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.

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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.

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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.

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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.





The Chemical History of a Candle


By Saoirse Reynolds, Special Collections & Archives, JPII Library.

‘From the primitive pine-torch to the paraffin candle, how wide an interval! Between them how vast a contrast!’

The Chemical History of a Candle – by Michael Faraday (1791-1867).

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Michael Faraday 1791-1867

The book was edited by William Crookes (1832-1919) and published in London by Chatto and Windus, 1870. The lectures were first printed as a book in 1861 and it has numerous illustrations.

Ever wish you could receive a lecture from one of the great scientists? With this book you can!

This book is a series of six lectures on the chemistry and physics of flames which was given by Michael Faraday at the Royal Institution in 1848. It was part of a series of Christmas lectures for young people which was founded by Faraday in 1825. These lectures are still given there every year and are televised. They were popular lectures and Faraday really enjoyed delivering them to the juvenile audience, passing on his enthusiasm for science to them and the public.

Front cover of book

Charles Dickens requested Faraday to write up his lectures and wrote to him in May 1850 saying “it has occurred to me that it would be extremely beneficial to a large class of public to have some account of your lectures you addressed… to children”. Faraday didn’t comply immediately but did eventually agree to have a stenographic record of his lectures undertaken.

The lectures were very entertaining and Faraday included serious chemical principles and used fascinating experiments to make them seem real. For example, copper chloride is used to colour a flame green, and a candle is relit from the vapour of an extinguished candle.

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Experiment with lime-water

Other demonstrations were used and included the production and examination of hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. The properties of water were also studied and the volume of steam produced when water is vaporised.
Many of the demonstrations could be tried out at home and Faraday comments on the proper attention to safety, with suitable adult supervision.
What drew me to this book was the idea of taking something as simple as a candle and breaking down what happens to it scientifically. It is an easily accessible and informative  book for a beginner and someone interested in the history of science. The book offers a fascinating insight into the mind of a great physicist of his time.

The Chemical History of a Candle, can be viewed in Special Collections & Archives,  John Paul II Library in the Reading Room

Opening Times: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday
Mornings – 10am-1pm
Tuesday 10am-5pm. Closed for lunch 1pm-2pm
Special Collections is closed on Fridays
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Different kinds of flames produced



Frank A. J. L. James, ‘Faraday, Michael (1791–1867)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2011 [, accessed 26 Oct 2017]

W. H. Brock, ‘Crookes, Sir William (1832–1919)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 26 Oct 2017]