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Covering the Celt

Dust jackets offer a representation of a book’s content as well as an opportunity to provide an iconic and memorable marketing medium for a publisher. For books without illustrative matter the dust jacket is the only pictorial representation that will help create and focus the lens of the mind’s eye. Publishers and graphic designers work long and hard on the jacket design especially that most important aspect of the design: the front cover.

The newly published book, The Dream of the Celt by Nobel Prize in Literature winner Mario Vargas LLosa, recently reviewed in the Guardian, is a fictional account of the life of Irish Nationalist Sir Roger Casement who was hanged by the British government during the First World War. Several of Casement’s manuscripts are in Special Collections; as well, other materials which were collected by his friend and ally Joseph McGarrity are housed in the Joseph McGarrity Collection in Falvey Memorial Library. All of these materials have been digitized and are made available in Villanova’s Digital Library. Prominently featured on the front cover of the English language translation of the Dream, (translated by Edith Grossman, Farrar, Straus and Girous, 2012) is a photograph of Roger Casement drawn from the McGarrity Collection. Credit is appropriately given for use of the photograph on the rear flap of the dust jacket by the designer Eric Fuentecilla.

Not only does this evocative cover image help depict Casement to the reader’s imagination, but also the citation and acknowledgement act as an advertisement for scholars and researchers to the wealth of additional information available in the Joseph McGarrity Collections and to the role of Villanova University in preserving and making access available to these internationally significant Irish heritage materials. According to Brian McDonald, a Digital Library Intern currently reading The Dream, citations to Joseph McGarrity “can be found on pp. 146, 148, 317, 319, 320, 331, 332, and 334.”


A beachy summer in the digital library

Posted for: Alexandra Edwards (Falvey Memorial Library intern and digital library student employee)

Though the school year has been over for nearly two months, summer only officially began last week, on June 21.  The season of beach visits and beach reads has truly begun.

Summer vacation at the beach is hardly a recent cultural development.  Families have been going “down the shore” for at least 150 years, to prime oceanside destinations such as Atlantic City, New Jersey.  The first hotel commercial hotel built in the vacation hotspot appeared in 1853, and since then, visitors have been making the trek, by rail and road, in droves.

Joseph McGarrity, whose personal papers can be found in Special Collections, visited Atlantic City with his family sometime around the turn of the 20th century, and had their photograph taken on the beach.  (A caption for the photo can be found here.)

In the Sherman-Thackara collection, an 1865 photograph shows five Naval midshipmen on the beach, probably at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.  Though not on vacation, the five men nonetheless strike a casual pose on the sandy shore.

American beaches aren’t the only ones on display in the Digital Library, either.  Jack Butler Yeats drew images of the Irish coast, including the one below.

The small card, an advertisement for Player’s Cigarettes, contains an explanation of the Irish word sceire (skerries) on the back.


The ocean is an important image in Irish travel writing and poetry as well.  Rambles on the Irish Coast by William Hellier Baily not only explores the beach from a factual perspective, but it also includes excerpts like the following, from “The Cromlech on Howth” by Samuel Ferguson:

“They heaved the stone; they heaped the cairn;”
Said Ossian, “In a queenly grave
We leave her, ‘mong her fields of fern,
Between the cliff and wave.
The cliff behind stands clear and bare,
And bare above, the heathery steep
Scales the blue heaven’s expanse to where
The Danaan druids sleep.
And all the sands that, lest and right,
The grassy isthmns ridge confine,
In yellow bars lie bare and bright
among the sparkling brine.”

This small tour through the Digital Library’s beachy materials has only whetted (get it?) our appetite for a day at the ocean, whether it be down the shore like the McGarrity family or further afield, rambling on the Irish coast.



We’re on Flickr!

The Digital Library is now on Flickr! I created our account in June and have since added 85 images (and counting!).

A view of Philadelphia from the Delaware River in 1753.

Most of the images come from our collections on the Digital Library and I’ve created image sets that mirror some of the main collections there, as well as two new collections: Adverts and Scenes. As you might guess, the Adverts set contains advertisements from the pages of some of the books in our Digital Library. I’ve pulled the ones that struck me as interesting or noteworthy in some way.

Advertisement for Villanova.

The Scenes set contains Flickr-exclusive images that don’t fit into any of our regular collections. These will mainly be random photos I take while wandering around campus photographing trees.


The majority of these images are all available on the Digital Library, of course, but our Flickr account provides another point of access and highlights some of the interesting images that are easy to miss if you don’t look through every page of every item on the Digital Library. In addition, Flickr allows you to interact with our images by adding notes, tags, and comments.

Come check us out! I know I’m having fun finding images to post there, so hopefully you’ll find something new and interesting, too!


Captain Rita Ficchi’s WAAC Handbook


The power of the network can leverage even a small number of personal artifacts and materials on a very specific subject into a visceral and meaningful engagement with history. One such item is the Handbook for the Woman’s Army Auxiliary Corps. Fort Des Moines Iowa, dated 1943. Enclosed in the Handbook is a photograph of the Fort’s First Officer Captain Rita A. Ficci. It was donated to Falvey’s Special Collection by an Augustinian, Father Thomas Roland, in 1962. The Woman’s Army Auxiliary Corp was a division of the U.S. Army for citizens of the female gender, created in 1942 and moved to active status in 1943 during World War II. Women served their country actively in this conflict.


Reading this Handbook, which was designed to be given to each new arrival at the Fort, brings to mind another time, and gives guidance on the transition from civilian to military life. Specific instructions are given on uniforms, military bearing, what to wear, hair care, saluting, and the military police. Even a map of the post is included.


Organizations such as the Women Veterans Historical Collection at the Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, collect and display large collections of these resources. While the Fort Des Moines Museum also strives to document the past, in this case the mission is to preserve information about a place; the museum’s online photo gallery of Army Women at Fort Des Moines, Iowa 1942-1945 shows the training and service of women like Captain Ficchi. But in an online environment resources at any one institution, even an institution with a small collection of unique items, can add to the total body of information available about a subject. In the case of primary materials like Captain Ficchi’s photograph and this handbook, small pieces of a puzzle can be added together to create a more complete whole.



Last Modified: January 23, 2009