Color Our Collections – End of the School Year Stress-Relief

Today’s coloring sheet features an illustration by Florence Harrison from Poems by Christina Rossetti (London, Glasgow & Bombay: Blackie and Son, Ltd., 1910). The image comes at the end of the poem ‘Summer’ — something most of us are looking forward to at this point!

If you’d like to see more of this item, make an appointment to visit us and ask to see the book in person — the call number is on the coloring page.

Good luck with the end of the semester, everyone!

The Private Theatre of Kilkenny

We added an attractive and interesting book to our collection on Irish Theatre, The Private Theatre of Kilkenny, with Introductory Observations on Other Private Theatres in Ireland, before it was opened. Privately printed in Kilkenny in 1825, the book covers the history of this theatre from its formation in 1802 until it ended in 1819.

Kilkenny, the home of an annual international arts festival, has a long history as a cultural city. Ask About Ireland, the Irish libraries and museums’ website of cultural and historical information for Irish students, features a page on Kilkenny Theatre, describing this Private Theatre as follows:

During the late 1700s, it became very fashionable for wealthy people to have private theatricals or plays performed at their houses. The popularity of this led to the formation of amateur acting companies, such as the one formed by Sir Richard Power in Kilfane. This company became so successful that it opened a public theatre in Kilkenny in 1802 called The Athenaeum. Most of its profits were donated to charitable organizations in the area.

Kilkenny Theatre: Glitz and Glamour, Learning Zone: Primary Students, AskAboutIreland.ie

The introduction discusses the history of theatrical activities in the area prior to the formation of the Theatre, during the years when plays were performed in the country homes of various landed families: “…about the end of the year 1774, a taste for Dramatic amusements was very prevalent in the County of Kilkenny. Plays were got up at Knocktopher, Farmley, and Kilfane, the Seats of the late Sir Hercules Langrishe, Mr. Henry Flood, of Parliamentary celebrity, and Mr. Gervais Parker Bushe … Mr. Henry Grattan … was a member of the Theatrical Society, which passed from one elegant and hospitable Mansion to another, for the purpose of enjoying their classic recreations: a little strolling community, of no mean talents, or ordinary pretentions.”

Each chapter provides the programs for the season, and also the text of the prologue and other commentary, for example an account of reviews or of visitors. The prologue shown above takes aim at critics of the theatre, including, apparently, The Globe of London:

But merit will have foes. Amus’d we find
We’ve whet the spleen of some malignant mind,
Who swells ouf fame, when he would wound and probe
Which, grateful for his labours, fill *The Globe.

Our copy is elegantly bound, and is a great example of the craft of an Irish bookbinder. The bookseller describes it thus:

Contemporary full burgundy morocco. Covers with double gilt frame, blind stamped Greek-key and acanthus rolls, ‘Gervase Bushe / Glencairne Abbey’ in gilt on upper cover. Spine divided into six panels by five raised bands, title in gilt direct in the second, the remainder tooled with a gilt floral device. Armorial bookplate of Benjamin John Plunket on front pastedown.

This book is from the library of Benjamin John Plunket, and bears his bookplate. The Hesburgh Libraries acquired it this year by purchase from Irish bookseller, Éamonn de Búrca.

Prayer Books of German Catholics in Eighteenth-Century America

by Jean McManus, Catholic Studies Librarian

We recently acquired a manuscript German Catholic prayer book, made in Pennsylvania in 1799. Following is a short description of what we know about this particular manuscript book, and a comparison with a printed German Catholic prayer book that was published in Baltimore around the same time (1795).

Kary, Simon.  Manuscript on paper, in German. Catholic prayer book. Pennsylvania, 1799. 136 pp. Original block-printed wrappers preserved inside; early inked annotations in German on inside of original front wrapper and elsewhere.

This beautiful manuscript’s opening page describes its contents:

…sich befinden in Andachtübung Gott deß Morgens, und Abends, bey den Heiligen Meß, Beicht und Kommunion Gebettern zu sprechen. Wie auch unterschiedliche Getbetter zu Christo, und Maria, auf die fürnehmsten FestTage deß Jahrs. Und auch Gebetter zu dem Heiligen Gottes zu finden sein. Zu grössern Ehr und Seelen Trost. Geschrieben worden von dem Simon Kary im Jahr 1799.

..they are [for] devotional practice to pray to God in the morning and in the evening, at the Holy Mass, confession and communion prayers. As well as different prayers for Christ and Mary on the most noble feast days of the year. And prayers to the Holy of God can also be found. To greater honor and consolation to souls. Written by Simon Kary in 1799

Simon Kary wrote his prayer book in the style that was current in the “Pennsylvania Dutch” region, a typical German-American fraktur style, including beautiful floral decorations and lettering. The 136-page manuscript even has its original block-printed paper wrappers, which shows that people took some care of it for over 220 years. The small book certainly had use, as smudges, dirt, oil, and handwritten additions attest. Perhaps most poignant is the inscription from a 19th c. owner opposite the manuscript title page, which reads in translation: “Forget not your father and your mother, for they have died. My most honored father died on 17th March in the year of the Lord [1]784. My beloved mother died on 6th December in the year of the Lord [1]801. The 14th November in the year of the Lord [1]803. M.S. in the sign of the fish.”

Who owned this unique prayer book? First, Simon Kary in 1799; then “M.S.,” who added the note about parents inside the front wrapper by 1803; later there is an early-19th-century ownership signature of “Anna Holzinger” on the title-page, and a pencil signature of “Theresa” in the lower margin of the title page. It would be hard to tell the particular story of this manuscript prayer book with only these clues, but it is an exemplar of a tradition of writing.

Our bookseller notes that German-American Catholic fraktur prayer books are rare but not unknown; there is a nearly contemporary example in the renowned collection of fraktur at the Free Library of Philadelphia, which contains a “Himmlischer Palm Zweig Worinen die Auserlesene Morgen Abend Auch Beicht und Kommunion Wie auch zum H. Sakrament In Christo und seinen Leiden, wie auch zur der H. Mutter Gottes, 1787” (item no: frkm064000). 

In 1799 the German population in the U.S. is estimated to have been between 85,000 and 100,000 individuals, the vast majority being Protestants of one stripe or another. German Catholics were a very small minority, and concentrated in Pennsylvania. A 1757 count of Catholics in Pennsylvania, both Irish and Germans, compiled from several sources, totalled only 1365 people. Pennsylvania German Catholics were served first by Jesuits sent from Maryland, where half the population was Catholic. German Jesuit missionaries established the mission of The Sacred Heart at Conewago (circa 1720) and Father Schneider’s mission church in Goshenhoppen (circa 1740). There was also a tradition of fraktur birth and baptismal certificates among Protestants and Catholics in this era. Nevertheless, the Kary prayer book now in the Hesburgh Library is exceptionally rare. 

Our bookseller, Philadelphia Rare Books & Manuscripts Company, stated that “There were no German-language Catholic prayer books published in the U.S. until the 19th century, so those wishing to have one before then had to have a bookstore import it or engender one in manuscript.”

Catholisches Gebät-Buch. Baltimore: Samuel Saur, 1795.

Rare Books Extra Small
BX 2184 .C37 1795

However, we have a fine example of a German Catholic prayer book, printed in Baltimore in 1795 by Samuel Saur (1767-1820). Saur was a grandson of the Philadelphia (Germantown) printer Christopher Sauer (also Sower), famous for printing the whole bible in German in 1743. That 1743 bible was the translation of Martin Luther, and the Sauers were not Catholics. Printers such as the Irish immigrant Mathew Carey (arriving in Philadelphia in the 1780s) and later generations of Sauers, printed all manner of Catholic, Protestant, and secular materials, in a number of languages.

Samuel Sauer began his working life in Germantown, but eventually moved to Baltimore, where he advertised his unique-to-the-city skills of printing in English and German. One of his early Baltimore imprints was the Catholisches Gebät-Buch, published the year he set up shop in the city. Over the course of his 25 years in Baltimore, Saur printed a number of Catholic titles in German, as well as many Pietist works, almanacs, and newspapers. Certainly his location in Catholic Baltimore gave him the commissions for things Catholic, and the relative proximity of Baltimore to Pennsylvania gave him access to most of the German readers in the U.S. 

The Simon Kary German prayer book of 1799 likely represents the middle to end of the era of the self-made manuscript for Catholic devotional purposes, while the Catholisches Gebät-Buch of Samuel Saur shows the arc of the German language printers accommodating the differing religious affiliations of the German immigrants, in order to make a living. There remain many questions to ask about the particular prayers contained in these two works, and questions about their Catholic readers.

Thanks to the Philadelphia Rare Books & Manuscripts proprietors for sharing their research with us.

For further information, see the articles below:

The Catholic Church in Colonial Pennsylvania, by Sister Blanche Marie
(Convent of St. Elizabeth, Convent, NJ). Pennsylvania History, vol. 3, no. 4, October 1936, pp. 240-258.

Durnbaugh, Donald F. “Samuel Saur (1767-1820): German-American printer and typefounder.” Society for the History of the Germans in Maryland, vol. 42nd Report, 1993, pp. 64-80.

Fairy Tales and Folk Tales — Two Books by Yeats

by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, Irish Studies Librarian

Most of the books in our W. B. Yeats collection sit neatly on the literature shelves — in fact, the majority are in the ‘rare medium’ shelves as our special collections are organized in various size ranges. Exceptions, however, with variant editions found in the ‘rare small’ sections of folklore and children’s literature section, are Yeats’s Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry and his Irish Fairy Tales.

Fairy and folk tales of the Irish peasantry / ed. and selected by W.B. Yeats.
London: W. Scott, undated. Rare Books Small GR 153.5 .F34 1880z

Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry was one of Yeats’s earliest published books. At the time of this work, Yeats had been publishing in periodicals for about four years, mostly in the Dublin University Review. He had published one book of poetry, Mosada, now exceedingly rare, in 1886, and was working on having his next collection published — The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems. His published poetry and other writing of the time demonstrates a great interest in folklore, and in stories of fairies, ghosts and other phenomena of folklore, and his reading was complemented by encounters with the people of County Sligo in particular, where he spent much of his time.

To find Yeats discussing this publication, we can consult John Kelly’s great compilation, The Collected Letters of W. B. Yeats, which, fortunately, we have in digital form and so can easily search the letters for references to folklore and fairies. Thus we learn that Yeats was invited by his friend Ernest Rhys to produce a book of folklore for the Camelot Series of prose writing, to be published by Walter Scott. 

Yeats writes to his friend Katharine Tynan in February, 1888:

I am trying to get some sort of regular work to do however, it is neccessary, and better any way than writing articles about things that do not interest one — are not in ones line of developement — not that I am not very glad to do the Folklore book or any thing that comes to my hand.

Kelly, 47-48
Illustration by James Torrance from Irish Fairy and folk Tales, a later edition, circa 1893, published by W. Scott. The picture illustrates a story by William Carleton, ‘Frank Martin and the Fairies’.

Irish fairy and folk tales / selected and ed. with introduction, by W.B. Yeats. Twelve illustrations by James Torrance. London: W. Scott, [1893?]

In the letters we also find Yeats consulting with Douglas Hyde on the book.

Yeats’s selection includes stories written by those friends, Douglas Hyde and Katharine Tynan and other contemporaries, and also by earlier writers, among them Crofton Croker, whose early nineteenth century collections of folklore were very popular.

In the introduction to the 1888 book, Yeats discusses the context for storytelling in the community, and he argues the merits of the folklore collectors included in his book, saying that “they have made their work literature rather than science” and that they have “caught the very voice of the people” (xiv). 

Most of Yeats’s early encounters with the rural Irish were in Sligo, where his mother’s family lived, and here he introduces a story-teller of his acquaintance, Paddy Flynn, “a little, bright-eyed, old man, living in a leaky one-roomed cottage” who tells stories of Columkill (Colmcille) and who has told Yeats matter-of-factly of his sighting of the Banshee.

 Fairy and folk tales of the Irish peasantry / edited and selected by W.B. Yeats. London: W. Scott; New York: T. Whittaker, 1888. Rare Books Small GR 153.5 .F34 1888

The chapters demonstrate the editor’s interest in the various supernatural or magical creatures and phenomena found in Irish folklore. The sections on fairies are divided into ‘The Trooping Fairies’ and ‘The Solitary Fairies’. In the first are stories of Changelings, and of the Merrow (a sea-being), while the Solitary Fairies include the Leprechaun and his variants, and also the Pooka and the Banshee.

The stories collected from folklore are interspersed with verse, including, for example William Allingham’s ‘The Fairies’, with which the collection begins. In the section on the Changeling, we find an example of one of Yeats’s own compositions, his well-known poem ‘The Stolen Child’, with an early version of the refrain uttered by the fairies to entice the child to leave and join them:

Come away, O, human child!
To the woods and waters wild,
With a fairy hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than
you can understand.

W. B. Yeats, ‘The Stolen Child’, in Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry (1888), p. 59.

The rest of the chapters cover characters ranging from ghosts to priests, and there is also a chapter called ‘Tyeer-Na-N-Og’ (Tír na nÓg — the land of youth).

Title page with frontispiece by Jack B. Yeats: an illustration from “The Young Piper” by Crofton Croker.

Irish Fairy Tales, edited with an introduction by W. B. Yeats. New York: Cassell, 1892.

Yeats’s Irish Fairy Tales, with illustrations by his brother, Jack B. Yeats, was published in a series for children in 1892. This book has a modest selection of fourteen stories, a lively introductory essay on ‘The Irish Storyteller’, and an appendix on the classification of Irish fairies.

In a note on the contents, Yeats explains that he has included no story that has already appeared in Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry, and that he believes the two volumes to make “a fairly representative collection of Irish folk tales.”

With writers of the stature of W. B. Yeats, librarians and scholars have many resources for researching the bibliography, and in the case of Yeats, we have Allan Wade, A Bibliography of the Writings of W. B. Yeats, 3rd. ed., rev., Russell K. Alsbach (1968). Nevertheless, Yeats made so many changes in editions of his work, that it is always interesting to compare the variant editions of his work.

Dante and Women Authors in Sixteenth Century Italy

by Tracy Bergstrom, Curator, Zahm Dante and Early Italian Imprints Collection

Notre Dame’s Rare Books and Special Collections holds one of the largest collections relating to the works of Dante Alighieri in print and, as such, supports research into the utilization of the Divina commedia at various times for a variety of political purposes. One of the rarities of our collection is the small, ephemeral pamphlet printed in 1575 titled Declamatione delle gentildonne di Cesena intorno alle pompe (Declamation of the Gentlewomen of the City of Cesena against Sumptuary Fines…). Eponymously written by a group of ‘Gentildonne’ to push back against recent strict sumptuary laws, the authors utilize quotations from Dante, Petrarch and a panoply of classical authors to argue for the necessity of ornamental clothing as it provides a means of communicating women’s identity.

Title page, Declamatione delle gentildonne di Cesena intorno alle pompe… , printed in Bologna by Alessandro Benacci in 1575.

Mid-16th century Italy saw a flourishing of publications authored by women. The collection of lyric poetry authored by the courtesan Tullia d’Aragona, first printed in Venice in 1547, is a fine example of this phenomenon. The volume includes poems by d’Aragona herself as well as sonnets addressed to her by her male contemporaries. 

Title page, Rime della signora Tullia di Aragona; et di diversi a lei, printed in Venice by Gabriel Giolito in 1547.

The period between 1560-1580, however, marks a time of decline in works published by women in Italy. As vernacular poetry declined in popularity and more academic discourse gained readership, this shift was not particularly conducive to women’s contributions. Thus, if the Declamatione delle gentildonne… was authored by women, as the title and content suggest, it is a rare example of a female polemical prose writing. As such, it is one of many examples within Special Collections’ extraordinary collection of Dante-related holdings with significant research potential for students and scholars alike. 

An Example of Early Modern French Humanist Scholarship

by Alan Krieger, Theology and Philosophy Librarian

Hesburgh Libraries has recently acquired an interesting example of early modern French humanist scholarship, Jacques Lefevre d’Etaples’ Iacobi Fabris Stapulensis De Maria Magdalena, & triduo Christi disceptatio (Hagenoae, 1518). In this work, Lefevre d’Etaples (c. 1455-c. 1536) contends that Mary Magdalene, Mary the sister of Lazarus, and the penitent woman who anointed Christ’s feet were three different women, an assertion that went against popular tradition up to that point.

While many scholastic theologians and traditionalists feared the questioning of such traditional beliefs posed a danger to the faith, Lefevre and other humanists believed that the real danger was in allowing ill-founded legends to corrupt authentic faith and piety and prevented the reform of belief and practice that was needed in the church.

We have identified only two other physical copies of this second edition held by North American libraries.

Competing with Finian’s Rainbow

by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, Irish Studies Librarian

This immigrant librarian was delighted to see Ireland’s national holiday celebrated in American elementary schools. It was dismaying, however, to walk down a school corridor in March of 1996, and see the walls bedecked with rainbows, crocks of gold, and leprechauns.

Did a film about a leprechaun and a crock of gold so captivate American audiences that no other stories could compete? Have books of Irish stories been available for children who grew up in America in the last century?

Padraic Colum, The King of Ireland’s Son, illustrated by Willy Pogany. NY: Macmillan, 1921.
Rare Books Medium PR 6005 .O38 K54 1921

Padraic Colum (1881-1972) and Ella Young (1867-1956) are the only Irish authors whose books have been recognized with a Newbery honor. The Newbery medal was founded in 1922 and is awarded annually by the ALA for an American-published children’s book. In addition to the medalist, a few books are named honor books each year. Colum and Young are also among the few Irish authors mentioned in American reviews of children’s books in the first half of the twentieth century.

Colum’s The King of Ireland’s Son, illustrated by Willy Pogány, has many stories woven into a framing narrative. Between the time when Connal, the King of Ireland’s son, is sent on a quest by the Enchanter and the end where he and Fedelma, the Enchanter’s daughter are finally married, there are many stories and adventures, some concerning Connal and Fedelma, and some being stories told by our characters — stories within stories.

As in all Colum’s books for children, the art of the storyteller is always close to the surface.

Padraic Colum, The King of Ireland’s Son. Illustrations by Willy Pogany.

And then a flock of ravens came from the rocks, and flying straight at them attacked Fedelma and the King of Ireland’s Son. The King’s Son sprang from the steed and taking his sword in his hand he fought the ravens until he drove them away. They rode on again. But now the ravens flew back and attacked them again and the King of Ireland’s Son fought them until his hands were wearied. He mounted the steed again, and they rode swiftly on. and the ravens came the third time and attacked them more fiercely than before. The King’s Son fought them until he had killed all but three and until he was covered with their blood and feathers.

Colum, 51
Padraic Colum, The Girl who Sat by the Ashes. Illustrated by Dugald Stewart Walker. NY: Macmillan, 1919.
Rare Books Medium PR 6005 .O38 G57 1919

Colum’s children’s books, published by Macmillan, are drawn from the literature of a number of countries and cultures. His The Golden Fleece and The Children’s Homer were much-read and constantly recommended for youth, and his Hawaiian stories were written at the request of the Hawaiian legislature. His Irish stories include The Girl who Sat by the Ashes, and The White Sparrow, and The Forge in the Forest is a collection of stories of different cultures all told in a forge, a traditional setting for storytelling.

Typically, Colum’s books have stories within a story, so that the narrator and context of the storytelling is part of the story. In The Big Tree of Bunlahy, for example, the narrator sets the scene by claiming that the big elm tree in his small native village is world-famous. The narrator proceeds to tell of many instances where he sat under the tree as a boy, often in the context of an errand such as a visit to the shoemaker, and he tells of a colorful series of people who gathered under the tree, and the stories that they told on different occasions. Stories vary from early Irish literature such as the story of Oisín (Usheen) and Tír na nÓg, to stories about animals and birds.

Colum’s children’s books are just one aspect of the literature for which he was known. He was already well-known in Ireland as a playwright and a poet when he left for America in 1914. In fact, he is mentioned in Joyce’s Ulysses as one of Ireland’s most promising young writers in 1904.

In his long career in America he taught literature at Columbia University in New York, sometimes co-teaching along with Mary Colum, his wife.

Another Irish emigrant, Ella Young, who made her home in California in the 1920s, was involved, as Colum was, in the Irish Literary Revival. She, too, taught in a university. She taught Irish myth and lore at the University of Berkeley in California. And Irish myth and lore is at the center of her books of stories for children. Shown above is her 1932 book, The Unicorn with Silver Shoes, illustrated by Robert Lawson.

Ella Young, The Wonder Smith and his Son: A Tale from the Golden Childhood of the World. Illustrated by Boris Artzybasheff. NY: Longmans, Green, 1927.
Rare Books Medium PS 3547 .O4745 W66 1927

The Wonder Smith and His Son was a Newbery Honor book in 1928, and The Tangle-Coated Horse and Other Tales was a Newbery Honor book in 1930.

The Wonder Smith is Young’s name for An Gobán Saor, a mythical builder, stonemason and trickster, who figures in many Irish folktales. The title page by Boris Artzybasheff, with its decorations inspired by the designs on Irish illuminated manuscripts, enhances the idea of these tales orginating in ‘the golden childhood of the world’.

Ella Young. The Wonder Smith and his Son. Illustration by Boris Artzybasheff.

It is interesting that the works of these two writers of the Irish Revival, settled in America, were selected by American publishers and reviewers alike. They represent a new image of Ireland for American readers, one of a nation with its own folklore and literary traditions. Earlier books such as Only an Irish Boy by Horatio Alger, told stories of Irish immigrant children who ‘made good’ in America, and so the insistence of these writers on the existence and richness of Ireland’s culture was probably very welcome.

Our Fall 2013 exhibit was on Irish children’s literature, and we hope to have a selection from that exhibit online in the near future.


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

St Patrick’s Day 2018 post: St. Patrick’s Day in America (1872)
St Patrick’s Day 2019 post: St. Patrick and the Nun of Kenmare
St Patrick’s Day 2020 post: St. Patrick’s Day Postcards

Or, you can browse all our Irish Studies related posts.

African American History Month

We join The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to celebrate African American History Month.

Paul Laurence Dunbar’s New Literary Tradition Packaged to Sell

by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian and Curator

Poet and writer Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) was interested in creating an African American literary tradition based on oral sources. In both works of poetry shown here, Candle Lightin’ Time and Li’l’ Gal, Dunbar used dialect, a choice he made for some of his work. Unlike most contemporary white writers, who used dialect in openly racist ways, Dunbar appropriated dialect as a way to represent fully African American expression.

Beginning of “The Plantation Child’s Lullaby” from Li’l’ Gal (1904).

The books’ appearance—the detailed and beautiful bindings, illustrations, and page designs—point to Dunbar’s publisher’s confidence in their profitability. Dodd & Mead of New York produced a string of the writer’s works, a partnership that helped propel Dunbar’s popularity. Margaret Armstrong (1867-1944), one of the most successful book designers working in this period, created the bindings. Her art nouveau style featured plant motifs and gold-stamping.

The photographs for Candle Lightin’ Time were taken by the mostly white members of the Hampton Institute Camera Club, an amateur group of photographers affiliated with the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (now Hampton University) in Virginia. The illustrations in Li’l’ Gal were taken by Leigh Richmond Minor (1864-1935), an art teacher at the institute and a trained photographer. Although the pictures were staged, their subjects are presented fully as individuals, another way in which Dunbar’s books overturned contemporary, racist depictions of African Americans.

Born in Dayton, Ohio in 1872 to parents who were formerly enslaved, Dunbar showed early literary talent. He edited his high school newspaper, served as president of the school’s Philomathean Literary Society, and edited a newspaper for Dayton’s African American community for a short time. Financial hardship kept him from pursuing a college education and he found work as an elevator operator, although he continued to write.

With the support of local backers, he published Oak and Ivy in 1893, a collection of poems in both standard English and dialect. By 1895 his work was praised and championed by Frederick Douglass and by literary critic William Dean Howells. Although Howells and other white critics focused heavily on Dunbar’s use of dialect (much to the writer’s dismay) and placed his work in a tradition of white writing about plantation slavery, the breadth and variety of Dunbar’s literary work transcended the racist limitations of most dialect writing of the time.

In addition to poetry, Dunbar wrote novels, short stories, and at least one play. He gained national and international recognition at the turn of the twentieth century, one of the first African American writers to do so. He was an important literary precursor for writers of the Harlem Renaissance, two decades later.

In Rare Books and Special Collections, Dunbar’s works are part of growing collection of African American literature and historical works published before 1920 and the start of the Harlem Renaissance. Other writers include Benjamin Brawley, Maud Cuney Hare, Helen S. Woodruff, Walter E. Todd, Leila Amos Pendleton, and Oscar Micheaux.

An Ecumenical Council to End a Papal Schism

by Alan Krieger, Theology and Philosophy Librarian

Hesburgh Libraries has recently acquired an important early history of the Council of Constance (1414-1418), Johannes Stumpf’s Des grossen gemeinen Conciiliums zu Costentz gehalten (Zurich, 1541). The main purpose of this ecumenical council was to end the papal schism which followed in the aftermath of the end of the papacy’s extended removal to Avignon, France (1309-1377). The Council successfully ended this crisis by electing Pope Martin V in November 1417.

Another important result of the Council was the condemnation of Jan Hus (c. 1372-1415), the Czech reformer who was clearly influenced by the 14th-century English dissident, John Wycliffe. Hus attacked the moral failings of the clergy and questioned church teachings on a number of theological topics, including the Eucharist and the practice of granting Indulgences. This work examines his career extensively and reproduces many of his letters, as well as a number of contemporary accounts of the Council. It concludes with an exhaustive list of all those involved in the various conciliar sessions.

We have identified only six other North American library holdings of this title.

Color Our Collections: St. Brigid’s Day and “An Alphabet of Irish Saints”

by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, Irish Studies Librarian

St. Brigid’s Day, February 1st, marks the beginning of Spring in the Irish calendar.

In our exhibition of Irish children’s literature some years ago, we showed the first children’s alphabet book written completely in Irish that we know of — Na Rudaí Beaga (c. 1920) by Pádraig Ó Bróithe, illustrated by Lucas Rooney. We recently added a bilingual alphabet to our collection. An Alphabet of Irish Saints, illustrated by the same artist, was first published in 1915.

This book has a two-page spread for letters of the 18-letter Irish alphabet, each entry listing a saint and including a verse in English by Charlotte Dease and one in Irish by Tadhg Ó Donnchadha. An illustration, an ornate letter in the Gaelic font, and notes on the saint and associated place and festivals complete each entry.

The English verse refers to the story of Brigid receiving a promise that she could have all the land that her shawl, or mantle, could cover, to build her abbey. Her shawl spread to cover a great expanse of land. While this verse suggests a learned woman leader who could also cook, scrub and sew, the Irish verse must have been far less appealing to any young reader. It takes the form of a prayer to St. Brigid, and the prayer asks that the comely young women of Ireland would emulate her in practicing hard work.

Whether or not Brigid was a real person, an abbess in the fifth century, her legends have been part of Irish tradition and custom for centuries. In fact, look closely at the illustration above, and see the rushes strewn on the floor. These were surely added by the artist in reference to the story of the saint weaving a cross of rushes from the floor, and hence the traditional Crois Bhrighde, or Brigid’s Crosses, made at this time of year around the island of Ireland through many generations.


From February 1-5, 2021, libraries, archives, and other cultural institutions around the world are sharing free coloring sheets and books based on materials in their collections. Visit The New York Academy of Medicine Library’s #ColorOurCollections site for more information and to find other color options.