Look Out! They’re Lurking About: Books That Go Bump In The Library

By Emma Doran, Special Collections & Archives Library Assistant.

Image taken from the Book Irish Wonders by D. R. McAnally Jr. Published by Houghton Mifflin in 1888.


It’s that time of year again when the days wane toward the impending colder weather and the campus is alight with leaves of red, orange and gold and that can only mean one thing…Halloween is fast approaching. Having scoured our special collections treasures in anticipation of writing this blog, I have selected a few devilishly delightful rare books for you to sink your teeth into. My selections ranging from the 15th to the 20th century, hail from both the Special Collections Reading Room and the Russell Library and they explore all elements of the dark arts, judgement of witches and even exorcising demons and promise to send a chill down your spine. 


Alphonso, de Espina, 15th cent. Fortalicium Fidei . 
Nuremberg, Johann Mentelin, 1485 
(Russell Library: RB9) alphonso

The Fortalicium Fidei  is estimated to have been written between 1458-1460 and is  known as the first printed work to contain a description of witchcraft.  In particular the fifth and final section of the book  is dedicated to classifying demons, one of the particular demons described in the book tempts older women in particular to practice the dark arts.




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The Collection of Thomas Furlong (1802-75), Bishop of Ferns

By Yvette Campbell, Assistant Librarian, Russell Library Cataloguing Project

The Furlong Collection contains approximately 1,349 antiquarian books, with items ranging in date from the 16th to the 19th century. This unique treasure was donated to the Russell Library following the closure of the House of Missions in 1993. It is a rich representation of Christian doctrinal and theological literature, containing works of ecclesiastical history, scripture, theology, philosophy, ethics and liturgy.

F 438
La Geografia Di Clavdio Tolomeo Alessandrino (1564)

Thomas Furlong (1802-75)

Thomas Furlong was born in 1802 in Moyglass, Co Wexford to land-owning parents.  He spent five years in the seminary in Wexford before arriving in Maynooth in 1819 and was ordained as a priest in 1826. Bishop Furlong served in Maynooth for over 30 years, taking up posts as Dean, Professor of Humanity, Rhetoric, and Theology.  He was ordained Bishop of Ferns in 1857.

An improvement in the college grant in 1845 resulted in better pay for Maynooth staff and PhD students. Thomas Furlong was one of many who used these extra funds to create substantial personal libraries. His collection was so comprehensive that he reported to the 1853 Maynooth Commission that “having endeavoured to provide myself with nearly all the works which I require in my department, I rarely visit the Library with the view of consulting writers on divinity” (Neligan, 1995, p.14).

Bookplate of the House of Missions Enniscorthy

Highlights from the collection

To date over 300 titles from the Furlong Collection have been added to the Maynooth Library catalogue and 105 of these have been identified for the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC). The collection includes many continental imprints and almost 100 rare Irish imprints. Several of the books are first editions of sixteenth and seventeenth century works. Many items have ornate bindings and most feature the bookplate of the “House of Missions Enniscorthy”.

The earliest item in the collection is the incunabula titled Concordantiae maiores sacrae Bibliae: summis uigilijs iam denuo ultra omnes editiones castigatae (F 377) printed in 1540 by the German bookseller and humanist, Sebastian Gryphius also known as the ‘Prince of the Lyon book trade’. Gryphius issued concordances with the same title in 1529, 1535, 1545, and 1551. Except for the last, by Franciscus Arola, none names an author. Our copy features many handwritten annotations on the title-page.

F 377 – Concordantiae maiores sacrae Bibliae… (1540)

Another interesting and particularly rare imprint in the collection is the Erasmi Colloquia selecta or, The select colloquies of Erasmus. With an English translation (F 335) printed in 1773 by the Waterford printers, Hugh and James Ramsey. Printing was introduced into Waterford in 1550 with the first book being printed in the city five years later. The 18th century was a period of huge prosperity for Waterford and this is the second earliest Irish imprint outside of Dublin held in the Russell Library.

Many items in the collection feature stunning frontispieces and woodcuts throughout. The Satyrs of Decimus Junius Juvenalis (F 299) printed in Dublin in 1772 stands out as a good example of this. What makes this title particularly unusual is to see classical Greek and Roman images in a Dublin imprint.

Other items of interest include:

  • History of the city of Dublin from the earliest accounts to the present time      (F 213) printed in 1818 by J. Warburton which features a beautiful plan of Dublin from 1610.
Plan of Dublin from 1610 ‘as it then stood’ (F 213)
  • The Iliad of Homer (F 260) of 1771 includes a bookplate of former owner, Edward Pennefather, Irish barrister, Law Officer and judge of the Victorian era, who held office as Lord Chief Justice of Ireland.
  • D. Nicolai de Cusa Cardinalis, utriusque Iuris Doctoris (F 177) printed in 1565 consists of preserved bindings of manuscript fragments which represent significant testimonies to medieval book history. These were mostly recovered from the bindings of other manuscripts or early printed books where they had generally been used as pastedowns or outer coverings.
  • Traité du poëme epique (F 474) printed in 1708 features an armorial bookplate of Thomas Carter of Robertstown Co. Meath. Carter was a politician, a member of parliament, Master of the Rolls in Ireland, Privy Councillor and Secretary of State for Ireland.

    Bookplate of Thomas Carter of Robertstown, Co. Meath

Successful outcomes

The Furlong collection is of particular significance to one user group of the Russell Library – the visitors from St John of God Healthcare, Australia. Bishop Furlong founded the Congregation of the Sisters of St John of God in 1871. As Ireland was still ravaged by the after-effects of the Great Famine in 1845–1852, he established a base for the Sisters to minister to the poverty-stricken people of Wexford. In 1895, eight Sisters immigrated to Australia at the request of Bishop Matthew Gibney of Perth, and used their skills to help the destitute residents of Western Australia. They opened hospitals in Western Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, and have been active there ever since.

St. John of God Australia’s annual visit to the Russell Library

Delegates from St John of God Health Care, Australia regularly visit the Russell Library to see the Furlong Collection. With the collection catalogued, this will create a finding aid that is accessible to all and will facilitate quick retrieval for staff and students for use in exhibitions and research.

The cataloguing of the Furlong collection provides a unique window into the contents of a personal library of an Irish 19th century theologian to facilitate research, enable new discoveries to be made and to generate awareness amongst staff and students.

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Dirck de Bray – Dutch Parchment Bindings, Montefiascone 2018

By Sarah Graham, Conservator, Maynooth University Library

As you walk along the nineteenth century Russell Library and look into the open bays, the light parchment bindings are easy to spot on the shelves. These have been brought to the collection from across continental Europe and so I was excited to return to Italy to learn more about their structure and production. The Montefiascone project is a four week programme every year at the Seminaro Barbarigo where students and tutors come from all over the world to study historic book structures. The seminary has a beautiful collection of books in its library which was first inventoried in c.1692 although some of its contents date back to the 15th century.[1] Flood damage and unideal environmental conditions were the geneses of a preservation project, from which the summer school grew. Thanks to funding from Maynooth University Library, I was able to attend two of these weeks; A Study of Romanesque Sewing Techniques in Book Production taught by Jim Bloxam and Shaun Thompson and Dirck de Bray and Beyond by Anne Hillam and Maria Fredericks. This blog will look at Dirck de Bray and how this method of production relates to items in the Special Collections and Archives.

Dirck de bray image 1.0At the centre of Anne and Maria’s week was a bookbinding manual produced by Dutch artist Dirck de Bray. It is a small, beautifully illustrated volume which provides thorough and practical steps as to the binding of books in 1658 when the new Dutch Republic was the largest European printing centre.[2] During the 17th century, text blocks and bindings were sold separately but the volume of printing in the Netherlands supported a healthy binding trade. It was liberating to follow de Bray’s instructions completely. He said only to sew the text block, so no pre-punching the sections or measuring distances between supports was allowed! To keep pace with demand, de Bray mentions a couple of ways to speed up the sewing process; either by sewing 2 sections at once or sewing every other support.

Dirck de bray image 1These variations continued when it came to sewing our endbands and attaching the vellum and boards. Guided by Anne and Maria who made each step look so easy in their demonstrations, we all quickly understood why the stuck-on sewn endband was so popular. The parchment core for the stuck-on endband was anchored in place by the adhered textile on the spine, making it much less fiddly. Likewise, I preferred the in-boards binding method where the paste boards are adhered and cut to the size of the text block. Then you have something to shape the vellum around. The other method is to shape the vellum first (as with a limp binding) and then slide the boards in. Turns out, I can make the latter method look very wonky! Both books look similar once finished, so by experiencing the variations of each step you better appreciate the details which give away the method of production.

Dirck de bray image 2Dirck de bray image 3The third book was a moulded spine, more common in Italy. Here the sections are sewn onto cords rather than strips of parchment to create the raised profile of the spine. As cord is weaker than parchment, it is not laced through the cover and in our models, only the parchment headband core can be seen on the outside. To make the parchment flexible enough to stretch over the cords, it was immersed in a bucket of water. Once it had been pasted, it was then shaped around the cords and tied in place so the definition of the raised cords would be retained as the parchment dried and contracted overnight. We also made paste papers to cover the boards but it is also common to see parchment cover the whole binding. The simple step of adding watercolour to the wheat starch paste ubiquitous in all conservation studios can result in so much fun! Maria made great vats of flour paste in the primary colours and we all got creative.

Dirck de bray image 4It was great to make every part of these books from the paste boards to the decorative finishes such as fore-edge ties and tooling. The course had a lovely, encouraging atmosphere thanks to the other students and especially the tutors.  Anne and Maria’s programme was fun, informative and creative. Their wealth of experience from years of research and conservation practice in New York gave great context for the bindings we were making within European book production. I went from being apprehensive with parchment bindings to feeling much more confident in knowing what to look for and in working with vellum.

Dirck de bray image 7Since being back in Maynooth I have been looking again at the parchment bindings and the subtle differences in their construction. They come from all over Europe but it may seem unusual that we have so many books printed in the protestant Dutch Republic. This shows both that there is a lot more to the Russell Library than theology, also the Counter-Reformation demand for theological and devotional literature ‘appears to have been irresistibly attractive even for the Calvinist booksellers in the Dutch Republic.’[3] I wonder if any elements of the following bindings now look a little more familiar?

Dirck de bray image 5

Dirck de bray image 6

CK905, 1583, 1865 and 2519 reproduced by permission of the Librarian, Maynooth University, from the St. Canice’s Cathedral Library, Kilkenny; on long-term loan from The Representative Body of the Church of Ireland. PH.1.61, SS.1.55, SS.2.20a and SS.3.47 reproduced by permission of the Librarian, Maynooth University, from the collections of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth.


[1] http://monteproject.co.uk/en/the-seminary-library/ (accessed 03/09/2018)

[2] Hoftijzer, P.G. Dutch Printing and Bookselling in the Golden Age http://publications.nichibun.ac.jp/region/d/NSH/series/symp/2001-03-30/s001/s010/pdf/article.pdf (accessed 03/09/2018)

[3] Clemens, T.H. Trade Catholic Books From The Northern to the Southern Netherlands, 1650-1795. In Berkvens-Stevelinck et al (ed.) Le Magasin de l’Univers. The Dutch Republic as the Centre of the European Book Trade. Papers Presented at the International Colloquium, Held at Wassenaar, 5-7 July 1990. (Leiden, 1992) p86.

The Country House and the Great War

Professor Terence Dooley, Director, Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates, History Department, Maynooth University, and Nicola Kelly, Archivist, OPW-Maynooth University Archive and Research Centre, Castletown House.

Recruitment Fervour

In the summer of 1914 many Big House families in Ireland had been preparing, through the Unionist movement, to fight the implementation of Home Rule, in Ulster by force if necessary. However, just as Ireland seemed on the brink of civil war, attentions were turned to a European conflict of unimaginable magnitude. Elizabeth Bowen recalled a garden party at Mitchelstown Castle on 5 August 1914:

‘This was a time to gather…for miles round, each isolated big house had disgorged its talker, this first day of the war. The tension of months, of years – outlying tension of Europe, inner tensions of Ireland – broke in a spate of words.’

But those who had gathered scarcely realised the social, physical and emotional impact that total warfare would have on their families in the years ahead. Scores of relatives would go to war and many would never return; more would enthusiastically sacrifice their time, finances and energies to the war effort at home; and virtually all would be disgusted by the events of Easter Week 1916.


Great War exhibit 1
    The Country House and the Great War Exhibition displayed in the                     Russell Library

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The aerial voyage: an account of Ireland’s first balloon flight

This post first appeared in the Russell Library blog

Imagine the impact of the first hot-air balloon rising into the sky in 1783. Suddenly, it was possible to fly! The first living flight was from Versailles in June 1783, with a sheep, a duck and a cock in the car. Four months later the maestro himself, Étienne Montgolfier, rose above the earth in a splendidly decorated balloon. Others across Europe quickly followed suit.

‘The balloon’ in Francis Olivari, The balloons of Citizen Campenas   (Dublin, 1798)

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Papal Visits and Silent Struggles: Revisiting the Archive of Rev. Desmond Forristal

By Róisín Berry, Archivist, Maynooth University Library

With the recent focus on the Pope Francis visit to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families 2018, I was reminded of a collection that I had catalogued not long after I started working in Maynooth University Library. The papers of scholar, author, playwright and TV producer Rev. Desmond Forristal (1930-2012) were donated to Maynooth University Library in 2001. The archive includes correspondence, essays, lectures, scripts, research notes, reviews and photographs. Whilst going through the documentation, I discovered that Forristal was involved in the preparations for the visit to Ireland of Pope John Paul II in 1979, and in particular the selection of music and the organisation of a choir for the event. As I became more engrossed in the archive, it soon became clear that Forristal’s musical interests were part of a much broader passion for the arts that prevailed throughout his life.

Portrait of the Forristal Family c. 1940s
Photograph of the Forristal Family, c. 1940s

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The teetotaler’s catechism

This post was originally featured on the Russell Library blog.

In the midst of dire poverty, the people of Ireland in the mid-1830s were drinking more than 12 million gallons a year of legal spirits alone. It was an appalling problem. Avoiding the usual chilling rhetoric, Theobald Mathew, the Capuchin friar who became known as the Apostle of Temperance, began exhorting people to give up intoxicating liquors, re-assert their dignity and use that money to better their condition. He preached to vast crowds and persuaded thousands at a time to take the pledge.

Frontispiece Teetotlers Catechism watermarked
Frontispiece of  ‘The Teetotaler’s Catechism’ with Theobold Matthew preaching, and the words of the pledge beneath.

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‘On Active Service’: Maynooth College, chaplains & the anti-conscription crisis

By Professor Marian Lyons (Department of History, Maynooth University) and Barbara McCormack (Special Collections Librarian, Maynooth University Library)

While Europe was in the throes of the Great War and Ireland made a bold strike for independence, the national seminary at Maynooth experienced a profound transformative period. On Easter Monday 1916, although the college president, J.F. Hogan, blessed seventeen Volunteers from the town of Maynooth as they set out to join the insurrection in Dublin, he stated categorically that he opposed their action. During Easter week there was an air of excitement in the college. When President Hogan rounded a corner to find students drilling in front of Rhetoric House, he allegedly said: ‘You’ll be well advised to disband, gentlemen’. From early on in the Great War, Maynooth priests volunteered for army chaplaincy duties. In 1917 the college authorities publicly supported the recruitment of Irish Catholic priests as army chaplains by conducting early ordinations to meet the demand for priests. But as Sinn Féin began to contest elections, and the days of the Irish Parliamentary Party grew numbered, the mood in Maynooth, as in the country, was changing.

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Silence Would be Treason: an Irishwoman’s Diary on Ken Saro-Wiwa and Sr Majella McCarron

As Maynooth University Library  prepares to launch the second edition of Silence Would be Treason: Last Writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa  , we are pleased to post an article by Lorna Siggins, originally published on December 28, 2017, with the kind permission of the Irish Times. You can learn more about Ken Saro-Wiwa at Maynooth University and view items from the archive here.


Silence Would be Treason: an Irishwoman’s Diary on Ken Saro-Wiwa and Sr Majella McCarron by Lorna Siggins


Breadbaskets have all sorts of uses, not least for activities that have little to do with food. A Fermanagh-born nun became wise to that fact over two decades ago, as did South African leader Nelson Mandela, Body Shop founder Anita Roddick and novelist William Boyd.

Ken Saro2
Ken Saro Wiwa

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MITHRIDATES and the Irish connection

by Penelope Woods

 A little book has just arrived in the library, of notable Irish interest, yet ostensibly none: a Latin text published in Zürich in 1610, the work of one local author, supplemented by another, with the obscure main title, Mithridates.

City of Zürich (1581) by Braun and Hogenberg 

Who was Mithridates?

Mithridates was king of Pontus and Armenia Minor and lived over 2,000 years ago. An exceptional linguist, he was said by Pliny the Elder to have administered his kingdom in all its 22 languages. His name seemed apt in 1555 as the title for a book surveying 130 world languages.

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