Category Archives: Rare books

An Early Jack B. Yeats Stenciled “Broad Sheet”

Anyone who has seen one of Jack B. Yeats’s later paintings can easily recognize others. Same for his earlier watercolor work and his pen-and-ink sketches. The distinctiveness of Yeats’s style, along with his characteristic choice of subjects, have made him … Continue reading

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Mysteries in the Stacks; or, The Allan P. Kirby Jr. Collection

Dime novels were hastily written, formulaic and sensational stories marketed to teenage boys. Examples of the genre held in Burns Library are the related “nickel weeklies.” Popular subjects include detectives, pirates, inventors, and heroes of American history. Publishers employed an … Continue reading

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Beautiful Historic Wooden Book Covers in Burns Library

In the course of my job at John J. Burns Library, I often find amazing archival materials by chance while working on conservation projects. The jeweled binding of a Bulgarian manuscript held at Burns Library is one such serendipitous find. … Continue reading

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Navigating Maps at Burns Library

Maps can tell us as much about the people who made them as the places they depict. Like all texts and images, maps serve the agendas of their creators, implicitly or avowedly. Consider this map produced around 1920, during the … Continue reading

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Virtual Reference, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Local Note

One of the best privileges of being a staff member at a special collections library is free access to stacks closed to researchers. This is particularly helpful if, like me, you are terrible at remembering long Latin titles; I tend … Continue reading

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History of the Azores, or Western Islands

You don’t see many books on the Azores in Burns Library, so having traveled to the volcanic islands myself, once in 1995 and once in 2010, this particular book immediately caught my eye. I found it was a fascinating look … Continue reading

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Thomas J. Shamon’s mystery recommendations

While we’re most well-known for our our major collecting areas in Irish history, Jesuitica, and Catholicism, Burns Library also has a strong mystery collection. With over 5,000 volumes, our mystery collection ranges in date from 1827 to 2018, and in … Continue reading

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New Acquisition: Ioannis Petraloysii Praenestini Missarum Liber Tertius

Among the most eye-catching books acquired recently by Burns Library is this collection of masses by  the prolific and influential Italian composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. Printed in 1570, in Rome, this is the first edition of the third collection … Continue reading

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The Young Ladies Instructor

What does it mean to be educated? How much knowledge, in what areas, are you required to have? The question changes drastically depending on time period, geographic location, gender and class. With such variable answers, books that are meant to … Continue reading

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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 … Continue reading

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