Upcoming Events: September and early October

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

Thursday, October 7 at 4:30pm | Dante in America, Session V: Dante, Jazz, and American Modernism” by Joseph Rosenberg (University of Notre Dame), and “‘Was Then Your Image Like the Image I See Now?’ Dante’s Face in America” by Kathleen Verduin (Hope College).

The Dante in America lectures are sponsored by the Center for Italian Studies and the Devers Family Program in Dante Studies.

The fall exhibit “Bound up with love…” The extraordinary legacy of Father John Zahm’s Dante Collection is now open and will run through the end of the semester.

The current spotlight exhibits are The Ferrell Manuscripts (August – December 2021) and A Limited Edition Photo Album of the Sistine Chapel (August – September 2021).


RBSC is closed Monday, September 6th,
for Labor Day.

On the Retirement of Joseph T. Ross

A guest essay by Lou Jordan, Associate University Librarian

Joe Ross and his wife, Nancy, examining a manuscript bible.

As we wish you a celebratory Independence Day, we also mark the retirement of longtime rare books cataloger, Joe Ross. We thank Lou Jordan. Associate University Librarian, who was for many years the Head of Rare Books and Special Collections, for contributing an essay on Joe’s career.

As an undergraduate Joe pursued an interest in theology. He was awarded a BA in religion in 1973 from Lycoming College in Williamsport, PA, and went on to obtain a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School. Joe also studied the history of science, spending the 1975-76 academic year as a research assistant at the Institut für die Geschichte der Medizin, Tübingen.

Joe took his first library job in 1979 as a library assistant at Emory University. In 1981, Joe was hired at Notre Dame by Maureen Gleason as a library technical assistant to work with the collection development librarian Joe Huebner. His workspace was centrally located, close to the circulation desk in the room where the current shipment of new books from our North American approval plan were displayed for decisioning. Also located in that room were the 3×5 book slips for our approval plan from German publishers. Consequently, most subject librarians and many Arts and Letters faculty stopped by the room on a regular basis to peruse the latest publications and at the same time also got to know Joe. Joe quickly gained a reputation as a linguist and a scholar, assisting a wide array of librarians and teaching faculty procure needed titles. During this time Joe renewed his interested in the history of science, taking one course at a time and finally in 1991 completing an MA in the History of Science program at Notre Dame, focusing his study on Hegel.

In 1992, Joe resigned his staff position in order to pursue a Masters of Library Science degree full-time at Indiana University in Bloomington. Following his MLS, Joe accepted a library faculty position at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C as the Bibliographer for Philosophy, Theology, and Humanities. In 1996 Notre Dame advertised for a rare books cataloger; Joe applied for this position and was hired at the rank of a staff librarian as the first full time Rare Books Cataloger at Hesburgh Library. In 1997 he took on the added duties as liaison to the program in the History and Philosophy of Science and in 1999 was promoted to Assistant Librarian.

Joe is a master linguist, fluent in German and with a command of Greek, Latin, most major Western European languages, as well as Arabic and even Sanskrit. His language ability and meticulous scholarship are his signature traits. Joe surrounded himself with rare books and the reference works needed to catalog these texts. There was hardly any open space in his office—even the chair he reserved for visitors was often filled with the past month’s copies of The New York Times.

Joe consistently produced high level original cataloging for rare materials no matter what language they were in. He was especially diligent with complex works that most catalogers would put aside. He accurately described each individual text in our numerous neo-scholastic theological anthologies that has come from various Olmütz monastic libraries. Similarly, he clearly distinguished the numerous lectures, poems and dissertations collected in our 17th century German university miscellanies. Joe also meticulously documented provenance information, tracing down handwritten signatures and ex-libris annotations as well as identifying many hitherto unrecorded early book stamps and labels. 

During his 25 years as a rare book cataloger Joe provided thousands of original catalog records for early imprints unlocking the content of these important resources for the Notre Dame community and for scholars around the world.

Best wishes in your well-deserved retirement Joe, we shall miss you.


Rare Books and Special Collections will be closed on Monday, July 5th, in observance of Independence Day. For research visits to Special Collections, please make an appointment by contacting us at rarebook@nd.edu.

Wishing you and yours a happy Canada Day (July 1)
and a festive Fourth of July!

Special Collections Summer 2021 Visitors Policy

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

We are excited to announce that Notre Dame’s Rare Books and Special Collections will once again be open to researchers from both on and off campus during the period May 23 to August 20, 2021. We will continue to operate our reading room by appointment only, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., Monday to Friday. To schedule an appointment, please email RBSC staff.

Patrons are encouraged to send their requests at least two business days in advance so that materials will be ready upon arrival. All visitors must wear a face covering and comply with the University’s health and safety protocols.

Find more information about access and services at the Hesburgh Libraries Service Continuity page.

Great Expectations for 2021

Happy New Year!

We look forward to working with students, faculty and other scholars in 2021, and we look forward to a time when visitors may wander in on a whim rather than by appointment.

Our new year’s resolutions include making more of our collections accessible digitally as well as adding finding aids to the Archivesspace tool, making it easier to learn about manuscript and other collections from afar.

Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion — only one of a number of digital exhibits that curators plan to complete in the coming year.

Curators will continue their plans for this year’s exhibits, and we hope that later in the spring it will be possible to visit and enjoy the suffrage exhibition, “Men and women should stand as equals: American Women and the Vote”.

But for the moment and for the foreseeable future, we have the same protective conditions in place that we had in the fall semester.

The Hesburgh Library remains open to current students, faculty and staff of Notre Dame, St. Mary’s and Holy Cross College. Please see the Hesburgh Libraries Service Continuity Page for up-to-date information on access and hours.

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

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

We are happy to work with students and faculty to find solutions to access problems during this pandemic.

Happy Holidays from Special Collections!

Rare Books and Special Collections is open by appointment only through this Friday (December 18, 2020). After that, we will be closed for the Christmas and New Year’s Break (December 19, 2020 through January 5, 2021).

Special Collections will reopen on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, again by appointment only. Visit the Hesburgh Libraries Service Continuity webpage for the most up-to-date information about both the Libraries in general and Special Collections in particular.

This is the last blog post for 2020. Happy holidays to you and yours from Notre Dame’s Rare Books and Special Collections!

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

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

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

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

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

Special Collections’ Classes

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

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

Fall 2020 Exhibits

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

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

Events in Special Collections

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

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

Special Collections Online Resources

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

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

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


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

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

Who’s Who in RBSC: Julie Tanaka

“It is with bittersweet feeling I write to announce that Julie Tanaka accepted a position as Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts at Arizona State University. Julie is excited about the opportunities in the new position and I am very happy for her.” —Natasha Lyandres, Head of Special Collections

Julie Tanaka achieved so much that it’s difficult to believe that she arrived here less than eight years ago. Along with her role as Curator of Special Collections and as subject liaison for Western European History, Julie took on many more responsibilities in Special Collections and in the Hesburgh Libraries.

Julie’s impact on the role and visibility of the Rare Books and Special Collections has been appreciated throughout campus and beyond. In her willingness to partner with professors of History, English, Design, and other disciplines to plan excellent programs for research, she has set high standards for her fellow curators. In fact, she initiated and designed many programs that are now an integral part of RBSC.

Julie approaches the library world not as a gate-keeper but in the generous spirit of an educator who wishes everyone to learn and to benefit from the collection. Her outreach to professors who had not considered integrating rare books and other library materials in their courses has had great results. Julie applies the same high standards of planning, teaching and performance from tours for the children of Notre Dame’s Early Childhood Development Center to a research methods class for graduate students.

Julie’s commitment to outreach helped ensure that Rare Books & Special Collections was a welcoming place for students and faculty. But it wasn’t just members of the Notre Dame community who benefited from Julie’s vision.

Everyone who came in, from visiting researchers, who gained access to far more research materials than they originally anticipated, to football fans who happened to wander in on a rainy Football Friday just curious about what goes on behind the smoky glass walls on the first floor of the Hesburgh Library, left fascinated by the items housed in our department—all thanks to Julie. One notable visitor was a ten year old boy from Albania. Julie had noticed the young man and his English-language tutor visiting our exhibit room weekly. They liked to look at the books in the glass cases and study the English letters on the exhibit cards. Julie introduced herself and asked if, on their next visit, they would like to see some more items from Special Collections … outside the glass. Julie carefully choreographed a display for the young man. He left in awe of what he had seen,  with a personalized Special Collections coloring book in hand, full of English letters and wonderful pictures to aid him in his studies. For the remainder of the semester he would come in to say hello and happily test out the new English words he had learned.

The current exhibit, Paws, Hooves, Fins & Feathers, co-curated with Erika Hosselkus, was planned with the greater community in mind. Julie and Erika curated an exhibit that highlights our remarkable natural history collection, with a well-planned outreach to local schools integrated into the plan. In light of the closure, they have transformed the physical exhibit in a digital one, Paws, Hooves, Fins, and Feathers Digital.

As a historian, Julie has been proactive in ensuring that Notre Dame’s students receive a good grounding in library and archival research, and her work over the years with library colleagues and with faculty from various departments, has resulted in the development of a series of classes and workshops carried out in the Special Collections.

Despite Julie’s dislike for our Midwestern winters, she was invariably the first person to arrive every morning. We expect her to send us regular notes about the warm temperatures in Arizona. And in return, we will send Julie pictures of any innovations we develop in the design of our reading room, because Julie taught us that there is an optimal way to arrange the classroom furniture for every class.

We wish Julie the very best in her new endeavor.

Week 3 of Special Collections and COVID-19

The lion above is featured in the second edition of Michael Bernhard Valentini’s Amphitheatrum zootomicum (1742), currently on display in the Spring ’20 exhibit.

A few thoughts from Julie, one of the curators stuck at home.

For our diehard fans who anxiously await 9:00am (EDT) to see what fascinating piece we’ve put up, I have some sad news. We’re a bit late today.

Being removed from our collections and separated into our remote offices—and for me, staring out the window at a gloomy gray sky—are posing some challenges such as keeping track of what day of the week it is.

I know all us at RBSC would prefer being back in the office, but for now we’re dong our best. Look for news in the not too distant future about a digital version of the exhibit Erika and I curated, Paws, Hooves, Fins, and Feathers: Animals in Print, 1500-1800. It’s underway. Here’s what I’m working from:

image of hand sketched layout for spring 20 exhibit

You’ll notice the image quality is not up to our normal standards.

Fortunately, I have a Word doc with the text for the exhibit labels and Sara’s been dealing with the joys (that is, the s-l-o-w-n-e-s-s) of accessing our archival images on the server.

So, please, I hope you find a bit of amusement in my morning musing as I drain another cup of coffee and deal with my cat being annoyed because I’m home when I’m normally not.

Keep in mind, we’re still functioning as a remote department, so if you have questions, feel free to drop any of the curators an email or one to our awesome front line staff at rarebook@nd.edu.

Special Collections COVID-19 Response

Rare Books & Special Collections will continue to provide service via virtual access to expertise and online/digital resources in support of teaching and learning. During this time, our expertise and services are just a phone call, email, or Zoom consultation away. We invite you to consult with us as often as needed.

All tours and in person classes are currently suspended.

We encourage you to visit our Library Service Continuity webpage for detailed information about how to access Hesburgh Libraries digital services and resources, or email us at rarebook@nd.edu.

Welcome Back

RBSC looks forward to an event-filled Spring ’20! As we welcome students, faculty, staff, researchers, and visitors back from the holiday break, we want to let you know about a few things to watch for.

Spring ’20 exhibit: Paws, Hooves, Fins & Feathers: Animals in Print, 1500-1800

This exhibit features mammals, sea creatures, and birds from our early modern rare book collection and is enhanced by images from our botanical collection as well as plant and animal specimens on loan to us from Notre Dame’s Museum of Biodiversity. We would like to extend our appreciation to Barbara Hellenthal (Curator) and Ronald Hellenthal (Director) for their help to make this possible.

Spotlight exhibit featuring works by and related to John Ruskin

This exhibit will open in February in conjunction with the Ruskin Conference at Notre Dame John Ruskin: Prophet of the Anthropocene, February 7-8, 2020. Guest curated by Professors Robert Goulding (History and Philosophy of Science) and Sara Maurer (English).

Monthly rotating spotlight exhibits

Drop in every month to see what new surprise awaits you in our monthly feature.

Special Collections’ Classes

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 as well as from other local schools ranging from preschoolers to adults. If you’re interested in us doing instruction for your class or group, please contact Special Collections.

Italian Studies Research Seminar Series

The Spring ’20 series kicks off on Thursday, January 30 at 5:00pm. Join us for the first of four talks this semester.

Recent Acquisitions

Birds of Acid title pageWe acquire new material throughout the year. Watch for announcements about recent acquisitions. RBSC has already received new materials for our Irish, Latin American, Medieval manuscripts, Eastern European,  American, and European collections. We are awaiting the first installment of a new artist book, Birds of Acid by Parisian artist Didier Mutel some time this month.