Villanova University, by virtue of its Augustinian heritage, has benefited from the donation of many traces and reminders of the early Catholica Church in America. These items, once in common circulation, have become rare or have even disappeared in other institutions. Fragile pamphlet literature is especially vulnerable to the tempests of time. These items often document a particular occasion or event, like a trial, a speech or a sermon, and are usually issued with only paper covers. Needless to say, these covers are often ravaged by the enemies of paper – water, fire, vermin and humans.
Special Collections has a large number of these pamphlets in both the Augustiniana and Joseph McGarrity Collections. One pamphlet digitized this week is a particularly excellent printed example of early American history and highlights an individual of significant import to the early republic: Charles Carroll of Carrollton.
Charles Carroll was the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, and eventually became the last living signer. Indeed in current popular culture, Charles Carroll, lives on still – as depicted in the blockbuster movie National Treasure. Here in the recently digitized Eulogy on Charles Carroll of Carrolton delivered before the Academus Society of Mt. St. Mary’s College, December 20th, 1832 , Reverend John McCaffrey provides a brief overview of this revolutionary forefather and political titan.
Another rare title digitized this week that has connection to Villanova is a sermon preached in the Church of St. Augustine, in Philadelphia, on the 31st of May, 1829, at a solemn, religious thanksgiving to Almighty God for the emancipation of the Catholics of Great Britain and Ireland by the Reverend John Hughes. This sermon was preached at the original St. Augustine’s Church which was later burned to the ground in the nativist anti-catholic riots of 1844. The destruction of St. Augustine’s precipitated the relocation to the safer climes of rural Villanova.
The survival of so many nearly lost treasures can only be ensured by the continued preservation of the original item and by the creation of additional copies; one form these additional copies can take involves the digitization of the original source document according to a set of standards that enables creation of a facsimile edition. The added benefit to digitization over the alternatives such as microfilming, is to enable immediate access and availability to a world of scholars and researchers via the web.