophy Librarian

Spine and front cover of binding.

Hesburgh Libraries has recently acquired a fascinating and important early modern work on the story of St. Ursula, a fourth-century British princess who tradition relates was martyred along with her 11,000 female followers by the Huns while on a pilgrimage to Rome. Vita et Martyrium S. Ursulae et Sociarum Undecim Millium Virginum etc. (Coloniae Agrippinae, 1647) by the Jesuit Hermann Crombach is an extensive defense of the legend’s historical veracity, as well as a detailed attempt to identify as many of her virgin companions as possible.

There was a resurgence of St. Ursula’s cult in the seventeenth century that witnessed the publication of a number of titles related to her; this tome “provides the most encyclopedic hagiographic coverage of the cult ever published.” ( Cartwright, The cult of St Ursula and the 11,000 virgins, 2016, p.21-22). This renewal of interest in the saint should probably be seen through the lens of the Catholic Reformation, in which detailed investigations into the authenticity of relics, saints’ legends, etc. were held up as proofs of the church’s reliability in transmitting her traditions.

Beginning of text.

Crombach’s exhaustive approach even included an attempt to identify as many of Ursula’s companions as possible and the inclusion of three finely engraved maps attempting to trace the route of the retinue from southwest England to Rome, before they turned north and were martyred in the defense of Cologne—besieged at the time by the Huns.

The first map, added between pages 270 and 271.

We have identified only five North American library holdings of this work.

A Day in a Life of the Warsaw Ghetto in Photographs

by Natasha Lyandres, Head of Special Collections and Curator, Russian and East European Collections

Special Collections recently acquired two World War II era photo albums featuring original photographs from within and outside of the Warsaw Ghetto’s walls.

Although the albums lack dates and inscriptions, they probably belonged to а German soldier who visited Warsaw sometime after the establishment of the Ghetto in November 1940 and before the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in April 1943.  At the height of its existence in 1941, the Warsaw Ghetto included more than 500,000 Jews from Warsaw and surrounding towns. They lived in subhuman conditions in a small area segregated from the rest of the city by wire and brick walls. Fueled by years of massive Nazi propaganda, the occupied Warsaw was a popular destination for Wehrmacht soldiers who came here to see for themselves the “authentic” East European Jews and their culture. 

Three men standing in the Warsaw Ghetto. (MSE/REE 0042-1, fol. 4r)

The first album presents a broad spectrum of people and activities taking place inside the Ghetto walls.  It comprises twenty-four photographs probably taken during a single day as the photographer strolled through the streets documenting his encounters with the doomed inhabitants. The images vary from close up portraits of people directly facing the camera to more general depictions of the busy street life, misery, and suffering.

The photographer captured “typical Jewish” men with long beards wearing traditional attire, women with strollers in the park, rickshaws used for transporting people and goods, crowded marketplaces with inhabitants trying to make a living by selling potatoes, warm water, and the obligatory Star of David armbands, uprooted families arriving to the Ghetto from nearby towns, homeless children begging for food, and people collapsing and dying on the sidewalks from hunger and diseases.

The Old town. (MSE/REE 0042-2, fol. 18r)

The second album presents forty-seven photographs depicting mostly street views and buildings on the “Aryan” side of Warsaw, including images of the Ghetto wall (Ulica Graniczna), views of the Old town with its charming narrow streets and alleys, palaces with Nazi flags and German soldiers, and historical monuments, many of which were later destroyed. This album also contains several aerial views of the soon to be destroyed city and bridges over the Vistula river. 

Taken by a perpetrator, these photographs serve as important historical evidence of the Holocaust and Nazi atrocities in Poland.

The albums are currently on display as the September spotlight exhibit in Special Collections. After the exhibit closes, they will be digitized. They will soon be available on the Marble (Museums, Archives, Rare Books and Libraries Exploration) online platform.

RBSC is closed Monday, September 5th, for Labor Day.

Upcoming Events: August 2022

Please note that the corridor outside RBSC has construction barriers due to ongoing library renovations, but we remain open regular hours.

There are no public events currently scheduled for August. Please check back for events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections during September.


An exhibition of materials from the University of Notre Dame Archives reflecting on the 50th anniversary of coeducation at Notre Dame will open mid-August and run through the fall semester.

The current spotlight exhibits are Three Sisterhoods and Two Servants of God (June – August 2022) and Fifties Flair and Seventies Feminism Presented by Two Magazines (May – August 2022). The latter exhibit will be replaced towards the end of August by an exhibit showcasing two recently acquired World War II era photo albums featuring original photographs from the within and outside of the Warsaw Ghetto’s walls.

RBSC will be closed Monday, September 5th,
for Labor Day.

A 17th Century French Missionary in the Middle East

by Alan Krieger, Theology and Philosophy Librarian

Hesburgh Libraries has recently acquired a rare first edition of an account by a seventeenth-century French Carmelite missionary of his journey through the Middle East and India, Philippe de la Tres Sainte Trinite’s Itinerarium orientale…in quo varii successus Itineris, plures Orientis Regiones, earum Montes, Maria & Flumina, Series Principum, qui in eis dominati sunt, Incolae tam Christiani, quam Infideles Populi (Lugduni, 1649).

Philippe traveled through Syria, Armenia, Persia and India, describing the situation of Christians abroad as well as taking notes on the flora, fauna, and geography of the places he visited. The work contains ten chapters; the eighth and ninth offer descriptions of the various Christian missions to the Middle and Far East, including an account of the martyrdom of two Carmelite missionaries in Sumatra in 1638.

The author (1603-1671) eventually settled in Goa (India), where he taught until he was elected General of the Carmelite Order in 1665.

We have found only three other North American holdings of this edition.  

Spotlight Exhibit: Remembering Early England

The April spotlight exhibit, Remembering Early England, brings together diverse materials that reveal the power of memory. Featuring an eleventh-century coin, a fifteenth-century medieval manuscript, an early printed grammar book, and a Victorian map, this exhibit is a sample of the breadth of the Hesburgh Library’s Special Collections. Each object represents the different ways that each generation has depicted the early English period (ca. 449 – 1066), whether or not their version of history reflected reality.

For 500 years, the area now conceived of as England was inhabited by diverse populations: the Welsh, Picts, Cornish, Angles, Jutes, Saxons, Danes, Franks, Icelanders, Irish, and Frisians. In fact, England was not considered a unified country until the tenth century when Aethelstan became the first King of the English. However, later inhabitants of England, particularly those in power, portrayed early England as homogenous, stable, and a romantic pre-figuration of themselves and their ideals.

This exhibit was co-curated by Dr. David T. Gura, Curator of Ancient and Medieval Manuscripts, and Anne Elise Crafton, PhD Candidate in the Medieval Institute and Graduate Curatorial Assistant, and can be viewed in 102 Hesburgh Library from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm on weekdays.

Upcoming Events: April and early May

Please join us for the following event being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Tuesday, April 5 at 4:00pm | “Piranesi’s Lost Book” by Heather Minor (Notre Dame).

POSTPONED—NEW DATE WILL BE ANNOUNCED WHEN KNOWN: Thursday, April 7 at 4:30pm | Ravarino Lecture: “Pandemic and Wages in Boccaccio’s Florence” by William Caferro (Vanderbilt).

Rare Books and Special Collections will be open regular hours during Reading Days and Exams (April 27 – May 5). We welcome those looking for a quiet place to study.


The spring exhibit The Word throughout Time: The Bible in the Middle Ages and Beyond is now open and will run through June. This exhibit, curated by David T. Gura (Curator of Ancient and Medieval Manuscripts), marks the 75th anniversary of the University of Notre Dame’s Medieval Institute. Tours are available for classes or other groups, including K-12 audiences, by request.

The current spotlight exhibit are 100 Years of James Joyce’s Ulysses (January – April 2022) and Remembering Early England (March-April 2022).

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

Rare Books and Special Collections will be closed April 15 in observance of Good Friday.

We will resume regular hours
(Monday – Friday, 9:30am – 4:30pm)
on Monday, April 18.

Upcoming Events: March and early April

Please join us for the following event being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, March 24 at 5:00pm | The Italian Research Seminar: “We, the People: Strategies of Representation in the Italian Novel” by Roberto Dainotto (Duke). The Spring lectures are being planned in a hybrid online and in-person format; registration for online access is available via the event description page. Sponsored by Italian Studies at Notre Dame.

DATE & TIME UPDATED – Tuesday, April 5 at 4:00pm | “Piranesi’s Lost Book” by Heather Minor (Notre Dame).

Thursday, April 7 at 4:30pm | Ravarino Lecture: “Pandemic and Wages in Boccaccio’s Florence” by William Caferro (Vanderbilt).


The spring exhibit The Word throughout Time: The Bible in the Middle Ages and Beyond is now open and will run through June. This exhibit, curated by David T. Gura (Curator of Ancient and Medieval Manuscripts), marks the 75th anniversary of the University of Notre Dame’s Medieval Institute. Tours are available for classes or other groups, including K-12 audiences, by request.

The current spotlight exhibit are 100 Years of James Joyce’s Ulysses (January – April 2022) and Remembering Early England (March – April 2022, opening soon).

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

A Seventeenth Century Look at Christians in the Middle East

by Alan Krieger, Theology and Philosophy Librarian

Hesburgh Libraries has just acquired a rare early modern title on the Christians of the Middle East, La Turquie cretienne, sous la puissante protection de Louis le Grand, protecteur unique de cristianisme en Orient (Paris, 1695), by “M. de La Croix”, secretary to the French embassy in Constantinople.

The first three parts of the work examine the churches of the Greeks, the Armenians, and the Maronites. The fourth part includes several accounts of various contemporary events, such as the martyrdom of a Greek boy named Nicholas in Constantinople and the story of a French-sponsored seminary and college built for the education of Oriental Christians.

This book provides a fascinating look into the lives of Middle Eastern Christians living under the rule of the Ottoman Empire in the seventeenth century. We have identified only five other North American library holdings of this work.

A Welsh Witch in the Woods

by Sara Weber, Special Collections Digital Project Specialist

“There is hardly any Traveller in Wales, who has not heard, at least, of the titles of some of those ancient traditionary tales, which every grandmother, on a cold winter evening, repeats to her grandchildren, sitting round the blazing hearth.”

Thus does the anonymous author or editor of Welsh Legends: a Collection of Popular Oral Tales (London: printed by J.D. Dewick … for J. Badcock, 1802) preface the five pieces found in this book. For this year’s Halloween post, we share with you the full text of the second piece, a poem titled “The Weird Witch of the Wood”.


Happy Halloween to you and yours
from all of us in Notre Dame’s Special Collections!

Halloween 2016: Ghosts in the Stacks
Halloween 2017: A spooky story for Halloween: The Goblin Spider
Halloween 2018: A story for Halloween: “Johnson and Emily; or, The Faithful Ghost”
Halloween 2019: A Halloween trip to Mexico
Halloween 2020: Headless Horsemen in American and Irish Legend

A Perspective on the Spanish Civil War, Mallorca, 1936

by Erika Hosselkus, Curator, Latin American Collections

The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) was a complex and divisive conflict that defines Spanish identity to this day. This recent acquisition, a cash book and diary (dietario) kept by a wealthy woman living on Mallorca, in the Balearic Islands, highlights daily life in 1936, during the first year of the war. 

The largest of the Balearic Islands, Mallorca was a locus of nationalist sentiment from early on. Republican forces waged a hard fought battle to win the island back, between July and September of 1936, but were ultimately defeated by the nationalists’ superior air power. On September 4, the island was definitely taken and, over the course of the war, Mallorca served as an important air and naval base for Franco’s fascist forces. 

From January to June, before the war touched Mallorca in any major way, this cash book’s owner, a resident of the city of Manacor, recorded mundane details of daily household life. These included expenses – money spent on food, amounts paid to household servants for cleaning, and pious donations to parish churches, religious orders, and the local hospital. She also recorded income, primarily from a rental house located at the port of Palma, and provided occasional recipes, written in a mix of Catalan and Spanish. 

This page, from January 31, includes a recipe for coques, a traditional sweet or savory pastry common in the Balearic Islands, Catalonia, and adjacent regions. 

By July, however, observations related to the war begin to appear in the diary and these become its main content through the end of the Battle of Mallorca, on September 4.  As early as July 20, an entry reports fighting between republican and nationalist contingents, in the streets of the city of Palma de Mallorca. “This afternoon at the town hall there was fighting between the town guards and the fascists and national police. The national police gave up, seeing that they didn’t have the numbers and not one shot was fired, thanks be to God.”

On August 16, when Republican forces, supported by destroyers and coast guard ships, disembarked at Palma de Mallorca, the cash book states, “this morning at 5 am, an alarm was rung, and the communists entered the port to take possession of everything and the troops came from Palma and the fascists and the rest of our countrymen, with rifles, and they [all] went to defend us…” There were “miles of reds,” and many victims, according to the entry.

Subsequent entries describe the altercations, bombings, gunfire, and the deaths that occurred, primarily in the port city of Palma de Mallorca, before the island was definitively taken by the nationalists on September 4, 1936. 

In addition to war-related details, the writer lists magazine subscriptions, organization memberships, and birth and death dates for her family members in the rear of the book.

This cash book and diary complements other materials related to the Spanish Civil War in our rare collections and offers an intriguing research opportunity for a budding student of history!