From the Dubliners Bookshelf

Stories from Dubliners mapped to where they took place in Dublin.

Stories from Joyce’s Dubliners mapped to their locations in Dublin.

The current James Joyce exhibit, now on display through October 8th at the Burns Library, focuses on Joyce’s Dubliners and the books referenced in Dubliners.  Dubliners is a collection of fifteen short stories about the inhabitants and environment of Dublin at the turn of the twentieth century–a seemingly innocuous proposal, but one that caused no end of frustration for Joyce in seeing it through to print.  Digital versions of the books referenced in Dubliners, along with a digitized Dubliners, form the basis of the recently launched Dubliners Bookshelf website.

Joyce struggled with the noted London-based publisher Grant Richards for almost a decade to publish <a href = ",scope:(BCL)&query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21385130840001021"><em>Dubliners</em></a>.

Joyce struggled with the noted London-based publisher Grant Richards for almost a decade to publish Dubliners.

 When Joyce was trying to publish Dubliners, British law stated that a printer was just as guilty of any charges of obscenity as the writer of a book. After Joyce’s prospective publisher, Grant Richards, sent the Dubliners proofs to the printer, the printer informed Richards that the stories contained “obscenities.” In the story “Grace,” for instance, the printer objected to Joyce’s use of the word “bloody,” as in: “Then he has a bloody big bowl of cabbage before him on the table and a bloody big spoon like a shovel.” Richards and Joyce were unable to agree on revisions and so publication of Dubliners was at a standstill. Joyce sought out several other publishers, including George Roberts of Maunsel & Co. in Dublin. Yet all efforts failed.  In the meantime, Joyce befriended another expatriate, Ezra Pound, who was associated with The Egoist, a London literary magazine. Pound arranged for some of Joyce’s work to appear in the journal, which impressed Grant Richards, who in turn wrote to Joyce in 1913 offering to reconsider the publication of Dubliners.  It took another year, and several editorial concessions by Joyce, but after nearly nine long years of agonizing abeyance, Richards delivered Dubliners to the public on June 15, 1914. Embedded in Joyce’s Dubliners are many references to the books that his characters owned and read, some of these books are featured in the exhibit.  This post highlights a selection of these books.  For a complete list of these books and to view these books online, visit the Dubliners Bookshelf website.

Frontispiece from Arthur Machen's <a href = ",scope:(BCL)&query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21449054960001021"><em>House of Souls</em></a>, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Frontispiece from Arthur Machen’s House of Souls, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Two books by Welsh author Arthur Machen are advertised in Dubliners.  Grant Richards published Arthur Machen’s short story collection The House of Souls some eight years before Dubliners. Machen’s stories were steeped in the supernatural, reflecting Machen’s interest in occult literature and his experience working as a bibliographer and translator for an antiquarian bookseller who specialized in mysticism. Like Machen and other writers of the time, Joyce demonstrated interest in the occult as a young man and collected books on mysticism, spirituality, and hermeticism.  Grant Richards also solicited Arthur Machen’s The Hill of Dreams (originally titled The Garden of Avallaunius). Machen’s new novel departed significantly from his earlier writing, however, and Richards refused to publish the manuscript. Machen attempted to find another publisher over the next ten years, until Richards finally decided to issue it in 1907. The loosely autobiographical novel was advertised in the first edition of Joyce’s Dubliners along with The House of Souls.

Front cover of <a href=";vid=bclib&amp;onCampus=true&amp;group=GUEST&amp;loc=local,scope:(BCL)&amp;query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21369925720001021">The Short Catechism</a>, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Front cover of The Short Catechism, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

References to the Catholic Catechism appear throughout Dubliners, reflecting its importance in Irish Catholic educational models. Catholic publishing rose to prominence in the late nineteenth century, with the publishing houses of M.H. Gill & Son, Browne and Nolan, and James Duffy producing large numbers of religious texts, including condensed versions of the official catechism, like this one, used for preparing first communicants. In “A Painful Case,” Joyce gives the name James Duffy to his central character: a socially isolated, probably homosexual, bank cashier who rebuffs a relationship with a married woman, Mrs. Sinico, whom he later reads has been killed by a train, leading him to reflect on his utter loneliness.

Title page from <a href =,scope:(BCL)&query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21449534510001021"><em>Thus Spake Zarathustra</em></a> by Friedrich Nietzsche, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Title page from Thus Spake Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

After Duffy ends his visits with Mrs. Sinico in “A Painful Case,” she sends him a parcel with the books and music he had lent her, and Joyce notes that on the bookshelf in Duffy’s bedroom appeared two volumes by Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra and The Joyful Wisdom. Joyce himself began to take an interest in Nietzsche around 1903, just before John Eglinton’s essay in the literary magazine Dana made Nietzsche an increasingly fashionable author among the Dublin intelligentsia. Joyce parodies Nietzsche’s notion of the Űbermensch in Stephen Hero and later works.

Title page from <a href = ",scope:(BCL)&query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21448933290001021"><em>The Last Days of Pompeii</em></a> by Edward Bulwer Lytton, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Title page from The Last Days of Pompeii by Edward Bulwer Lytton, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

The queer old man whom the boys met in “The Encounter” prodded them by asking whether they “had read the poetry of Thomas Moore or the works of Sir Walter Scott and Lord Lytton.” Lord Lytton was a popular nineteenth-century writer, and Joyce had a copy of the Tauchnitz edition of his Last Days of Pompeii in his Trieste library. Tauchnitz was one of the primary publishers of Anglophone literature on the European Continent who provided reliable editions of British and American literature for travelers and self-imposed exiles like Joyce. In the library he kept at Trieste, Joyce collected 46 Tauchnitz titles by authors such as Joseph Conrad, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, and George Moore. In May 1930, one of Joyce’s own works, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was published in the Tauchnitz series. Despite the lack of copyright agreements between Germany and Britain in the nineteenth century, Tauchnitz offered royalties to its writers in order to ensure accurate texts.

Enjoy learning more about Dubliners by visiting Unhemmed As It Is Uneven:  Joyce’s Odyssey in Print at the Burns Library through September 12th or by perusing the Dubliners Bookshelf website.  If you have further questions, please contact the Burns Library Reading Room at 617-552-4851 or

  • Andrew A. Kuhn, Doctoral Candidate in the Boston College English Department
  • Christian Dupont, Burns Librarian &                                                                            Associate University Librarian for Special Collections
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Jerome Van Crowninshield Smith

Portrait of Dr. Smith from <a href = ",scope:(BCL)&query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21316999360001021"><i>Mayors of Boston</i></a>, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Portrait of Dr. Smith from Mayors of Boston, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

INFORMATION WANTED 9 February 1856  OF PHILIP SHANAHAN, who left the parish of Inley, co Limerick, Aug 25th, ’51, and when last heard from was in Rappahannock co, Va. His sister Mary, at Rainsford Island, wishes to know of his whereabouts. Direct to A G Goodwin, 59 Long Wharf Boston. (Harris 1993, 437)

The 19th century brought waves of Irish immigrants to the United States.  In the process families and friends, such as the brother and sister pair seen above in an information wanted ad from the Boston Pilot newspaper, were often separated.  Though limited information can be found on Phillip and Mary Shanahan, their story, similar to many others, enlightens us on patterns of Irish immigration and in turn the history of our own country.  Rainsford Island, located in Boston Harbor, is the location given as Mary Shanahan’s home. Rainsford Island played a major role in Boston history as an early quarantine station and hospital for passengers of ships arriving in the harbor. While researching Rainsford Island, Doctor James Van Crowninshield Smith’s name made regular appearances, and holds significant interest to us here at the Burns Library.

Dr. Jerome Van Crowninshield Smith (1800-1879), over the course of his life was incredibly active; he was a professor, editor, author, health officer, and mayor of Boston during his lengthy professional career (New York Times 1879).  Smith was born in Conway, N.H., July 20, 1800, and graduated from Brown University in 1818 (New York Times 1879). Dr. J. V. C. Smith received his M.D. from Williams College, and studied surgery under Dr. William Ingalls, an eminent surgeon of Boston (Rainville 1914).  In 1825 while in Boston, the center of medical science in New England, he became the editor of the Medical Intelligencer, a post which he held with distinction for more than 20 years (New York Times 1879).  In 1826 he was made Health Officer of the port of Boston, a position he served on Rainsford Island until 1849. When he retired from active duty, he spent several years traveling the Middle East. On his return, in 1854, he was elected Mayor of Boston and served until 1855. He finally retired in 1870 and moved to New York City with his wife to be near his son also a medical practitioner (New York Times 1879).

In the midst of his professional career, Dr. Smith also found time to write prolifically on a diverse number of topics.  Some of his medical texts include a text-book of anatomy, a book on women’s health, and a book on the anatomy and physiology of the eye.  Some of his non-medical texts include a Natural history of fish found in Massachusetts, a book on gold and silver, and an essay on the practicability of cultivating the honey bee.   He also wrote three books of travel, one on Palestine, another on Egypt, and a third on Turkey and the Turks (New York Times 1879).

The Burns Library is home to several of Dr. Smith’s literary works and orations during, and prior to, his time serving as mayor for the city of Boston.  One of the orations found in the Burns Library was given to the city of Boston on July 4th while he was serving as Health Officer of the port of Boston.  An Oration, Delivered before the Inhabitants of South Boston on Saturday, July 4, 1835, the Fifty-ninth Anniversary of the American Independence begins with the reminder that those in attendance are gathered to celebrate the “Birth-Day of Political Freedom—the hollowed Festival of Patriots” (Smith 1835, 3).  Dr. Smith describes the historic events that lead up to the formation of Boston with the incorporation of Dorchester (Smith 1835, 16-20) and also memorializes the events which occurred in Boston during the American Revolution (Smith 1835, 20-41). The oration concludes by warning the citizens that they must not become complacent and the exhortation to keep alive and acknowledge the principles of liberty and equality, to teach the youth, so all that was gained by the patriots of Boston during the revolutionary war was not for naught (Smith 1835, 44).

Woodcut print of a tattooed girl from <a href = ",scope:(BCL)&query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21349781930001021".<i>Pilgrimage to Egypt</i></a> by J.V.C. Smith, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Woodcut print of a tattooed girl from Pilgrimage to Egypt by J.V.C. Smith, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

After retiring from his position at Rainsford Island Dr. Smith traveled to the Middle East; during these tours he kept detailed diaries.  Upon returning back to the states he compiled these diaries into books.  A Pilgrimage to Egypt, published in 1852, is here at the Burns Library.  In A Pilgrimage to Egypt, Dr. Smith covers a diverse number of topics ranging from architecture, to antiques for sale, to ethnographic accounts of the locals.  One particularly interesting account of the locals that is accompanied by a wood cut print, describes the physical appearance of a woman from a bazaar along the lower Nile who was covered by tattoos (Smith 1852, 51-52).  Dr. Smith describes the town as being made out of mud brick, the bazaar a short dirty street covered by old mats and brush to keep it shaded from the sunlight. Sellers sat cross-legged by their goods smoking while awaiting customers. The women of the town were either carrying jugs of water or lounging by their round huts. They wore a single loose fitting robe of blue and their faces, arms, hands, and feet were covered in tattoos (Smith 1852, 52).

Although we may never know the outcome of Mary Shanahan and her search for her brother Philip, this ad and others like it still provide important information on our nation’s past. On a closer look their motives for immigration and arrival locations are connected to people and places that can be found in a paper trail here at the Burns Library.  In reading Dr. Smith’s July 4th oration, one is struck by the pride in which he holds America as the land of freedom and equality, and the great importance of keeping America this way.  As the Health Officer of Boston’s port, Dr. Smith would have closely interacted with the waves of immigrants coming to America, all seeking the same freedom and equality which he cherished dearly.

If you would like to explore other volumes by Dr. Smith in the Burns Library’s Boston Collection, then please email or call the Burns Library at or (617)-552-4861.

  • Rachel Brody, Student Assistant to Kathleen Williams, Irish Studies Librarian & MA Student in the Department of History

Works Consulted

Anonymous. “OTHER DEATHS.” New York Times (1857-1922), Aug 22, 1879.

Harris, Ruth-Ann M., and O’Keeffe B. Erner, eds. The Search for Missing Friends: Irish Immigrant Advertisements Placed in the Boston Pilot. Vol. III. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1993.

Rainville, Susan, Rainville, Leo, Donor, State Street Trust Company, and Walton Advertising Printing Company. Mayors of Boston: An Illustrated Epitome of Who the Mayors Have Been and What They Have Done. State Street Trust Company (Boston, Mass.) (Series); No. 8. Boston: Printed for the State Street Trust, 1914.

Smith, Jerome Van Crowninshield. An Oration, Delivered before the Inhabitants of South Boston, on Saturday, July 4, 1835, the Fifty-ninth Anniversary of American Independence. Boston: Russell, Diorne and, 1835.

A Pilgrimage to Egypt. Boston: Gould and Lincoln, 1852.

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The Dolmen Press

Slipcase for <a href=";vid=bclib&amp;onCampus=true&amp;group=GUEST&amp;loc=local,scope:(BCL)&amp;query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21325086200001021"><i>Travelling Tinkers</i></a> by Sigerson Clifford, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Slipcase for Travelling Tinkers by Sigerson Clifford, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word dolmen as “The French name, used by some English authors, for a cromlech, a prehistoric structure, consisting of a large flattish stone supported upon two or more smaller upright stones.” This traditional grouping appears in various forms throughout the works published by the Dolmen Press, usually as an image on the colophon at the end of each volume. Founded in 1951 by Liam Miller, the Dolmen Press was an Irish fine print press that ran from 1951-1987. Liam Miller was trained as an architect; he also designed sets for the Abbey Theatre and founded the Lantern Theatre. In 1951, with his wife Josephine, he opened the Dolmen Press in response to the need he saw for Irish poets to have a place to publish their work in Ireland. Though the press later expanded to include prose as well as a developing a printing branch, some of its best known work is of Irish poetry.

Cover of <a href = ",scope:(BCL)&query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21325086200001021"><i>Travelling Tinkers</i></a> by Sigerson Clifford, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Cover of Travelling Tinkers by Sigerson Clifford, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

The first book printed by the Dolmen Press was a collection of ballads limited titled Travelling Tinkers by Sigerson Clifford. The Burns Library  holds a copy of almost every title printed by the Dolmen Press in its Dolmen Press Collection and this particular copy of Travelling Tinkers is one of 100 copies from the initial run signed by both Clifford and Miller. Miller described his approach to printing and design in an interview with Kevin Casey in 1976:

My interest in typography was not really an interest in typography, I think it was an interest in order. My architectural training—how to sharpen a pencil and that kind of thing—had given me some sort of design discipline, and my approach to printing a book was to do something simple and honest and four-square and straight which our first book, may I say, wasn’t at all. (25)

Title page signed by Sigerson Clifford from <a href=",scope:(BCL)&query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21325086200001021"><i>Travelling Tinkers</i></a> by Sigerson Clifford, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Title page signed by Sigerson Clifford from Travelling Tinkers by Sigerson Clifford, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Indeed, the title of Travelling Tinkers is off-centered (it lists to the left) and the type varies in how heavily it has been inked, but for all its imperfections the hand-sewn book sold out in a few weeks. Miller claimed that, “Had we not succeeded with our first book, my wife and I would have perhaps given up and gone into something else at that time” (Casey 24). Thankfully for Irish literature and the Dolmen Press, the book sold well and Dolmen was able to continue publishing.

The Press was unique in that Miller “believed in the idea of sustained, mutually satisfying relationship between the writer and the publisher…Many who published a book with Dolmen had the rare experience of collaborating with a skilled and imaginative craftsman seeking to match design, materials, and literary content” (Harmon 11). Louis le Brocquy, who illustrated Thomas Kinsella’s translation of the Irish epic The Tain, one of the Dolmen Press’s most well-known works, claimed that “Liam Miller belonged to that small band of wholly disinterested enthusiasts who enrich our lives. He was an artist enraptured by a vision of perfection for its own sake, by an overriding concern for the thing itself “ (20-21).   Rory Brennan, in his essay “Dolmen: Bound and Unbound” echoes this idea of the thing itself, when he said, upon picking up a collection of Padraic Colum’s work Ten Poems, “The book was the thing; the way it handled, the way the page sat open, the pattern of the print, all seemed to enhance the memories it contained” (88).

<a href = ",scope:(BCL)&query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21355914240001021"><i>A Gaelic Alphabet</i></a> by Michael Biggs, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

A Gaelic Alphabet by Michael Biggs, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

The books pictured here are all from the first ten years of the Press’s history. They include slim volumes of poetry and one of typography—a Gaelic alphabet that Miller felt very strongly about maintaining in the face of the Romanization of Gaelic type. The paper is thick and heavy with uneven edges (in the early days of the Press the Millers—and often the author whose work they were publishing—would cut pages with a kitchen knife) and the books are hand sewn into various types of covers. Poems, Thomas Kinsella’s first collection of poetry is one of fifty copies signed by the poet, bound in “quarter buckram with marbled boards” (Dolmen XXV 26) and features a lovely wood engraving by Elizabeth Rivers on the title page. A Gaelic Alphabet is an alphabet cut and designed by Michael Bigg, accompanied by a note on Irish lettering by Liam Miller. These volumes barely scratch the surface of the beautiful and important work for Irish literature, authors, publication, and printing that the Dolmen Press accomplished during its thirty-six year history.  Hopefully, these selections give a sense of the care and effort that went into each volume. If you would like to explore other volumes in the Dolmen Press Collection, please email or call the Burns Library at or (617)-552-4861.

  • Rachel A. Ernst, Burns Library Reading Room Assistant & Ph.D. student in the English Department

Works Consulted

Brennan, Rory. “Dolmen: Bound and Unbound.” The Dolmen Press: A Celebration. Dublin: The Lilliput Press, 2001.

le Brocquy, Louis. “The Thing Itself.” The Dolmen Press: A Celebration. Dublin: The Lilliput Press, 2001.

Casey, Kevin. “Two Interviews with Liam Miller.” The Dolmen Press: A Celebration. Dublin: The Lilliput Press, 2001.

Harmon, Maurice. “Introduction.” The Dolmen Press: A Celebration. Dublin: The Lilliput Press,2001.

Miller, Liam. Dolmen XXV: An Illustrated Bibliography of the Dolmen Press 1951-1967 Compiled by Liam Miller. Ireland: The Dolmen Press Ltd., 1976.

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Christmas Holidays at Chestnut Hill: A Collection of Stories

“Story Telling at Chestnut Hill.” Frontispiece to Christmas Holidays at Chestnut Hill by Cousin Mary, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Christmas Holidays at Chestnut Hill is a collection of stories published in 1853 by an author who gives her name informally as Cousin Mary. The familiarity of the name this author chose gives a prelude to the warmth and familiarity that comes within the text. The author dedicated the book to her sister Caroline, who wrote the introduction to the collected stories.

In the introduction, Caroline tells of one particular year’s Christmas festivities when her large extended family traveled to Chestnut Hill from as far away as New York and Calcutta. As she recalls, most of the family’s leisure time was spent listening to the stories her Grandpa told, an activity that seems to have been the backbone of their holiday tradition: “There was never a merrier Christmas-party than that … last year, at Chestnut Hill.”

What follows this nostalgic introduction is a collection of ten stories, retold as accurately as Mary’s memory could muster, of those that she and her Grandpapa had told to entertain their family. Several provide a religious moral: their plots center on characters engaging in acts of charity despite their own poverty. Eventually, the lives of these characters become intertwined, and the tales culminate when their protagonists realize that charity produces happiness.

Cover and binding of  <a href = ",scope:(BCL)&query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21314401210001021"><i>Christmas Holidays at Chestnut Hill</i></a> by Cousin Mary, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Cover and binding of Christmas Holidays at Chestnut Hill by Cousin Mary, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

These types of moralizing Christian tales are typical of 19th-century literature, and the book’s original patrons may have deemed them appropriate for family gatherings with small children. Not only are they instructive, but the stories also allude to Christmas celebrations with children. The final text is a poem entitled “Who was Santa-Claus?” and describes children pondering this question. The original purpose of the book may therefore have been to impart lessons unto youth about how to live Christian lives, as well as to keep these young children entertained.

In accord with the bookbinding style of the mid-19th century, the binding of Christmas Holidays was made to impress possible buyers as art to be admired. Though worn in many areas, the cover’s ornateness indicates the economic status of its publishers and initial owners. Most cover impressions were blind-stamped, but the center of this volume boasts a crest embossed with real gold. The book’s royal blue cloth binding, intricate designs, and gold embossing suggest that it was made both by and for wealthy Bostonians. This was a luxury item beyond the reach of the average book buyer in the 1880s. Christmas Holidays more likely served as a personal gift rather than as a book to be handled by many children as at a school.

Wearing occurred most frequently in places where a reader’s hands wrap around the cover. This is telling of the book’s usage primarily for reading rather than for decoration on a shelf. The book has no handwritten markings or signatures to further gauge its usage or readers’ enjoyment thereof. It presents very limited clues as to how it was perceived by its readers besides, perhaps, the worn cover, which indicates a well-read and oft-used book.

Opening pages to "The Lost Fourpence," the first story in <a href=";vid=bclib&amp;onCampus=true&amp;group=GUEST&amp;loc=local,scope:(BCL)&amp;query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21314401210001021"><i>Christmas Holidays at Chestnut Hill</i></a> by Cousin Mary, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Opening pages to “The Lost Fourpence,” the first story in Christmas Holidays at Chestnut Hill by Cousin Mary, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Though no information is preserved regarding how Boston College acquired this volume, the proximity of the contemporary Boston College campus to the book’s setting in Chestnut Hill leads to several conjectures. It is a regional relic, often alluding to areas in the near vicinity of Boston College. Not only does Chestnut Hill appear in the title, but a character named Tom O’Connor is also said to be “living with a farmer in Brookline.” Several other characters have Irish names as well, such as Mary O’Conner and Patrick Mahoney, suggesting that Christmas Holidays had Irish-Catholic authorship, or, at least, Irish-Catholic sympathy.

Christmas Holidays at Chestnut Hill encompasses a variety of aspects that could appeal to the educators of a Catholic college. These aspects include the didactic lessons geared towards youth, communal sharing of that imparted knowledge, and a basis of Christian messages. Boston College was founded with Irish Catholic backing, making it a viable repository for such Irish Catholic relics. The history of this Christmas volume reveals that much can be learned about an old book’s history, and the expansive collections of the Boston College Libraries suggest there are many more such stories to be told.

If you would like to peruse this volume, visit the John J. Burns Library Reading Room. For more information, contact the Reading Room at 617-552-4861 or

  • Emma Dwyer, BC ’16 & Student in Professor Virginia Reinburg’s Fall 2014 Early Printed Books: History and Craft.

This blog post comes from the Early Printed Books: History and Craft class, which was taught by BC History Professor Virginia Reinburg in Fall 2014.

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American Civil War Histories

Description of the Battle of Fort Sumter from <a href=

In today’s culture we may be far more preoccupied with Marvel’s Civil War than with our own history. It is easy to forget how relatively recently our country underwent the traumatic internal strife which set brother against brother in a conflict which would have lasting consequences to this day. In the interest of decoding the event and it’s more immediate consequences, the Burns Library holds several historical texts dated to the last days and early aftermath of the American Civil War. These texts not only provide a fascinating and detailed exploration of the events, but also prove interesting to those interested in the cultural history of reactions to the Civil War. Through them, one gains a fertile starting point for a study of changing views of the war over time.

Title page from <a href =

Of particular interest is Benson J. Lossing’s Pictorial History of the Civil War in the United States of America, published in 1866. In it, the author compiles elaborate historical reports of the events of the war, taken from interviews with individuals at the forefront of said events. He juxtaposes these descriptions with illustrated sketches of his subjects and maps taken from magazines such as Harper’s Weekly, whose reporters accompanied the military on the front lines. Part of a three volume set, a physical copy of the first volume can be found at Burns, while the other two volumes exist in digitized format in our online collection. This first volume details events from 1860 to the Battle of Bull’s Run.

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Another intriguing volume is Life and Death in Rebel Prisons by Robert H. Kellogg. Published in 1865, Kellogg relates his personal experiences being held as a captive in a southern prison camp, as well as tales collected from other camp survivors.  The unique subject matter of the text provides a fascinating area of study. The book, at the time of its publication, saw relatively small circulation, being sold by traveling agents of the publisher, L. Stebbins, exclusively. This is a shame, as perhaps a wider initial circulation may have produced more public interest in this oft overlooked aspect of the war.

Books like these shed some light on the American Civil War and the public reaction to its ending. In addition, the Burns Library owns the letters of Michael H. Leary, an Irish American from Boston, Massachusetts and soldier in Union Army during the Civil War. The Leary Letters have been digitized and are available at

If you have further questions or would like to look at these books, then please contact the John J. Burns Library at (617)-552-4861 or

  • Zach Weinsteiger, Burns Library Reading Room Assistant & M.A. Student in the English Department
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Boston Aid Societies Collection

From left to right, “The Boston Floating Hospital, 1905", "“The open air ward", and "How to sterilize, demonstration to the mothers" from <a href=";vid=bclib&amp;onCampus=true&amp;group=GUEST&amp;loc=local,scope:(BCL)&amp;query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21440182180001021"><i>The Boston Floating Hospital: Organized July 1, 1894</i></a> and <a href=";vid=bclib&amp;onCampus=true&amp;group=GUEST&amp;loc=local,scope:(BCL)&amp;query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21440155250001021"><i>Twelfth Annual Report of the Boston Floating Hospital</i></a>, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

From left to right, “The Boston Floating Hospital, 1905″, ““The open air ward”, and “How to sterilize, demonstration to the mothers” from The Boston Floating Hospital: Organized July 1, 1894 and Twelfth Annual Report of the Boston Floating Hospital, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

In August 2014, the Burns Library  purchased a large collection of almost one hundred pamphlets, flyers and annual reports from many charitable organizations which served the Boston area in the 1800s and early 1900s. This extensive collection provides a window into Boston life and society one hundred years ago. From these reports and pamphlets, we learn about the large variety of organizations serving the Boston area, the men and women who founded these charities and the people they sought to serve. This collection is a wonderful resource for people seeking to learn more about 19th century Boston society.  Did you know that Boston has a floating hospital? Currently the hospital rests on solid ground, but in the 1800s it really did float. In 1894, a ship was requisitioned to become the Boston Floating Hospital, serving the poor children in Boston. In the hot summer months, this ship would cruise Boston Harbor, and instead of being cooped up in the city, the children could enjoy refreshing sea breezes while receiving quality medical care. Mothers could also attend medical classes. This floating hospital was so successful that in 1905 a larger 170-foot ship was purchased. The Boston Floating Hospital continued to grace our portion of the ocean until 1927 when a fire destroyed the ship. But by then Tufts Medical Center had acquired this floating hospital, and after the fire, they rebuilt the organization on solid ground. Today the Boston Floating Hospital still serves the children of Boston with top pediatric care.

Many other charities, still in operation today, began in the 1800s. Today the City Mission Society of Boston seeks to prevent homelessness, support community and fight for social justice. This wonderful organization has its roots in the Society for the Moral and Religious Instruction of the Poor which was founded in 1816. The society sought to provide educational opportunities to underprivileged children. According to the Third Annual Report , “a great proportion [of children], when first introduced to our Schools, were almost as ignorant, as they were born, of every thing necessary or desirable to be known. Not a few were unable to read – some of whom, but for the organization of this Society, would probably have remained to the present time, and perhaps though life, in this deplorable state.” To ameliorate this problem, the society established many “Sabbath Schools” which educated children in the Christian faith and in basic reading, writing and math.

There are also annual reports from more traditional charities such as hospitals. In 1893 Andrew Carney donated $75,000 to establish Carney Hospital in Dorchester. The hospital doctors performed the first abdominal surgery in the USA. And in the hospital’s annual reports, the student of medical history can find many interesting statistics about the hospital patients and the prevalent diseases of that time. Carney Hospital still exists to this day.

But not all of these charities were started by the wealthy patrons of Boston society. The Children’s Mission to the Children of the Destitute was founded by a child. Fannie Merrill, the daughter of a Unitarian Minister, pitied the poor children around her and gathered pennies from her friends to give to less fortunate children. This kind action grew into the Children’s Mission to the Children of the Destitute. And now over a hundred years after Fannie’s charitable act, the Children’s Mission to the Children of the Destitute still exists today as part of the Home for Little Wanderers.

All of these charities needed money to operate, so fundraising was important. New England Deaconess Hospital, which would later merge with Beth Israel Hospital to form Beth Israel Deaconess, was founded in 1896 and cared for many Boston residents. Twenty-five years after its founding, New England Deaconess sent out a pamphlet calling on the citizens of Boston to support the hospital. Although founded by Methodist deaconesses, New England Deaconess did not turn away any patient of any class or religious creed, so they appealed to all the citizens of Boston, no matter religion, for support.

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Annual report of the Needlewoman’s Friend Society, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

If in 1921, the citizens of Boston had not listened to that appeal, perhaps today Boston would not be home to world-class medical centers.  Most of the societies in the Burns Boston Aid Societies Collection provided either medical, educational or monetary help. But others took a different route. The Needle Woman’s Friend Society was organized in 1847 “for the purpose of giving employment in needlework to poor women” (1st Annual Report). They wanted to provide women with employment, not just charity.  This employment helped many older women, who were unable to do more physically taxing jobs, to earn a living.

These examples are only the beginning of the Burns Library’s Boston Aid Societies Collection. This collection is a wonderful resource for the researcher wishing to learn about the history of charitable societies, the needs of Boston society in the 19th century, or the invaluable patrons of Boston who supported these charities.  In a university that encourages “Men and Women for Others”, it is wonderful to have this extensive collection about the many organizations which served the needs of Boston during the past hundred years.

If you have further questions or would like to do research in the Boston Aid Societies Collection, please contact the Burns Library Reading Room at 617-552-4861 or

  • Lydia Murdy, Special Collections Cataloging Assistant, Burns Library
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Bloomsday at the Burns Library

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“In the name of Annah the Allmaziful, the Everliving, the Bringer of Plurabilities, haloed be her eve, her singtime sung, her rill be run, unhemmed as it is uneven!”

Finnegans Wake, I.5.104

In celebration of Bloomsday, the Burns Library is proud to announce the opening of a new exhibit on James Joyce.  This exhibit is on display in the Burns Library from June 16th through September 12, 2015.

Born in Dublin though seemingly fated never to return, Irish novelist and poet James Joyce (1882 – 1941) attempted to transpose the common life of his native city onto a heroic scale through a series of progressively experimental novels. Frequently autobiographical in content yet mythological in substance, they enthralled readers in Joyce’s personal odyssey while exasperating publishers and provoking censorship.

This exhibition focuses on the publication of three of Joyce’s masterworks: his early short story collection, Dubliners, his epic Ulysses, and his enigmatic Finnegans Wake. It also highlights Boston College’s sustained engagement with Joyce through Professor Joe Nugent’sRaidin the Wake” reading group and student-curated digital projects, including the JoyceWays app, the Digital Dubliners iBook, and the newly launched Dubliners Bookshelf website.

This exhibit is open whenever the Burns Library is open, check our open hours by clicking here.   Happy Bloomsday!

cdupontportraitChristian Dupont, Burns Librarian and                                             Associate University Librarian for Special Collections

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