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.





‘Observations on Nature’ Heritage Week in the Russell Library

Post by Saoirse Reynolds, Special Collections & Archives

The Secretary of States’ House at Palmerston
 Published by J. Fisher 1792


me and os
Ordnance Survey Map of Kildare

On August 21, 23 & 24 the Russell Library took part in Heritage Week with an exhibition exploring nature through the historical print collections of the Russell Library. Books on gardening, botany, agriculture, husbandry and medicinal plants were on display some of which referred to the local area.

A 6inch Ordnance Survey map of Kildare was on display as well as items from our Special Collections in the John Paul II Library.

One of the most visually interesting and beautiful books which was on display was William Hanbury’s, A complete body of planting and gardening published in London in 1770-71. Hanbury was a Church of England clergyman and horticulturist, was born at Bedworth, Warwickshire in 1725.  He matriculated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford in 1745 and graduated in 1748. The degree of MA was subsequently conferred on him by St Andrews University on 11 November 1769 in recognition of his achievements in planting.

cortusa hanbury
Image of Spotted Cistus, Purple Cortusa and Double Blossomed Cherry
 In ‘A complete body of planting and gardening’ by William Hanbury


A Rare Book from the Russell Library which was on display was Scenery of Ireland: illustrated in a series of prints, of select views, castles, and abbeys, in this kingdom by Jonathan Fisher. The book was printed in Dublin in 1792 and has beautiful illustrations of castles and abbeys of Ireland. Fisher was an Irish painter and was born in Dublin in 1740. He is first recorded in 1763 when he was awarded a premium by the Dublin Society for a landscape. He is best known for his fine engravings and aquatints of Irish scenery. He travelled all over Ireland and published views of Killarney in 1770 and 1789. He lived at Great Ship Street, Dublin, from about 1778 until 1805, when he moved to Bishop Street, Dublin, where he died in 1809.

scenery fisher
‘Scenery of Ireland’ by Jonathan Fisher


Another beautiful book we had on display from our Special Collections was Ireland’s wild orchids /orchid portraits by Susan Sex with accompanying text by Brendan Sayers. It was printed by Nicholson & Bass in Belfast in 2004 and is a limited edition of 700 signed and numbered copies.

Two volumes of Charles Henry Dessalines d’Orbigny’s Dictionnaire universel d’histoire naturelle were on display also. D’Orbigny was a French botanist and geologist

Images of colourful butterflies and a rose
in d’Orbigny’s ‘Dictionnaire universel d’histoire naturelle’

specializing in the Tertiary of France. He was the younger brother of French naturalist and South American explorer, Alcide d’Orbigny. At the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, d’Orbigny identified many of the flowering plant species returned to France from his brother’s natural history collecting journeys through South America.

For more information on any of these items please contact us:

Special Collections John Paul II Library

Phone: 01-4747423, e-mail:

Russell Library

Phone: 01-7083890, e-mail:

A Portuguese Bible and the 1916 Rising

by Audrey Kinch and Mary Robinson

Many unique and wonderful treasures are found among the Russell Library’s Bible collection. ‘The New Testament of our Lord and Redemptor Jesus Christ’ by Joao Ferreira de Almeida (1628-1691) is a Portuguese language Bible that was damaged during the Easter Rising of 1916. Printed in London in 1819 this Bible is part of the Hibernian Bible Society (HBS) collection. This collection of c. 2,500 Bibles was deposited by the Society to the Russell Library in 1986 and is represented in 593 languages. The sheaf catalogue of this unique collection lists the Bibles first by language, then chronologically.  The New Testament of our Lord and Redemptor Jesus Christ is number 740 in the catalogue.

Catalogue record
Sheaf catalogue entry 

Some books of the Bible were first translated into the Portuguese language in the 13th century. Joao Ferreira de Almeida, a converted Protestant pastor, began translating the Bible when he was just 16. He was also an ardent religious writer mostly protesting against the Catholic Church with the Portuguese Inquisition publicly burning some of his writings and sentencing him to death for heresy. He studied Greek and Hebrew in order to perfect his Bible translations as his first publication of the New Testament (1681), was criticised due to the amount of errors. He spent ten years revising this and the new edition was published posthumously in 1693.

Title page with damage
Title page

The Hibernian Bible Society (now the National Bible Society of Ireland) was established in 1806 to encourage wider circulation of the Bible throughout Ireland.  The Society is now located on Dublin’s Dawson Street but was previously situated in the heart of Dublin City in Bible House on 10 Upper Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street). Bible House bore witness to many historic times including the Dublin Rebellion of 1916 and the Irish Civil War.

Ninety seven years after Almeida’s Bible was published, it was damaged by gunfire during the Rising. Although we do not know the circumstances, the damage, which resembles bullet holes is clearly visible on the top right foredge of the front cover, the textblock and on the backboard. The sheaf catalogue entry testifies to the damage from the rebellion. Despite the impairment the Bible remains mostly intact and is in overall good condition.

Disaster struck the Hibernian Bible Society in 1922 when Bible House was destroyed during the Irish Civil War. One of the greatest losses to the Society was the library, which was devastated during the conflict. Upon relocating to the premises on Dawson Street, the Society replenished the library to its former glory.

Maynooth University currently have two exhibitions on display to commemorate the Easter Rising of 1916.  The Russell Library has Maynooth College and 1916 on view and Domhnall Ua Buachalla: an Exhibition is on display in the JPII library building.  Visitors are welcome.



Easter Rising of 1916

Irish Civil War

Watchtower online library, accessed 21/04/2016


Medicine and Natural History Exhibition in the Russell Library for Maynooth University Library Publications Festival

by Mary Robinson, Special Collection & Archives

As part of the annual Maynooth University Library Publications Festival, the Russell Library is hosting a one day exhibition entitled Medicine and Natural History, showcasing some of the Library’s oldest works relating to the sciences. Here is a brief history of some of the items on display which include The Works of the Honourable Robert Boyle vol. IV which Boyle bloodcontains Memoirs for the Natural History of Human Blood (1744). This was once praised as ‘the most important of Boyle’s medical writings’ but upon publication the general reception was less enthusiastic suggesting Boyle presented findings that were outdated and already published. Born in Lismore, Co Waterford in 1627, Boyle was the 7th son of the Earl of Cork and one of Ireland’s most important scientists. He is most known for devising Boyle’s Law and many experiments with air and discovering the necessity of it for combustion and the transmission of sound.


Also on display is the appendix to Sir John Sinclair’s pamphlet The Code of Health and Longevity which describes, with images, eight very elderly persons

Petratsch Zortan lived to 185

from the age of 112 to 185 years. Petratsch Zortan, at 185 years, had ‘…little sight and his hair and beard were of a greenish white colour, like mouldy bread…’ The secret to his long life involved ‘Being a Greek by religion, the old man was a strict observer of fasts, and never used any food but milk and cakes…together with a good glass of brandy’.  An Irishwoman, Catherine the Countess of Desmond, apparently lived over 140 years, dying in the reign of King James I.

Countess of Desmond lived for over 140 years

She ‘retained her full vigour in a very advanced period of life’ having ‘…twice or trice renewed her teeth’.



Continuing the theme of longevity, the 1683 text by Francis Bacon, Sylva Sylvarum or A Natural History in Ten Centuries, discusses ‘the history, natural and experimental of life and death or the prolongation of life’. Among the chapter headings include Length and Shortness of Life in Man, Medicines for Long Life, the Operation upon the Bowels for the Extrusion of Aliment and The Porches of Death. Bacon proposes ‘Islanders are, for the most part, longer-liv’d than those that live in Continents: for they live not to [sic] long in Russia as in the Orcades…and the Japonians [sic] are longer-liv’d than the Chinese…’ He goes on to suggest ‘the countries which have been observed to produce long-livers are: Arcadia, ᴁtolia…Brazil, Britain, Ireland, with the islands of the Orcades and Hebrides.’ If one would appreciate a long life, one thing to do is look after the stomach ‘which as they say is the master of the house…’

Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

The stomach should be ‘clean, not surcharged with foul humours and yet not altogether empty or hungry: …it is to be kept ever in appetite, because appetite sharpens digestion’. However, a long life can be shortened by sudden death with a list of possible culprits including, not surprisingly ‘…a great blow on the head induceth sudden death, the Spirits being frightened within the ventricles of the brain….also extreme drunkenness or extreme feeding sometimes cause sudden death…’ and ‘…joys, excessive and sudden have bereft many of their lives’.

Among the natural history titles on display is Giovanni Alfonso Borelli’s  De Motu Animalium or On the Movement of Animals which was first published posthumously in 1685. Borelli was an Italian physiologist and physicist acquainted with Galleo Galilei. While in the post of Head of Mathematics at the University of Pisa, Borelli met the Italian anatomist Marcello Malpighi and in 1657 they co-founded the short-lived Accademia del Cimento, a scientific academy. At this time Borelli began a fascination with the science of animal movement or biomechanics, eventually earning him the title the Father of Biomechanics. In De Moto Animalium, Borelli compares animals to machines and employs mathematics to prove his theories. The anatomists of the 17th century were the first to suggest the contractile movement of muscles. Borelli, however, was the first to suggest that ‘muscles do not exercise vital movement otherwise than by contracting’. Borelli recognised that forward motion entailed movement of a body’s centre of gravity forward, which was then followed by the swinging of its limbs in order to maintain balance. His studies extended beyond muscle and locomotion. In particular he likened the action of the heart to that of a piston. For this to work properly he derived the idea that the arteries have to be elastic. Forced into exile in 1668, for suspected involvement in political conspiracies, Borelli lived his remaining years in poverty, teaching basic mathematics at a convent school.

The exhibition includes many more treasures on medicine and natural history. The oldest on show is Principia Philosophiae by René Descartes. Printed in 1650. It includes 4 of Descartes works including the essay Dioptrices. In it Descartes uses various models to understand the properties of light. It was his greatest contribution to optics.

The exhibition will run on Wednesday 27th January from 10am to 1pm and from 2pm to 5pm. A guided tour will be held at 12pm.



  1. Hunter and H. Knight (eds), Unpublished Material Relating to Robert Boyle’s Memoirs for the Natural History of Human Blood


Gaelic manuscripts – St. Colman’s College, Fermoy

By Yvette Campbell and Barbara McCormack, Special Collections & Archives

In August 2013, a collection of fifty Gaelic manuscripts from the Library at St. Colman’s College, Fermoy were relocated to the Russell Library, which has one of the largest and most important collections of Gaelic manuscripts in Ireland. In October last year, cataloguing was completed on the manuscripts which act as a further consolidation of collections relating to the religious and social history of Ireland in the early modern period (from the late 17th to the mid-19th centuries particularly) such as the Murphy, O’Curry and Renehan manuscript collections, also housed in the Russell Library.

The Fermoy manuscripts can be accessed online via the LibrarySearch discovery tool. Continue reading

Maynooth College 1914-1918

By Barbara McCormack, Special Collections & Archives

We are currently hosting a very interesting exhibition in the Russell Library to mark the anniversary of World War I. ‘Maynooth College 1914-1918’ was developed to commemorate the role of Irish Catholic army chaplains in the First World War while also documenting the history of Maynooth College during this period.

Memorbilia on display
Memorbilia on display

The exhibition is a collaborative endeavour between St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth and Maynooth University, with a grant from Kildare County Council towards costs.

Exhibition Goals

  • To commemorate the centenary of the First World War.
  • To focus on local history during the period 1914-1918.
  • To assess the impact of the War on the day-to-day running of the College.
  • To commemorate the work of Irish Catholic army chaplains during the conflict.
  • To explore the relationship between the Irish and English Catholic administration at this time.
  • To explore the impact of the War on teaching staff.
  • To explore attitudes towards the threat of conscription in 1918.
  • To create opportunities for community engagement, specifically with regards to adult learners.
  • To encourage learning, reflection and dialogue in relation to Ireland and the First World War.
  • To encourage further research in the area of conflict resolution and military history.
Students, 1916
Students, 1916


The exhibition and accompanying events focused on local history during World War I through an analysis of the following themes:

  1. Daily life in Maynooth College during the First World War.
  2. Meeting the need for Irish Catholic army chaplains at the front.
  3. The threat of conscription in Ireland.
  4. Irish nationalism during World War I.
  5. A German professor at Maynooth College.

WWI exhibition

Something old and something new…

By the Special Collections & Archives team

Welcome to the brand new MU Library Treasures Blog – an insight into the early print, manuscript and other special collections of the Russell Library and John Paul II Library at Maynooth University.

Why another blog you ask? Can’t I get this information from the MU Library Website? Well the answer is yes and no. We hope to provide you with a range of highlights and interesting facts about the 40,000+ works in Special Collections & Archives. Stay tuned for exhibition sneak peeks, staff picks and focus features!