Reading Room Log: Burns Library, No Ordinary Place of Work

The John J. Burns Library is located in the Bapst building.  Our entrance, pictured here, is on the Commonwealth Avenue side of the building.

The John J. Burns Library is located in the Bapst building. Our entrance, pictured here, is on the  side of the building facing Commonwealth Avenue.

On Monday afternoon, I was nervously rushing from the Vouté package room to the Burns Library in order to make sure that I arrived on time for my first day of work.  Upon arrival, I realized that I was thirty minutes early, so I decided to wander about the different rooms.  While looking at the watercolors and artifacts in the Chilean exhibit, I realized that the books behind the exhibit in the O’Brien Fine Print Room were not ordinary books – they were all dated as being from the early fourteenth to the early twentieth century.  From that point forward, I knew that my position in the Burns Reading Room would be no ordinary job, but rather an extraordinary position.

If you are interested in the history of Boston College's stained glass windows, check out Transforming Light by Virginia Chieffo Raguin, Linden Lane Press, 2009.

If you are interested in the history of Boston College’s stained glass windows, check out Transforming Light by Virginia Chieffo Raguin, Linden Lane Press, 2009. This book is available at the Bapst Art Library, NK5303 .B653 R34 2009 Oversize.

Within my first day alone, I had read about the history of the Bapst Library building and of the stained glass windows decorating the walls.  All throughout the Bapst and the Burns Libraries, stained glass windows illuminate rooms.  I had seen the windows in Gargan Hall, but I had never really looked at them.  Each alcove features a particular subject area and notable people famous for their work in that sphere.  There are more than just these windows though.  As one ascends the stairs on the Burns Library side of the Bapst building and looks at the Francis Thompson Room and British Catholic Authors Room on the fourth floor of Burns, there are even more stained glass windows creating a magnificent atmosphere that makes you feel as if you are in cathedral or a castle rather than a library.

The following day brought me my first task of retrieving a book for a researcher.  This particular book contained records of 17th century colonial America (Records of the Colony or Jurisdiction of New Haven, Burns Library Call Number F 98. N81, General Collection) amid the thousands of books, archives, and manuscripts which are housed in the collections of the Burns Library.  After finding the book, I felt this incandescent happiness at being able to hold something so old, yet so precious.  I wasn’t just holding bound paper; I was holding history.

Connolly Book of Hours, John J. Burns Library, MS1986-097

Connolly Book of Hours, John J. Burns Library, MS.1986.097, Gift of Terence L. Connolly. This is an illuminated manuscript made in France in the fifteenth century. In this illumination, the largest of the four introducing Gospel passages, Saint John is shown, accompanied by his symbol, the eagle, seated on the Greek Isle of Patmos where, again according to tradition, he received divine inspiration for the Book of Revelation. To access the Connolly Book of Hours, please contact the Burns Library Reading Room at 617-552-4861 or

The most exciting moment was on Friday when I was able to look at the beautiful illuminations and calligraphy of a Book of Hours that was from Medieval Europe.  I could not read any of the delicate writing as it was in Latin and French, but I marveled at the precision and detail that went into the words, the bordering details, and the colorful religious scenes.  The pages were made from actual vellum, smooth and softer to the touch than paper.  I was in complete awe the entire time; I could actually look at and touch a piece of history, which I have learned and read about so much from textbooks and novels.  My first week here has been amazing! I cannot wait to see what else is lying within these walls ready to be explored as I continue my work here at the John J. Burns Library.

  • Danica Ramsey-Brimberg,  Burns Library Reading Room Student Assistant and History & Irish Studies, Class of 2013

About John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections at Boston College

The University’s special collections, including the University’s Archives, are housed in the Honorable John J. Burns Library, located in the Bapst Library Building, north entrance. Burns Library staff work with students and faculty to support learning and teaching at Boston College, offering access to unique primary sources through instruction sessions, exhibits, and programming. The Burns Library also serves the research needs of external scholars, hosting researchers from around the globe interested in using the collections. The Burns Library is home to more than 200,000 volumes and over 700 manuscript collections, including holdings of music, photographic materials, art and artifacts, and ephemera. Though its collections cover virtually the entire spectrum of human knowledge, the Burns Library has achieved international recognition in several specific areas of research, most notably: Irish studies; British Catholic authors; Jesuitica; Fine printing; Catholic liturgy and life in America, 1925-1975; Boston history; the Caribbean, especially Jamaica; Nursing; and Congressional archives.
This entry was posted in Archives & Manuscripts, Exhibits & Events, Featured Collections & Books, Student Posts and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Reading Room Log: Burns Library, No Ordinary Place of Work

  1. Lynda McClellan says:

    Danika! How amazing. It does appear to be extraordinary! Enjoy!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s