The John J. Burns Library has many interesting and historic books that are also noteworthy for their bindings. One such book is the Essays of Elia, by Charles Lamb (1775-1834), an English writer and essayist. This particular edition of Lamb’s collection of 14 essays was printed and then bound in suede leather at the Roycroft Shop in East Aurora, New York. Elbert Hubbard began the Roycroft Press in 1895, choosing the name “Roycroft” because he admired the printing works by Samuel and Thomas Roycroft, London printers from 1650 to 1690. Hubbard, born in 1856 in Illinois, had been a soap salesman prior to changing careers and becoming an editor, publisher and best-selling author.
The housing of the Essays of Elia boasts a heraldic cover design created by W. W. Denslow, who also illustrated The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The small seahorse, visible in the corner of the design stamped on the suede leather cover, is Denslow’s signature.
The chapter headings are graced with charming hand-colored initials, or “illumines,” as described in advertisements by the Roycroft Shop. This book, number 318 in an edition of 970, is signed in the limitation statement by Elbert Hubbard and is the 27th title printed by the Roycroft Press.
In addition to the noteworthy binding, the Burns Library copy of Essays of Elia is significant to Boston College because it is inscribed to “Father D N Dwyer from the Sears Family.” Daniel N. Dwyer, S.J. was born in Medford, MA and graduated from Boston College High School. After attending Boston College briefly, Dwyer entered the Jesuit Order in 1932 at Shadowbrook. He attended Weston College and Fordham University, and then taught English at the College of the Holy Cross. Fr. Dwyer was ordained in 1942 and taught English at Boston College High School. After further studies at Yale University, he taught in the Boston College English Department from 1947-1979. Fr. Dwyer, in addition to teaching, supported Boston College clubs such as the Fulton Debating Society. The student publication, The Heights, reported on March 1, 1957 “Senate sponsors Skit Competition at Campion Hall,” and listed the judges, including Rev. Daniel Dwyer SJ, within the article A second Heights article from October 23, 1959, “Young Poets Series Slated for Spring,” mentions faculty lectures given in support of the series, stating that on April 14 Rev. Daniel Dwyer SJ, was to give a lecture titled “Hart Crane.”
Other than the inscription to Fr. Dwyer, there are no marginal notations in the volume. Whether the book was gifted to him because Charles Lamb was a favorite writer or because he admired the work of the Roycroft Press is not known. The Sears family, in selecting and giving this beautifully printed and bound volume, signaled their high regard for a beloved educator. Perhaps they embraced the Roycroft advertising, “As a gift you probably cannot present anything at equal cost that would be more acceptable than an illumined Roycroft book. Our work is the product of the three H’s: Head, Heart and Hand.”
- Barbara Adams Hebard, Conservator, John J. Burns Library