A Rare Vellum Printing

A book may be interesting on the basis of its physical features, its intellectual content, or its history of ownership. Here we have the trifecta: a book of unusual, even beautiful, material construction, containing a text of scholarly interest, and a well-documented sequence of former owners. It is among the most exciting books I have had the pleasure of cataloging since I arrived at John J. Burns Library last November.


Don’t be misled by the title page. This book was not printed in Leuven, Belgium, in 1674 but in Dublin, Ireland, in 1829.

The full title is The Bleeding Iphigenia, or An excellent Preface of a Work Unfinished, Published by the Authors Friend, with the Reasons of Publishing It. Written by Nicholas French, Bishop of Ferns, Bleeding Iphigenia is a rallying cry for the property rights of Irish and English Catholics during the upheaval following the Restoration of Charles II. The title refers to the mythological Greek princess sacrificed by her father to appease the goddess Artemis. Here Iphigenia represents Ireland, sacrificed and betrayed in the wake of the Restoration. French intended the text as a preface to his 1674 polemic The Dolefull Fall of Andrew Sall, which castigated his friend and colleague, an Irish Jesuit, for converting to Anglicanism. For reasons unknown, this preface was omitted and issued separately, perhaps in 1675 or slightly later, and with no title page. Continue reading

Posted in Cataloger's Corner, Irish Studies, Jesuitica, Rare books, Recent Acquisitions, Staff Posts | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Williamite War

This is the first in a series of seven blog posts highlighting and summarizing important events in Irish history, and Burns Library resources which aid in further study of the topic.   Burns Library holds many Irish history resources and is an invaluable resource for scholars in this field.

The Williamite War (1689-1691), or War of British Succession, was a political, social, and religious conflict between James II and William of Orange that spilled into Ireland.  Burns Library holds multiple 19th and 20th summaries of the Williamite War. It also holds many sources from the leaders of the Irish forces. Material is also available on the subsequent Treaty of Limerick, and the general topic of attempts to restore the Roman Catholic King James II and his heirs to the thrones of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland during the time period of the Williamite War.

William of Orange, a Dutchman married to James II’s eldest daughter, Mary, invaded England and took the English throne through a military conspiracy which was backed by Parliament. The English Parliament wanted to overthrow James II for two main reasons: James II was a Catholic convert and intended to make Roman Catholicism the dominant religion in England, and his strong connections to King Louis XIV of France.  France was not only a Catholic power, it was also the main threat England faced in terms of war and expansion on the European continent. England’s Parliament and the Anglican majority had tolerated James II’s religion, believing the monarchy would revert to Anglican control upon his death. However, in 1688, James II produced a male heir, James Francis Edward, and immediately baptized him as a Catholic, setting up a hereditary Catholic monarchy which was unacceptable to both groups.  

Parliament thus put their support behind William of Orange, a Dutchman who had led successful military campaigns against Spain, another Catholic power. The English Parliament and William’s Dutch connections both wanted a strong military leader who would help them join the Grand Alliance and lead England against French expansion. (Murtagh, 1993, 39-40)  William invaded England with 40,000 mercenary soldiers, and James II, not having the support of the local English army, fled to France,effectively abdicating his title. After a series of negotiations within the English Parliament, William of Orange was implemented as the new monarch.

James II vs William III

Profiles of King James II (left) and King William III (right). Supporters of James II were called “Jacobites,” and those who supported William “Williamites,” and later Orangemen. From The History of the Williamite and Jacobite Wars in Ireland: From Their Origins to Their Capture at Athlone by Robert Cane, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

James II then turned to Ireland where he found both sympathy and allies.  Ireland’s population was majority Catholic, and many Irish thought King James was the best chance at political reform for Catholic rights and privileges.  The Crown of Ireland Act of 1542 had established the King of England as the King of Ireland,, so Irish Catholics felt more secure with James II on the throne. James also maintained his connections in France, which provided him with both military aid and political support and also did not recognize William of Orange as the legitimate King of England.

The Williamite War took place in Ireland, the place where James II had found refuge and military support.  William landed in Northern Ireland with his army, and James II, backed by a less disciplined Irish army, moved to meet him.  This led to the Battle of the Boyne, in which the Irish were forced to retreat. James II fled to Dublin during this battle, then from there took a ship to France, effectively deserting the forces who had rallied behind him.  Demonstrating the long term influence of this conflict, King William’s Protestant victory at the Boyne is still celebrated annually in Northern Ireland by Orangemen and is referred to as “The Twelfth”. Continue reading

Posted in Irish Studies, Student Posts, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Swift, Satire, and BC Students

Does Swift’s searing satire lose its keen edge as the story is re-represented over time, country and culture?  This was a question that arose last spring as students in Colleen Taylor’s English Literature class, Satire and Society, explored editions of Gulliver’s Travels at the John J. Burns Library.

The key objective was to discover how the satiric mode operates in each text and what it enables the writer to express, expose, or critique about his or her world. Ms. Taylor offered the further instruction: each time ask what does this satire make visible that might otherwise be invisible?

The visit to the Burns Library offered students the opportunity to analyse original texts in this fashion. Students, arranged in groups of two, viewed editions of Swift’s well known work –  from the first 1726 edition published in London, to a Baronet Books Great Illustrated Classic Series edition published in New York  in 1995. The selections even included Walt Disney’s Gulliver Mickey published by Random House, New York in 1975, demonstrating the continued popularity of the work.

Three students examining books

The Burns Library copy of the first edition, Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World in Four Parts by Lemuel Gulliver, first a Surgeon, and Then a Captain of Several Ships, printed for Benjamin Mott in London in 1726 features the bookplates of Sir Alfred Beit and of Sir Otto Beit. Students took note of the fact that one bookplate is an engraved illustration of a manor, while the other is an engraving of an interior room of a house.

Continue reading

Posted in Irish Studies, Rare books, Staff Posts | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dreams of Art & Glory: Book Craft by the Roycrofters

One of the many advantages of working in a special collections library is the opportunity to browse in the stacks. I regularly browse while checking the climate control monitors throughout the building. During one such walk-through, a suede binding resembling a typical Roycroft cover caught my eye. I lifted Essays of Elia (1899) off the shelf, located the publisher’s identity, and discovered that my hunch was correct. This, in turn, lead to a search in the library catalog for more Roycroft materials and the realization that the Boston College Libraries hold a number of books made by the Roycrofters. My colleague, Andrew Isidoro, and I then used these materials to produce the current John J. Burns Library exhibition, Dreams of Art & Glory: Book Craft by the Roycrofters.

Suede cover of Essays of Elia.

The cover of Essays of Elia. John J. Burns Library, Boston College

Dreams of Art & Glory: Book Craft by the Roycrofters includes 26 Roycroft books, along with Kelmscott Press publications, incunabula (early imprints created prior to 1501), a Doves Bindery volume bound by T.J. Cobden-Sanderson, and Cuala Press imprints. Exhibition viewers have the opportunity to learn about the influences on the Roycrofter style, and to observe examples of other contemporary designers, all culled from the collections of the Boston College Libraries

Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) was the founder of Roycroft, a reformist community of craftspeople and artists in East Aurora, New York. He referred to himself as an anarchist and socialist. Hubbard began the community in 1895, influenced by the ideas of William Morris, the well-known English designer, printer, and Socialist. William Morris was known for his decorative arts—including tapestries, wallpaper, fabrics, furniture, and stained glass windows—and founded the Kelmscott Press in 1891. His aesthetic was a major inspiration for the Arts and Crafts movement, which began in England in the 1880s, and quickly spread to North America and Continental Europe. In May 1894, Elbert Hubbard traveled to England and Ireland, visiting the Kelmscott Press and finding inspiration from their work.

Hubbard had been a successful traveling soap salesman before beginning a career as a writer. Unable to find a publisher for his work, Hubbard founded Roycroft Press to print his book himself. He selected the Roycroft name due to his admiration of 17th century London printers, Samuel and Thomas Roycroft.

Although Hubbard expanded his Roycrofters community to include other craftspeople, such as furniture makers, metalsmiths, and leather smiths, this exhibition focuses on the work of the bookbinding and printing shops. Elbert Hubbard was very proud of the Roycroft bindery; advertisements written by him and printed in the endpapers of Roycroft books include praise of the German-trained master bookbinders Louis Kinder and Frederick C. Kranz. Hubbard himself collected fine bindings from some of the notable binderies of the late 19th and early 20th century: Riviere, Zahn, Zaehnsdorf, and Doves. A sample Doves Bindery bookbinding is in this exhibition.

Two of the Kranz bindings of The Complete Works of Elbert Hubbard on exhibit in cases

Two of the Lawson bindings of The Complete Works of Elbert Hubbard, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

The Burns Library exhibition features an outstanding seven volume set of The Complete Writings of Elbert Hubbard, commissioned by Thomas W. Lawson (1857-1925), a wealthy Boston stockbroker and author. With the wealth Lawson amassed from copper mining, he built a vast estate; the manor house boasted a large library that once held these bindings. The beautiful, coppery-hued leather covers may be a nod to the source of Lawson’s wealth. These books were bound by Frederick C. Kranz, who had begun working in the Roycroft bindery in 1903, and, when leather modeling was introduced in the bindery, was designated “Master Leather Modeler.” The Lawson bookbindings reveal Kranz’s skills. Kranz’s work was usually unsigned; his gold monogram on these covers may indicate pride in the exquisite workmanship. Continue reading

Posted in Exhibits & Events, Fine Press, Rare books, Recent Acquisitions, Staff Posts | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Joe Derrane and his Gaillard Accordion

The Irish Music Archives at John J. Burns Library is delighted to announce the acquisition and display of Joe Derrane’s D/C# Gaillard accordion, a gift to the Library from his children, Joseph P. Derrane, Jr. and Sheila A. Harvey. The instrument is the second button accordion that Derrane commissioned from Bertrand Gaillard, a French accordion maker.

Copy of _DSC9875

Photo of Gaillard accordion. Joe Derrane Irish Music Materials, IM.M208.2017, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Boston-based Joe Derrane (1930-2016), an Irish-American musician and composer, was well known for his innovative approach to the D/C# button accordion in Irish traditional music. He was born in Boston in 1930 to Irish immigrants Patrick J. Derrane and Helen E. (Galvin) Derrane. His family was musical, and, as a boy, he was captivated by performances by Cork-born melodeon player Jerry O’Brien on local radio.

From age 10 to 12, Derrane studied the single-row melodeon with O’Brien, and, as a teenager, taught himself to play piano accordion and D/C# button accordion. Derrane’s widespread early musical influences also included recordings of German-American melodeonist John J. Kimmel (1866-1942), the “Irish Dutchman.”

Derrane’s music career spanned over 60 years. From the mid-1940s to circa 1960, Derrane performed Irish traditional music in a wide range of venues across Boston, appearing frequently in bands in the Dudley Street dance halls. He was also a regular soloist on live radio. Copley Records first invited him to record commercially while he was a high school senior, and he went on to record with collaborators such as his mentor Jerry O’Brien.


Photo of Joe Derrane with his Gaillard accordion. Photo by Sheila A. Harvey circa 2006.

Derrane met Anne Connaughton while doing a series of gigs in New York City, and the couple married in 1955. Within a few years they were settled in Randolph, Massachusetts with their two children. With Irish music gig opportunities in Boston declining, Derrane switched to other instruments and music styles to support his family. Between 1962 and 1989, while holding various administrative positions at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), he performed jazz, pop, and repertoire from other ethnic traditions. For ten years he played keyboard and synthesizer in a pop/jazz duo called Nightlife, with his son Joe on vocals and bass. Continue reading

Posted in Archives & Manuscripts, Exhibits & Events, Irish Music Archives, Irish Studies, Recent Acquisitions, Staff Posts | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Wifredo Lam and Graham Greene

Over my past three years working as Assistant Conservator at the Burns Library, one project has been a constant: jacketing the Graham Greene collection. On Monday, March 26th, 2018, I finally wrapped the final dust jacket in a sheet of mylar. This final book–just by chance–was quite a special volume.

Before I explore this last volume, some background is required. Firstly, what is the Graham Greene collection? Graham Greene is a celebrated, 20th century, British author. The bulk of the collection was purchased in 1995 from Bloomsbury Book Auctions. His notable works include novels such as The Power and the Glory, The Heart of the Matter, and The Third Man, as well as plays like “The Living Room” and “The Potting Shed”. He also wrote travel books, essays, children’s stories and autobiographies.

Greene’s Library, along with a large amount of archival material including correspondence and notes, includes his entire canon as well as books given to the author and those that he chose to add to his own collection. As an established and gifted author, the Graham Greene collection is quite substantial.

Due to the valuable nature of this collection, conservation staff decided to protect the books’ dust jackets with a second cover in thin plastic called mylar in order to preserve the paper covers as well as to protect the books themselves. This is a time consuming processes that requires measuring out mylar as well as cutting and folding the excess to perfectly cover the dust jacket.

After three years, we reached the final volume in the Graham Greene collection. A part of the “Oversized” collection, Le nouveau Nouveau monde de Lam by Alain Jouffroy is an impressive volume. The most impressive part of the two part set is the title page of the first volume (Image 1). Le nouveau Nouveau monde de Lam was sent as a gift to Graham Greene from Wifredo Lam, most likely due to the friendship between the two men.

Title page of

Title page
Le nouveau Nouveau monde de Lam Alain Jouffroy
John J. Burns Library, Boston College

According to Wifredo Lam’s website, Greene had consulted Lam when writing his spy novel, Our Man in Havana, and the two took dinner together when Lam visited Paris. This relationship between two creative men may not have been widely known but it was close enough for Lam to send, sign and illustrate the copy of Le nouveau Nouveau monde de Lam for Graham Greene. Continue reading

Posted in Archives & Manuscripts, Art at the Burns Library, British Catholic Authors, Conservation, Student Posts | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments