Recent Acquisition: Chinese women in post-Cultural Revolution posters

by Hye-jin Juhn, East Asian Studies and Metadata Librarian

These newly acquired Chinese posters include images that conform with, and defy the norms of the ideal Chinese women in the People’s Republic China.

Wang Dawei’s Fu nü neng ding ban bian tian guan jiao shan he huan xin yan 妇女能顶半边天 管教山河换新颜 (Women hold up half the sky, dare to change the mountains and rivers, 1975) depicts a female construction worker, seemingly strong as men, mentally and physically.

Two of the posters depict female characters from Cao Xueqin’s Qing novel, The Story of Stone.

Gao Jingbo’s Yi lu chun feng 一路春风 (2019 print of the 1980 original painting) depicts contemporary women of various social backgrounds. The relationship between the woman in urban clothing, and those in typical peasant clothing seems ambiguous. Are the rural women the followers of the city woman? Or are they sending the urban woman off with their best wishes?

In Wei le sheng huo geng mei hao 为了生活更美好 (1980), and in Jiang li mao 讲礼貌 (1981), we see images of contemporary Chinese women in rural and urban environments. One is a mother, content with a child on her back; the other is a teacher, who upon arriving at her work place on her bicycle, is respectfully greeted by a boy and a girl.   

Recent Acquisition: A Frenchman in Constantinople and Lebanon

by Alan Krieger, Theology and Philosophy Librarian

The Hesburgh Libraries has just acquired an extremely rare biography, François Marchetty’s La Vie de Monsieur de Chasteuil, Solitaire du Mont-Liban (Paris, 1666).

François de Gallaup de Chasteuil (1588-1644) was an orientalist who, after accompanying a French embassy to Constantinople, joined a Maronite hermitage in the Qadisha valley of Lebanon and lived the rest of his life as a hermit there, studying Sacred Scripture.

The work is a fine source for the study of the religious practices and ecclesiastical organization of the 17th-century Maronites, an Eastern Catholic Church that is part of the historical and liturgical heritage of Syriac Christianity. It is officially known today as the Syriac Maronite Church of Antioch.

We have found only one other North American holding of this title.

Welcome Back! Fall 2021 in Special Collections

Rare Books and Special Collections welcomes students, faculty, staff, researchers, and visitors back to campus for Fall ’21! We want to let you know about a variety of things to watch for in the coming semester.

The University of Notre Dame, Hesburgh Libraries, Special Collections, and the current COVID situation

Due to the spread of highly contagious variants of the COVID-19 virus, and our inability to verify the vaccination status of those outside our highly vaccinated campus community, masks will be required (except when eating and drinking) of both vaccinated and unvaccinated faculty, staff, students, and visitors in some campus spaces during times when those spaces are generally open to the public. The first two floors of the Hesburgh Library (including Rare Books and Special Collections) are among the spaces where masks are required in public areas, including for those who are fully vaccinated.

Up-to-date information regarding campus policies is provided at covid.nd.edu, and a complete list of these campus spaces will be updated regularly here.

New Leadership at the Hesburgh Libraries

K. Matthew Dames

K. Matthew Dames, previously university librarian at Boston University, has been appointed the Edward H. Arnold University Librarian at the University of Notre Dame by University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., effective August 1. Dr. Dames succeeds Diane Parr Walker, who has retired after serving 10 years as librarian.

Read the full press report online.

Fall 2021 exhibit: “Bound up with love …” The extraordinary legacy of Father John Zahm’s Dante Collection

This year, the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante Alighieri, we are celebrating the legacy of the Zahm Dante Collection and the remarkable accumulation of rare Italian material acquired at the University of Notre Dame over the past century. 

Highlights of the exhibition include rare printings of the three crowns of Italian literature – Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio – as well as verse anthologies of poetry and other tools such as grammars and dictionaries that would have assisted 16th century readers of vernacular literature.

Fall 2021 Spotlight exhibit featuring the Ferrell Manuscripts

The Fall Spotlight Exhibit features six medieval manuscripts donated to the University of Notre Dame by James E. and Elizabeth J. Ferrell. The collection features a diverse group of manuscripts from the thirteenth through fifteenth century including a historiated Bible, book of hours, a tarot card, and illuminations. The Ferrell Collection can be discovered digitally.

Monthly rotating spotlight exhibits

Despite the challenges of the last academic year and thanks, in no small part, to the generosity of our donors, Special Collections’ holdings continued to grow. This spotlight exhibit celebrates one recent gift: the three-volume limited edition photo album of the Sistine Chapel. An anonymous donor presented this magnum opus to the Hesburgh Libraries in February 2021.

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

Special Collections’ Classes & Workshops

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

Archival Research Lab I: Locating Materials and Preparing to Go
Wednesday, October 6, 10:00am to 11:15am

Archival Research Lab II: Inside the Archive
Wednesday, October 13, 10:00am to 11:15am

This two-session workshop provides an introduction to advanced archival research. In session one, you will learn strategies for finding and evaluating relevant archival collections and steps you’ll need to consider before you go to an archive. In session two, you will “enter the archive,” completing the registration process and handling and examining different archival materials and formats. This workshop is designed to introduce those who have not previously done archival research to the world of archives and special collections, and also as a refresher and skill-building opportunity for those planning to visit archives again in the post-COVID environment.

Events

Fall 2021 Lecture Series: Dante in America — In commemoration of the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death, in 2021 the Center for Italian Studies and Devers Family Program in Dante Studies are hosting a series of lectures on the topic “Dante in America.” During the Fall Semester, the lectures are open to the public and will be held in person and streamed via Zoom, with the first lecture Thursday, September 2, 4:30pm to 6:30pm.

Learn more about the series. 

Recent Acquisitions

Special Collections acquires new material throughout the year. Watch our blog for announcements about recent acquisitions.

Speaking about Catholicism in China with a Unified Voice

by Hye-jin Juhn, East Asian Studies and Metadata Librarian

The goal of the Catholic Central Bureau (CCB), founded by Archbishop Riberi in 1946, was to ensure that the country’s Catholic missions, which were independently run by various denominations, would communicate a unified message about Catholicism and the Catholic world view to the Chinese intellectuals and youths, who were increasingly being attracted to Communism. The CCB, in an attempt to fight off the image of Catholicism as an imperialist and non-scientific religion, actively translated and published European Catholic materials about social reforms. In June 1951, the Chinese government disabled the CCB’s activities and arrested and imprisoned many of its members.

RBSC has two editions of Tian zhu jiao qian shuo (天主教淺說) or An Introduction to Catholicism, authored/edited by Zhang Jiemei and published by the CCB.

Its first edition (106 pages), published in Beijing in 1948, introduces Catholicism “more frankly and objectively” (更坦白,更客觀的方式) than the existing publications about Catholicism. It begins with the questions: “What is religion?,” and “What is Catholicism?,” and discusses the doctrines, organization, rituals of Catholicism, and the Bible.  The sixth edition (156 pages), published in Shanghai in 1951, begins with the question, “What is human?,” addresses evolution theory, and explains the relationship between science and Catholicism. The final page gives the statistics of Catholic faiths by country. An example: Of almost 1.2 billion population in Asia, almost 30 million were Catholic; of the almost 463 million Chinese, approximately 3.5 million were Catholic.

Sample opening from the sixth edition.
References:

Wong, Yee Ying Bibiana. “The Catholic Central Bureau: A Short-lived Church Authority set up around the Time of the Communist Takeover of China.” Lumen: A Journal of Catholic Studies 5, no. 1 (2017).

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!

Preparing a Parchment Fragment for Posterity

By Maren Rozumalski, Gladys Brooks Conservation Fellow

The recent acquisition of a late Byzantine Greek manuscript fragment gives us an excellent opportunity to highlight the relationship between Rare Books and Special Collections and the library’s Analog Preservation Department.

The more degraded “flesh” side of the parchment bifolio.

The fragment is a single sheet of parchment, approximately ten inches tall by sixteen inches wide, folded down the center to create a bifolium. It is written on both sides in iron gall ink with red pigment initials. This piece is believed to be from the 13th-14th century and is yet to be identified fully. Initial studies indicate it contains sermon extracts, but the exact genre of the manuscript is unknown; all texts are unidentified currently. It will primarily be used in the teaching of graduate level Greek Paleography.

“Hair” side of the parchment bifolio.

The fragment came to the library in a delicate state. It has not lived an ideal life over the centuries, and as such, it was important to have the preservation department evaluate its condition before it was allowed to be handled in classes and by researchers. One of the main issues was that some of the text was obscured due to creases resulting from moisture damage. Moisture damage is problematic when dealing with parchment, because it is not reversable and any moisture introduced during treatment has the potential of furthering the degradation.

Microscopic examination of the parchment confirmed that it has water damage and that the degradation and darkening were at least partially due to mold damage. There was no evidence of active mold. Magnification also revealed that the surface layer of parchment on the flesh side of the parchment was lifting and flaking off in the areas with the most degraded areas.

Together with RBSC, the following treatment goals were decided:

1. Flatten the parchment to reveal the obscured text where possible.
2. Remove staining to improve text legibility as needed, and where possible.
3. Mend tears and areas of loss to stabilize the fragment.
4. Provide housing for handling and storage support.

Each treatment was done selectively, so that the parchment was as undisturbed as possible and other treatment goals could be accomplished. This approach is best for the longevity of the parchment and also leaves the possibility of a theoretical codicological reconstruction to determine the original construction of the codex to which this fragment once belonged.

The humidification zones.
Diagram of the Gortex humidification pack.

Four zones were identified as needing “flattening” (more like gentle stretching) to gain access to the obscured text. Humidification, though not ideal, was deemed the only option. A system was devised which allowed each zone to be humidified in isolation. I settled on a Gortex pack sandwich method, which introduced the moisture evenly from both sides of the parchment. This way the parchment became workable more quickly than if moisture were only being introduced from one side and needed to permeate all the way through. Each area was humidified until it was pliable, but never felt wet. The parchment was gently stretched once it was workable and held in its new position as it dried. The stretching worked better in some areas than others, but all of the text is now partially visible making the text more visible.

In-progress surface cleaning.

The darkest areas of parchment with text were surface cleaned with a 50/50 solution of ethanol and deionized water. A damp cotton swab was rolled over the lines of text, lifting up the surface dirt as it went. The ethanol in the mix helped the water evaporate more quickly so it would soak into the damaged parchment.

A patch of parchment roughly the size of a quarter was lifting and about to pop off the document. This was consolidated using a 3% gelatin mousse, which is comprised of cold gelatin strained through a very fine sieve until it is light and frothy.  Gelatin mousse is much easier to control than liquid gelatin since it stays in place after brushing, and because as a drier adhesive it does not permeate the substraight as much as other adhesives.

The tear repairs and bridge mends were done using pre-coated tissue made with wheat starch paste that was reactivated using the same gelatin mousse. The repairs were done on both sides of the parchment so a thin translucent paper could be used but the repairs would still be strong.

UV photograph of “flesh” side of parchment.

UV photography was the last step before making permanent housing for the fragment. Iron gall ink appears darker in UV light than it does in visible light, so the Greek text will be easier to read in UV photographs than in normal light photos or in person. These photographs will aid users working with the fragment.

The final challenge before returning the fragment was housing. Developing a housing system was the most important aspect of this treatment so the fragment can safely maintain its active life. After experimenting with several models, a double-sided window mount was designed, which I adapted from the British Library’s housing for burnt fragments from the collection of Sir Robert Cotton. The parchment is contained within a packet of polyethylene strips and various weights of polyester sheeting. The strips on one side instead of two solid sheets allow for plenty of airflow so there is no danger of creating microclimates. This also helps minimize polyester’s tendency toward static electricity build-up. The fragment was then secured between two window mattes made of corrugated board.

Diagram of the double-sided window mount.
The fragment after treatment and in its housing.

All of the treatment goals were reached using a “less is more” approach, and sturdy housing was constructed. The fragment is back in the library ready for active use.

Fáinne an Lae — Advertising to the Irish

by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, Irish Studies Librarian

New to our collection is a very nice bound volume Fáinne an Lae , A Weekly Bilingual Newspaper for the Advancement of the Irish Language. Páipéar Seachtmhaine Dá Theanga chum Gaedhilge do Chur ar Aghaidh. Vol. 1, no. 1,  January 8th, 1898 to the last volume, Vol. 5, no. 134, July 28th, 1900.

This pioneering work was taken on by printer Bernard Doyle (Brian Ó Dubhghaill), who owned and edited the newspaper, in cooperation with Conradh na Gaeilge (the Gaelic League).

Differences between the owner and Conradh na Gaeilge developed, and eventually Conradh na Gaeilge founded their own paper, An Claidheamh Soluis, which replaced Fáinne an Lae in 1900. Further information on the intertwined history of the two newspapers may be read in Fáinne an Lae agus an Athbheochan, 1898-1900, by Caoilfhionn Nic Pháidín (1998)

When this handsome volume arrived, we began to explore it, examining the content of the first issue (editorial on the need to revive the Irish language, summaries of Irish and overseas news items, and news of the Irish language and of the Gaelic League), but we soon became engrossed in the advertisements on the back page of each issue.

While most advertisements are in English, some are written in Irish, including this one from Madigan Brothers, tea merchants, of Henry Street, Dublin.

Tá tae “thar barr” ag Muintir Mhadagháin. (The Madigan family’s tea is superlative). The price of a pound of their tea ranges from 1/4 (one shilling and four pence) to two shillings.

A barber advertises his services — one wonders if the conversation in 180 Townsend Street was often in Irish, and how successful this ad was in bringing an Irish-speaking clientele. Surely he was not the only Irish-speaking barber in all of Ireland, but the claim might refer to Dublin city center.

As we might expect, many advertisements were directed not only to Irish language enthusiasts, but to those who supported Irish industry. In the spirit of Douglas Hyde’s groundbreaking essay, ‘The Necessity for De-Anglicising Ireland’ (1892), calling for Irish people to embrace Irish products as well as Irish culture and language, the advertisements promote Irish handkerchiefs, clothes, jewellery, whiskey and books.

Bernard Doyle’s biography in ainm.ie tells us that he was involved in the planning of centenary commemoration events for the 1798 Rising, and so it isn’t surprising to find an ad for ’98 commemorative items in his paper. Irish poplin, the material noted here for ties, sashes, and the Wolfe Tone badges, is a silk fabric that was woven in Dublin since the since the seventeenth century.

This Belfast jeweller advertises brooches complete with Celtic cross, harp, and what looks like a round tower.

Christmas cards with Irish language greetings , ‘the latest novelty’ are advertised below Tierney’s ad for rented china, glass and delph. Delph, or delf, a word rarely heard in America, is a common term in Ireland for earthenware dishes, cups, plates etc.

Kelly Brothers, above, advertise their large stock of wine, but only as a footnote to their altar wine.

Having read and enjoyed the advertisements, we will now send the volume for cataloging, and look forward to making it available for students and visitors.

A Minister’s Demand for African American Equal Rights at Home After World War II

by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian and Curator

In honor of Juneteenth, the annual celebration of emancipation by African Americans following the Civil War, RBSC offers this new acquisition, a pamphlet by an African American minister who argued fervently during the late 1940s against states that restricted African Americans’ access to the polls. His message resonates today, as currently bills are rolling through state legislatures across the nation to regulate voting and reshape the franchise.

The Reverend Doctor Willis J. Winston (1877-1949) published this pamphlet, Disfranchisement Makes Subject Citizens Targets for the Mob and Disarms them in the Courts of Justice, sometime between 1947 and 1949. (The dates are inferred from references to aspects of the Truman Doctrine, introduced by the president in March 1947.) Winston was minister at the New Metropolitan Baptist Church in Baltimore, a position he had held since 1940 when the congregation formed. Before that he held a pulpit at the Wayland Baptist Church, also in Baltimore, from 1909. In the 1920s and 1930s  Winston also served as president of two universities—Clayton-Williams University in Baltimore and Northern University in Long Branch, New Jersey.

Details earlier in his career as an outspoken leader for civil rights are scant but illuminating. In August 1932, a few months before the presidential election in which Franklin Delano Roosevelt defeated Herbert Hoover in the depths of the Great Depression, Winston gave the nominating speech for a fellow minister, Rev. Thomas S. Harten, at a mass meeting in Brooklyn sponsored by the Roosevelt for President Club. Harten ran as a Democrat for nomination as Congressman-at-Large for New York. (He did not gain the nomination.) By the time Winston denounced racial injustice in the late 1940s, however, he had become disillusioned with the Democratic party and urged his audience to remain within the “temple of Colored Republicanism” (p. 12) built by generations of African Americans.

By the late 1940s Winston’s disillusionment with FDR, Harry Truman, and the Democratic party was grounded in his experience with these administrations’ unfair racial policies. During the 1930s Roosevelt’s New Deal programs excluded most African Americans. After World War II, Truman was largely ineffectual in stemming a surge of violence targeted toward returning African American veterans, and he was indifferent to more general problems of segregation and disfranchisement. This pamphlet, which Winston probably developed out of a speech or sermon, was part of a rising tide of African American activism against racist attacks in the years immediately following the war that called on Truman to act.

Winston placed the responsibility to stop white violence against African Americans, specifically African American veterans, squarely on the federal government. “O, Federal Government, the Negro’s blood shall be required at your hand and shall be upon your head. This is the only country where men are tied to the stake and burned. . . . How long will this country’s flag fail to defend its defenders?” (p. 9)

Winston focused on African Americans’ persistent lack of rights—their disfranchisement, exclusion from jury service, and prejudice from the bench—which he connected to economic and class prejudice, and to physical attacks against African Americans. “Disfranchisement,” Winston declared, “makes subject-citizens objects of scorn.” (p. 6) For example, “[w]e are denied the rights to sit as jury in the courts of nearly every State, enconsequence of which our person and property are subject, the former to every species of violence and insult, and the latter to fraud and spoilation without any redress.” (p. 8) The right to vote, he argued, must be restored to African Americans for their rights to be respected. “We are living in a country almost half slave and half free, and these barriers which have humiliated the race, and built walls of caste and class must be torn down, and the best way to tear them down, is with the ballot.” (p. 14)

By February 1948 Truman sent a list of civil rights recommendations to Congress— for strengthening the protection of civil rights, a congressional anti-lynching bill, an end to poll taxes, federal protection for voting in national elections, and an end to segregation—nearly all of the points Winston raised. Congress, however, took no action on these reforms. In response, Truman focused on a smaller, but significant goal to desegregate the military, which he successfully began later in 1948 by executive order.    Winston dedicated his publication to his father, Philip Winston, a Virginian and a farm worker who probably never learned to read or write. The minister honored the sacrifices his father had made that allowed his son, as well as his other children, to become educated. Winston’s burial stone, raised by his congregation, students, and widow, likewise memorialized Winston for his character, kindness, and self-sacrifice.


PREVIOUS Juneteenth BLOG POSTS

An Early Civil War Caricature of Jefferson Davis

by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian and Curator

In honor of Memorial Day, we offer a new acquisition that is part of RBSC’s extensive American Civil War collection.

In the early months of the Civil War (1861-1865) an artist from Pennsylvania caricatured Jefferson Davis, the new president of the Confederate States of America. The cartoon, which was published and distributed as a poster, was titled “Jeff. Davis Going to War.” and “Jeff. Returning from War.”

Hesburgh Libraries recently acquired a variation on this cartoon, which includes visual and textual embellishments the original design lacked. It was created and published by E. B. and E. C. Kellogg of Harford, Connecticut and George Witing of New York City, probably not later than 1862.

The two cartoons’ common element is their topsy-turvy metamorphic style. Metamorphic portraits are images composed from other, sometimes unexpected, items, which produces an optical illusion effect. Viewed one way Davis appears as an impossibly mustachioed man in fancy military dress. Rotating the print 180 degrees reveals a new message and image. The original 1861 cartoon’s caption, “Jeff. returning from War,” is accompanied by an image of a donkey. Davis’ mustache is transformed into the animal’s long ears.

In the version held by Hesburgh Libraries, Davis is not identified by name in the print; instead, his name was stenciled (not printed) outside the print’s margin, indicating that it might have been added later. Other extant copies of this print differ from our copy by having captions printed just below the central image: “Jeff. Rampant” and “Jeff. Subdued,” or have Davis’ name printed (rather than stenciled) in the margin. Hesburgh Libraries’ copy, like other surviving copies, is hand-colored and includes poetry verses and illustrations, both of which elaborate on the central metamorphic image of Davis as a warrior / Davis as an ass. The verses read:

War.
With lion heart and frantic mien,
The warrior seeks the battle scene.
To risk his precious blood and fight
For glory and his vaunted right.

Peace.
But when he hears the cannon roar,
And views the dying in his gore,
His courage fails and then alas!
He homeward travels like an ass.

E.B. and E.C. Kellogg of Hartford, Connecticut and their New York agent, George Whiting (also spelled Witing), published this print in 1861 or 1862. The Kellogg brothers Edmund Burke and Elijah Chapman headed an important lithographic printing company during the middle decades of the nineteenth century. Lithography was, in the 1840s when the Kellogg’s established their business, still a relatively new method in the United States for making prints. Artists drew their work onto soft stone which then could be inked and impressed onto paper. The relative ease of drawing on stone and the durability of the lithographs in the printing process made such prints more cost-effective than steel or copperplate engravings. The Kelloggs were artists as well as printers and their shop produced hundreds of beautifully worked images that were affordable and popular for many decades during the nineteenth century.

This rare, possibly unique Civil War print documents public opinion about the incapacity of the leader of the new Confederate States of America early in the war.

For more on the Kelloggs’ prints, see Picturing Victorian America: Prints by the Kellogg Brothers of Hartford, Connecticut, 1830-1880, Nancy Finlay, ed. Hartford, Conn.: Connecticut Historical Society; Middletown, Conn.: Distributed by Wesleyan University Press, 2009.


A happy Memorial Day to you and yours
from all of us in Notre Dame’s Special Collections!

2016 post: Memorial Day: Stories of War by a Civil War Veteran
2017 post: “Memorial Day” poem by Joyce Kilmer
2018 post: “Decoration Day” poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
2019 post: Myths and Memorials
2020 post: Narratives about the Corby Statues—at Gettysburg and on Campus


During June and July the blog will shift to a summer posting schedule, with posts every other Monday in June and July rather than every week. We will resume weekly publication August 2nd.

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.