Mgr. Seán Swayne’s Bequest

By Yvette Campbell, Russell Library Cataloguing Project

Monsignor Seán Swayne, an internationally renowned liturgist, was the first director of the Irish Institute of Pastoral Liturgy at St Patrick’s College, Carlow, and was chairman of the Irish Episcopal Commission for the liturgy and parish priest of Graiguenamanagh, Co. Kilkenny. Following studies in Paris, he was appointed to the faculty at St Patrick’s College, from where he helped to found the IIPL. The institute has attracted students from all over the world to take part in its one year programme.

In 1989 Father Swayne was appointed monsignor in recognition of his lifelong promotion of the arts, liturgy and architecture. He died in May 1996. His bequest to the Russell Library, Maynooth included 100 books printed before 1850.

SW 100
Armorial bookplate – SW 100

The collection is primarily devotional and liturgical, with many of the books showing evidence of usage and regular handling. A number of the books belonged previously to Mgr Swayne’s uncle, Peadar MacSuibhne of Kildare. What follows is a cross-section of examples illustrating the significance of this collection to international scholars and researchers. The presence of fine bindings, bookplates, original ties and decorated paper were noted. One item printed in Paris in 1789 possesses an armorial bookplate: ‘Certavi Et Vice’ [I’ve Fought and Won].

The collection also features a beautiful copy of Missale Romanum, ex decreto sacro-sancti Concilii Tridentini restitutum printed in Lyon by Bernuset in 1782 (SW 105). This is one of the most aesthetically beautiful objects in the Swayne bequest and features an elaborate frontispiece of Christ on the Cross, musical notations and delicate original silk ties with tassels.

SW 105
Missale Romanum (1782) – SW 105

Another item from this collection features a provenance inscription from the ‘Ragged School of Silver Street, Reading’. ‘Ragged’ schools were charitable organisations that aimed to provide free education to poor and destitute children in 19th-century Britain, often providing free food, clothing, lodging and other home missionary services for those too poor to pay.

A Ragged School. Image taken from

Often they were established in poor working class districts with high population density, and established either by an individual philanthropist or by a religious mission. They would even teach poor mothers how to clothe and bring up their offspring, to teach fathers their duties to their families and children their duty to their parents, to teach above all things that true wisdom is true religion and true religion supreme love to God. The hardship faced by these children, and the religious and economic illiteracy the Ragged Schools attempted to stem, would in turn inspire the child-like figures of Want and Ignorance that clung to the Ghost of Christmas Future in Dickens’s 1843 novella A Christmas Carol. The scenes of squalor that Dicken’s came face to face with also inspired Oliver Twist (1838).

This copy of the Book of Common Prayer, New Testament and Psalter (SW 14) is lacking a title-page but was printed between 1671 and 1674 and would have belonged to the Ragged School, Silver Street in Reading in the 1800s. Its poor condition is a testament to the dedicated study of the children in these ‘Ragged’ Schools.

One of the most impressive books in the collection is Missale Romanum, ex decreto sacro-sancti Concilii Tridentini restitutum printed in Lyon in 1747 (SW 97). According to the inscription on the title-page, the former owner was Abraham Lockett Ford (b Newry, 3 April 1853- d Ardee 16 April 1945) who was an Irish Anglican clergyman.

SW 97
Missale Romanum (1747) – SW 97

Ford was educated at the Royal Institution School, Liverpool and Trinity College, Oxford. He was ordained deacon in 1876 and priest in 1878. He was an Assistant Master at his old school then Curate at Dundalk. He was Rector of Camlough from 1878 to 1893; and then of Ardee. He was Rural Dean of Athirdee from 1900 until 1925, and then of Drogheda until 1934. Ford became Archdeacon of Armagh in 1934; and held the post until his death. He was additionally Chaplain to the last four Lords Lieutenant of Ireland.

This item is in near perfect condition bound in blind-tooled calf leather with a stamped spine and gilt border, 5 raised bands and original ties and marbled endboards.

Souvenirs, impressions, pensées et paysages, pendant un voyage en Orient (SW 71) by Alphonse de Lamartine printed in London in 1838 is a particularly interesting book on descriptions and travels of the Middle East in the nineteenth century. It features a frontispiece map of Syria in black and white prepared by prominent French cartographer and engraver, Jean Baptiste Pierre Tardieu in 1835.

Souvenirs, impressions, pensées et paysages (1838) – SW 71

Other particular highlights of the collection include a copy of the first two books of The Pentateuch of Books of Moses in the Irish character copied from the original manuscripts with care by Thaddeus Connellan printed in London, 1822 (SW 39). This particular copy has handwritten glosses on the endpapers detailing the reasons for publication by an admirer of the author.

Part of this reads:

‘Reader you are to know that Thad[d]eus Connellan is the author of this work and that it was he who founded and adjusted the type in order to instruct his fellow countrymen and enable them to read and understand their native toung[u]e…’.

Finally, a tome of some rarity is The Lives of the most eminent saints of the oriental deserts printed in Dublin in 1834 (SW 5). What makes this book particularly interesting is the marginalia on the endpapers detailing the social history of its former owner:

‘It strikes me that the whole of us ought to go to first Mass at Chapel and come home as quick as we could together. What think you?’

‘It is better for me not to see the old man and come home after first Mass. I believe he will not be in town, should he be, we will let you know’

‘What has he to do with me in that case? It is you. I only want to know if the retreat will continue…’

‘If the retreat will not be over, will not speak to any one only in [confession?]. Act on that as your Director will order or recommend’.

Access to the Swayne donation is available online via the LibrarySearch discovery tool.




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