University of Notre Dame


Hesburgh Libraries

Rare Books & Special Collections

Previous Exhibits: 2010-2014

1974-2000 | 2000-2005 | 2005-2010 | 2010-2015

Graphic for the exhibit.

Vestigia Vaticana: An exhibition of papal manuscripts, books, and more

May 5-August 15, 2016

Manuscripts, incunabula, seals, maps, engravings, and printed books from the thirteenth century to the present highlight how the Holy Father has left his mark on society. These materials from RBSC, together with a great bull on loan from Saint Mary's College, are featured in the new exhibit “Vestigia Vaticana.” The exhibit's opening coincided with the conference The Promise of the Vatican Library, being held May 8–10, 2016, at the University of Notre Dame.

These materials are like the Vatican's footprints. They provide a trail for us to follow to get a glimpse of the official acts of the Holy Father, of books that belonged to popes, of events the general public wasn't privy to. Take a stroll through the exhibit to see these papal bulls, apostolic briefs, a papal conclave print, a ground plan of Rome, and various other pieces.

This exhibit is curated by Dr. David T. Gura (Curator of Ancient and Medieval Manuscripts).

Related Events


The Promise of the Vatican Library
May 8-10, 2016

An international academic conference highlighting the holdings of the Vatican Library and opportunities for future research.

Snite Exhibit:

The Promise of the Vatican Library
May 8-22, 2016

An exhibition of twelve works from the Vatican Library's vast holdings supplements the conference. These objects, including Greek and Latin manuscripts, early printed books, fifteenth-century music, numismatics, and sixteenth- and seventeenth-century representations of the Eternal City.

Graphic for the exhibit.

Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion

February 12-April 28, 2016

The Easter Rising of 1916 was one of the most important events in Irish history. Though the rebellion lasted only six days, it led to the formation of an independent Irish State.

When most of the leaders were executed, sympathy for the rebellion spread throughout the world. The poem by W. B. Yeats, Easter, 1916, written in the aftermath, describes how a military failure carried out by unlikely people became transformative.

The Hesburgh Libraries Rare Books and Special Collections includes a rare copy of this poem, in addition to documents and books by and about the leaders of the Rising. The exhibit featured items from our Easter Rising Ephemera collection, from our Irish Manuscript collection, and from our book and newspaper collections. In addition, material from the Notre Dame Archives helped us to see the international aspect of the Easter Rising.

This exhibit was curated by Aedín Clements (Irish Studies Librarian).

Related Events

Guided Tours:

Guided tours were offered regularly by the Hesburgh Librarian Irish Studies Librarian, Aedín Clements. (Every Wednesday at NOON and every other Thursday at 5 pm—February 25, March 10 and 24, April 7 and 21—with special tours for Irish Studies Events on Thursday, February 18, at NOON, and Thursday, March 3, at 2 pm.)


2016 National Meeting of the American Conference for Irish Studies (ACIS)
March 30-April 3, 2016

"The Worlding of Irish Studies" provides a theme for the 2016 American Conference for Irish Studies' annual gathering. With Irish Studies increasingly seen through multinational eyes, this meeting will address the current placement of Ireland and Irish Studies.

Is Ireland transnational? With seventy million people of Irish extraction all over the world, the diaspora was more wildly successful—and more demographically complex—than scholars have yet imagined. This reexamination will weigh whether Ireland might be most productively understood as a post-colonial nation or a fully integrated European country. [More... ]

Logo for First Folio exhibit in RBSC

Special Traveling Exhibit:

First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare, on tour from the Folger Shakespeare Library

January 6-29, 2016

Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night. These celebrated plays and 15 others by Shakespeare might very well have been lost to us today without the First Folio, the first collected edition of William Shakespeare's plays.

In celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's legacy, the Folger Shakespeare Library has launched a national tour of the First Folio—the University of Notre Dame was selected as Indiana's only host site. Thanks to a partnership forged between Shakespeare at Notre Dame, Hesburgh Libraries Rare Books and Special Collections, and the Robinson Community Learning Center, the Notre Dame community and surrounding region had a rare opportunity to experience this historic and famous book first hand!

Housed in the Rare Books and Special Collections gallery of Notre Dame's Hesburgh Library, Notre Dame marked the official first stop of the First Folio national tour and exhibit, titled First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare, on tour from the Folger Shakespeare Library. Only 233 copies exist of this first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays, and we were honored to be the first of only 52 sites to host this treasure from the world's largest Shakespeare collection.

Shakespeare at Notre Dame, along with faculty from the College of Arts and Letters, and members of the distinguished Shakespeare residency company Actors from the London Stage also hosted lectures, performances, workshops, and special displays throughout the month of January to complement this momentous occasion.

Graphic for the exhibit.

After Gutenberg: Print, Books, and Knowledge in Germany through the Long Sixteenth Century

August 24 - December 9, 2015

Explore innovations in the dissemination of knowledge in Germany during the long sixteenth century. From the marriage of text and image on the printed page to the use of censorship and propaganda to the manuals of advice and instruction, witness the dynamic intellectual life of Germans between 1450 and 1650.

This exhibit was curated by Dr. Julie Tanaka (RBSC Curator and Western European History Librarian).

Related Events

Opening Reception:

September 11th, 4:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.
Rare Books & Special Collections (102 Hesburgh Library)

The opening of our Fall 2015 exhibit. Thomas A. Brady, Jr. (Professor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley) spoke, reflecting on how Notre Dame inspired and challenged him to become a historian of Germany and of Christianity during this exciting century.


September 11-12, 2015

The exhibit coincided with a conference being hosted by Notre Dame. ​Beyond Tradition: Rethinking Early Modern Europe highlighting the exciting new directions that teaching and research on Early Modern European subjects are taking. The conference featured scholars and students presenting their current research, a workshop on using special collections materials, the exhibit opening, and concluded with an interdisciplinary roundtable discussion about the new directions in early modern studies.

Exhibit and Conference information (PDF)

Sacred Music at Notre Dame: the Voice of the Text

February 27 - July 31, 2015

Graphic for the exhibit.

This exhibition highlighted the variety of medieval liturgical manuscripts and fragments housed in the University of Notre Dame's Hesburgh Library which contain music. The manuscripts featured date from the eleventh through fifteenth century, and originate from various regions in France, Germany, Austria, and Italy. Some examples represent specific uses such as Carthusian monks or Dominican nuns. Other manuscripts in this exhibit were recovered from book bindings, and serve as examples of older practices which may no longer exist in complete manuscripts.

The exhibit was curated by Dr. David T. Gura (RBSC Curator of Ancient and Medieval Manuscripts, Early Imprints & the History of the Book).

The exhibit coincided with the Medieval Academy of America conference, held at Notre Dame 12-14 March 2015, and was featured as the cover story for ND Works in June 2015.

RBSC at The Snite — Natalia Goncharova’s Mystical Images of War, 1914

January 31 to April 2, 2015

Graphic for the exhibit.

This exhibition presents a dramatic portfolio of fourteen lithographs by the Russian avant-garde artist Natalia Goncharova (1881–1962) from the Hesburgh Libraries Collection. Published in the fall of 1914, the lithographs represent one of the earliest and most profound artistic responses to the outbreak of the Great War. They tell an epic and "mystical" story about the eternal struggle between good and evil, destruction and redemption, in which national, traditional, religious, apocalyptic, and contemporary images are intertwined.

Co-sponsored by the Hesburgh Libraries, Snite Museum of Art, and the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, and organized by Russian and East European Studies Librarian Natasha Lyandres, the presentation is part of a series of lectures, courses, performances, exhibitions, and other events commemorating the First World War.

RBSC at The Snite — Hour by Hour: Reconstructing a Medieval Breton Prayer Book

January 18 to March 15, 2015

Graphic for the exhibit.

In conjunction with the annual meeting of the Medieval Academy of America in March, this exhibition focused on reassembling a fifteenth-century book of hours that originated in Brittany, France. Of the 91 manuscript pages he had already recovered, David T. Gura, curator of ancient and medieval manuscripts at the University of Notre Dame's Hesburgh Library, selected about 35 of the most compelling examples, offering visitors an opportunity to virtually walk through a medieval prayer book, page by page.

This exhibition was organized by Hesburgh Library, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, in collaboration with the Snite Museum of Art and was presented with support from the Snite General Endowment.

The Power of My Pen to Describe: Ten American Diaries, 1750 to 1900

August 29 to December 19, 2014

Graphic for the exhibit.

As a textual form, the diary is an autobiographical narrative whose daily or periodic entries record the writer's experiences, observations, and reflections. The maintenance of diaries has been a familiar feature of American culture, high and low, since the 17th century.

The Power of my Pen to Describe showcased a selection of American manuscript diaries written over a period of some 150 years, 1745 to 1896. Some of the texts treat singular episodes in their authors' lives, like travel on the Oregon Trail or service in the Civil War. Others are diaries of the quotidian, treating the everyday experiences of (for example) a Massachusetts textile worker or a Washington DC socialite. All items in the exhibit derived from the North American manuscript holdings in the Hesburgh Libraries' Rare Books and Special Collections.

This exhibit was curated by George Rugg, RBSC Curator of North American Manuscripts.

For additional information about this exhibit, visit the exhibit's Web site.

Robert Creeley's Library: The Poet's Books as Art Museum and Network of Communications

February 3 to July 25, 2014

Graphic for the Cleeley exhibit.

Robert Creeley (1926-2005) was one of the most influential and beloved American poets of the twentieth century. With support from John J. and Terrie Bollman, the Howard and Evangeline Phalin Collection in English and American Literature, and the President's Circle, the Hesburgh Library acquired in 2011 nearly all of the books from Robert Creeley's personal library. This exhibition of select materials from Robert Creeley's library demonstrated the vital and remarkably extensive range of his network of communications and ultimately made evident his centrality to the literary and visual arts of his time.

The exhibit was curated by Stephen Fredman (Department of English). Design by Sara Weber (Digital Projects Specialist, Special Collections). Conservation and preparation of materials by Liz Dube (Conservator, Preservation) and Diane Sikorski (Conservation Technician, Preservation). Planning and coordination by the Hesburgh Library Exhibit Committee.

The Robert Creeley Symposium was held Friday, February 7, 2014, in conjunction with the exhibit, and brought together the poet's wife, Penelope Creeley; the publisher of Granary Books, Steve Clay, who assembled the collection; Kaplan Harris, Associate Professor of English, St. Bonaventure University; and a roundtable of Notre Dame graduate students who have cataloged the collection.

For more information about this exhibit and symposium, as well as videos from the symposium, please visit its Web page.

Tír na nÓg: Literature for Young People from the Hesburgh Libraries' Irish Collections

August 26, 2013 — December 13, 2013

Graphic for the Tir na Nog exhibit.

In 2003 the Hesburgh Libraries acquired the Irish Fiction Collection of Rolf and Magda Loeber. The Loebers are the authors of A Guide to Irish Fiction, 1650-1900, a monumental study and annotated bibliography of fiction written by Irish authors, set in Ireland, or related to Ireland. The acquisition of the Loeber Collection of over two thousand books, generously funded by Dr. Michael W. J. Smurfit and Dennis F. and Ellin C. Murphy, marked the launch of the Hesburgh Library's ambitious Irish Fiction Initiative.

Children's literature forms a very interesting subset of this collection. The nineteenth century saw the development of stories with a moral purpose and later a trend towards books designed to delight and amuse children. By the twentieth century a number of genres of youth literature are in evidence including girls' stories, adventure stories and picture books. Nationalism, folklore, the Irish language and the culture and customs of rural Ireland emerge in twentieth century Irish children's literature.

In the late twentieth century, children's books deal with Ireland's history and also problems of Irish society. The Famine, the War of Independence, and the Northern Ireland Conflict form the background of a number of novels from the late 1970s on. Several contemporary Irish authors and illustrators are known throughout the world, and this exhibit highlighted a few of their works.

Tír na nÓg is the Land of the Youth, a mythical otherworld that features in the Fenian cycle of Irish tales.

This exhibit was curated by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements (Irish Studies Librarian).

Design by Sara Weber (Digital Projects Specialist, Special Collections). Conservation and preparation of materials by Liz Dube (Conservator, Preservation) and Diane Sikorski (Conservation Technician, Preservation). Research assistance by Rebecca Rossi (ND '14). Planning and coordination by the Hesburgh Library Exhibit Committee.

Poster illustration from Rosamond Praeger, Further doings of three bold babes.

Hour by Hour: Reconstructing a Medieval Breton Prayerbook

January 21, 2013 — August 16, 2013

Animated GIF with title of exhibit (Hour by Hour: Reconstructing a Medieval Breton Prayerbok) and rotating image of the twelve monthly labors.On July 5, 2011 a fifteenth-century Book of Hours (private prayer book) was auctioned by Sotheby’s in London. Lot 113 of their Western Manuscripts and Miniatures sale sold for a modest price to an anonymous buyer. Lot 113 found its way to Germany, where it was cut apart so its leaves could be sold individually—a practice called book breaking, which is all too common. By October, numerous leaves from the manuscript were put up for auction on eBay sites in several countries by a dealer in Leipzig, Germany.

The purchase of individual leaves encourages book breaking. Thus, the Hesburgh Library does not usually buy single leaves, but exceptions are made in significant cases. Breton manuscripts are among the rarest due to the extremely small number which survive. A peculiar calendar was up for auction in February 2012, which one of the Library’s curators was able to localize positively to Vannes, Brittany ca. 1450. It is crucial that a calendar remain intact—if the months are separated important details are forever lost.

What started as an attempt to preserve an extremely rare medieval calendar became an effort to reconstruct an entire manuscript (now called Frag. III.1). This exhibit showed what this manuscript had been and what it has become.

This exhibit was curated by Dr. David T. Gura (Curator, Ancient and Medieval Manuscripts, Early Imprints & the History of the Book).

From St. Petersburg to Notre Dame: The Miraculous Journey of the Polievktov-Nikoladze Family Papers through a Century of War and Revolution

September 14, 2012 — December 14, 2012

The Polievktov-Nikoladze Family Papers, acquired by the Hesburgh Libraries in 2006-09, derive from three generations of a prominent and historically significant Georgian family (download a PDF of the family tree and exhibit highlights). The collection also includes the papers of Mikhail Polievktov, a leading historian of the St. Petersburg school of Russian history, notable among which are the transcriptions of interviews with leaders of the February Revolution, conducted in May 1917 by a commission he himself organized. The collection includes previously unexamined personal and professional correspondence, diaries, memoirs, photographs, and other manuscript formats (download a PDF of an exhibit overview).

This exhibit was curated by Natasha Lyandres, Russian and East European Studies Bibliographer.

For more information about this exhibit, please visit its Web site.

Two speakers came to campus in connection with this exhibit and give public talks in the Special Collections Room (room 102) of the Hesburgh Library:

"Irakli Tsereteli and the February Revolution"
Rex A. Wade, University Professor of Russian and Soviet History, George Mason University.
Thursday, September 20, 5 p.m. (exhibit opening and tour at 3 p.m.)

"The Perils of Memory: Mikhail Polievktov, Self-Erasure, and the Writing of Russian History after 1917"
Gary M. Hamburg, Otto M. Behr Professor of European History, Claremont McKenna College.
Tuesday, October 23, 5 p.m. (exhibit tour prior to the lecture at 4:30 p.m.)

A planned third lecture had to be cancelled:

"A Nation within the Russian Empire: Georgia at the Turn of the Twentieth Century"
Ronald G. Suny, Charles Tilly Collegiate Professor of Social and Political History, University of Michigan.
Tuesday, November 6, 5 p.m. (exhibit tour prior to the lecture at 4:30 p.m.)

Download a PDF version of the lectures poster.

Readers Writing Books: Annotation in Context, 1200-1600

January 30, 2012 — July 6, 2012

Texts displayed ranged from Homer to Boethius, from Roman law to the rules of Latin grammar. The exhibit's focus was on how medieval and renaissance readers interacted with and re-inscribed these texts, on how text and annotation merge (or compete) on the page. Present-day Post-Its, highlighters and electronic stickies continue a tradition of annotation illustrated here with examples of books written, printed, and subsequently written on, from the collections of the Hesburgh Libraries.

The exhibit was co-curated by Dr. David T. Gura, Curator of Ancient, Medieval & European Manuscripts, Early Imprints, and History of the Book, and David Sullivan, Librarian for Classics and Byzantine Studies.

All Roads Lead to Rome: New acquisitions relating to the Eternal City

August 22, 2011 — December 16, 2011

The proverb "All roads lead to Rome" derives from medieval Latin. It was first recorded in writing in 1175 by Alain de Lille, a French theologian and poet, whose Liber Parabolarum renders it as 'mille viae ducunt homines per saecula Romam' (a thousand roads lead men forever to Rome). The first documented English use of the proverb occurs more than two hundred years later, in Geoffrey Chaucer's Astrolabe of 1391, where it appears as 'right as diverse pathes leden diverse folk the righte way to Rome.'

The proverb's origins may relate to the Roman monument known as the Milliarium Aureum, or golden milestone, erected by Emperor Caesar Augustus in the central forum of ancient Rome. All distances in the Roman Empire were measured from this point and it was regarded as the site from which all principle roads diverged. As such, artists such as Giacomo Lauro, whose rendition of the Milliarium Aureum appears in this exhibit, often used it as a metaphor for the intensely cosmopolitan culture that has long been present in Rome.

The materials on view in this exhibit were recent purchases made through the Library Acquisitions Grant Program. Titled "All Roads Lead to Rome," this generous grant sought to strengthen the Library's scholarly holdings within the subject areas of cartography, monuments, and travel. Within these categories, interdisciplinary purchases pertaining to archaeology, music, history, and the development of the Vatican were also made. This exhibit presented a selection of these recent acquisitions that are now available for use by faculty and students within the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.

"...seduced by the beauty of the letter forms themselves."
An exploration of roman and italic typefaces before the Industrial Revolution

February 1, 2011 — August 1, 2011

Printing with movable type began in Europe in the middle of the fifteenth century with Gutenberg. The mechanics of printing remained fundamentally unchanged from their development by Gutenberg until the introduction of steam-powered rotary presses during the Industrial Revolution, over three hundred fifty years later. It was common that a small publishing house would have relatively few fonts with which they would print their books. Even larger printing families did not have readily available the vast number and variety of options that exist on today’s desktop computer. Selecting a typeface was for centuries a matter of what was in style and therefore available — a rise in the popularity of one style of typeface often led to older, less favored type being melted down to provide the raw material to cast type in the new style. The popularity of a typeface reflected the the characteristics it was perceived to embody. Letterpress faces considered in this exhibit were valued for their relationship to manuscripts hands, because of economic considerations, or due to their perceived relationship to the prevailing philosophies of their day.

This exhibit traced the stylistic shifts of printed letter forms over the three hundred years that the handpress was the method for printing books, and examined some of the societal influences that led to and informed those changes.

1974-2000 | 2000-2005 | 2005-2010 | 2010-2015