Skip Navigation
Falvey Library
You are exploring: Home > Blogs

Moving pictures

After much hard work by Director of Technology Development, Demian Katz, Villanova’s Digital Library has the capacity to host video files in preservation formats and provide in-line viewing. The first work to be made available by this new advancement is the documentary film The Red Hand: Stories of Joseph O’Neill & Emily Quinn which tells the story of the extended Irish O’Neill family’s Philadelphia legacy, part of the O’Neill Family Collection.

Future moving picture offering that are in the works include – recently reformatted to digital media – films of campus life; campus events; and born-digital videos. Closed-captioning is currently only available via the “old viewer” option, but work on updating the University Viewer software to permit closed-captions viewing in the primary viewer is progressing rapidly.


Recent Donation to the Mendel Collection with a Fascinating Provenance

A Mutually Beneficial Relationship between Religion and Science

“There is no conflict between religion and science” – Abbé Lemaître

Popular culture today frequently portrays Science and Religion as two opposing forces that understand the natural world in drastically different ways. A new acquisition to Falvey’s Distinctive Collections paints a very different picture.

Mendel’s principles of heredity. A defense. / With a Translation of Mendel’s Original Papers on Hybridisation. Cambridge: William Bateson, 1902.


Last month an anonymous donation of a first edition Defense of Mendel’s principles of heredity, by William Bateson (1902), was generously gifted in honor of the outstanding career of Professor Angela DiBenedetto, Villanova University Biology Department. This is the first book on Mendelism in English, and the first English textbook of genetics. It contains a reprint of the English edition of Mendel’s ‘Versuch uber Pflanzen-Hybriden’ together with the new English edition of Mendel’s second paper on ‘Hieracium’ (1869). The author, Bateson, is responsible for naming this scientific study “genetics” (c. 1905-06).



A signature on the front pastedown of this copy reads “J. Aldrich”. John Merton Aldrich (1866-1934) was an American entomologist interested in the study of flies and North American Diptera. Aldrich was a prolific collector, known for his ability to find rare species previously unknown to Western naturalist classifications, and likely the first owner of this copy. Aldrich also taught religion at All Souls Unitarian-Universalist Church in Washington D.C. As the Associate Curator of Insects at the United States National Museum, he donated his collection of over 45,000 specimens / 4,000 named specimens to the museum, which today is one of the most important Diptera collections in the National Museum.

Lemaitre Follows Two Paths to Truth: The Famous Physicist, Who is Also a Priest, Tells Why He Finds No Conflict Between Science and Religion by Duncan Aikman. The New York Times Magazine, February 19, 1933.

Georges Lemaître (1894-1966) was a Belgian Catholic priest, astronomer, and professor of physics. He is known for proposing the Big Bang theory, from which he derived the Hubble-Lemaître law: the observation that galaxies are rapidly expanding. This article was printed in 1933. The very next year, Villanova awarded Lemaître the Mendel Medal.

Einstein and Lemaître—“They Have a Profound Respect and Admiration for Each Other.”

Villanova awards the Mendel Medal annually to “outstanding scientists who have done much by their painstaking work to advance the cause of science, and, by their lives and their standing before the world as scientists, have demonstrated that between true science and true religion there is no intrinsic conflict.” The Mendel Medal is named for Gregor Johann Mendel (1822-1884) Abbot of the Augustinian Monastery in present-day Brno, Czech Republic who discovered the laws of heredity which now bear his name. The Medal was established in 1928 to recognize scientific accomplishment and religious conviction.


Distinctive Summer Reading 2023

Here are the books that top the reading piles of the Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement staff this summer. Most if not all of these titles can be found via stocked online booksellers while some are also available in digital and audio formats for interested readers. And for even more reading recommendations, here are links to the 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022 lists.

From Beaudry Allen, Preservation & Digital Archivist:

The End of White Christian America by Robert P Jones. Inspired to read this from Rev. Naomi Washington-Leapheart’s recent talk “A Womanist Path to Ending White Christian America.”

Crying in H Mart: A Memoir by Michelle Zauner. The book is about growing up Korean American and how Zauner, of Japanese Breakfast, navigates death and identity in adulthood.

Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan. A booktok influenced choice. A fantasy inspired by Chinese mythology and the legend of the moon goddess Chang’e.

From Michael Foight, Director Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement:

The World: A Family History of Humanity / Simon Sebag Montefiore (2023). A just-published global history tome weighing in at 1344 pages!

Knowing What We Know: the transmission of knowledge from ancient wisdom to modern magic / Simon Winchester (2023). Overview of information theory mixed with pop philosophy and computer culture.

The Soviet Century: archaeology of a lost world / Karl Schlogel (2023). A deep dive into the popular culture of the former Soviet Union.

The Lies of Locke Lamora / Scott Lynch. (2006). First in a series of fantasy novels about thieves in the city of Camorr (loosely based on medieval Venice).

From Megan Piorko, Distinctive Collections Librarian:

I Hold a Wolf by the Ears by Laura van den Berg (2020)

Finna by Nino Cipri (2020)

Severance by Ling Ma (2019)

From Christoforos Sassaris, Distinctive Collections Coordinator:

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made (2017), by Jason Shreier. A non-fiction book about the fascinating world of video game development, using several games of the past decade as case studies.

The Phantom of the Opera (1909), by Gaston Leroux. I have already read this classic novel, but I will likely re-read it now that the Broadway adaptation sadly ended its 35-year continuous run.

Locke & Key, Volume 1: “Welcome to Lovecraft” (2009), by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez. As a fan of Lovecraftian horror and mind-bending sci-fi, I have had my eye on this comic-book series for a while.

The Multiversity(2015), by Grant Morrison and various artists. Grant Morrison’s comics—such as his run on Doom Patrol and Animal Man, both of which I loved—are always interesting a multilayered. With the notion of the “multiverse” becoming more prominent every day in contemporary popular culture, I wanted to read The Multiversity, perhaps the ultimate DC Universe multiverse story.

From Mike Sgier, Distinctive Collections Coordinator:

Between Two Fires / Christopher Buehlman.

Parable of the Talents / Octavia Butler.

Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands / Kate Beaton.

Gustave Dore and the Modern Biblical Imagination / Sarah C. Schaefer.


Cataloging the James Wheeler Collection of Polar Exploration

Two letters from Sir John Franklin (1786-1847)

John Franklin was an English admiral and explorer who led the infamous ‘Franklin expedition’ (c. 1845-1848) in search of a Northwest Passage through Canada. This ill-fated expedition resulted in the death of all 129 crew members and officers on board the two military-grade rocket vessels, ironically named the Erebus and the Terror. Despite efforts from the British navy to retrieve the lost crew and vessels, the exact circumstances of their perishing remain mysterious.

I have recently cataloged two handwritten letters from Sir John Franklin, both of which include machine-searchable transcriptions through our Digital Library.


Letter, To: Rev’d H. Wagner From: Sir John Franklin, undated.

This undated letter was written from Franklin to Rev. Henry Michell Wagner, a very influential clergyman of the Church of England. In this short letter, Franklin is very apologetic about forgetting to invite Wagner to visit with Franklin and his wife, whom he refers to as “Lady Franklin”.






Letter, To: “Dear Sir” From: John Franklin, 13 Sept 1834.

This letter comes with a typewritten transcript of the original document, which is scribed in the hand of Franklin. He sent this letter on the 13th of September 1834 from 5 Orchard Street, Portman Square, over a decade before his fateful expedition. The note is about a book, the Life of Scott, that the recipient (likely the name at the bottom of the document: E. H. Locker Esq.) had sent to Franklin.

The full title of the published book is Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, by John Gibson Lockhart, first published in 1837. According to the date of the letter, Franklin must have had a copy of Scott’s autobiographical manuscript version, “Memoir of the Early Life of Sir Walter Scott, Written by Himself”, which was completed in 1826. The autobiographical version describes the Scottish author’s ancestry, upbringing, and life up to the age of 22. Franklin describes the affinity he felt towards the renowned historian, poet, and playwright, particularly in the context of the recent death of Franklin’s brother.


The James Wheeler Collection consists of books and items related to the Arctic and Antarctic regions in all aspects – history, travel, voyages, adventure, natural history, science, etc. These items were collected and generously donated by James Wheeler, MD. Only a selection of items are digitized.

Check out the digital exhibit featuring materials from the James Wheeler Collection, curated by Rebecca Oviedo “That Fairyland of Ice”: Polar Exploration in Mind and Memory.  


From the Archives: TBT Commencement

Congratulations to the Class of 2023. In honor of this weekend’s commencement is a #TBT of commencement ceremonies of years past.

And did you know former U.S. President Grover Cleveland received an honorary degree at Villanova?


More commencement and student life photographs can be in found in the Distinctive Collections Digital Library.


1 People Like This Post

eBook available: Sweet Violet

Another Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller novel has been added to Project Gutenberg based on scans from our Digital Library. First serialized in Street & Smith’s New York Weekly story paper from June to September of 1894, Sweet Violet; or, The Fairest of the Fair is a tale of jealousy, in which Amber Laurens seeks revenge on her cousin, Violet Mead, after Violet wins the affections of the poor but handsome Cecil Grant.

Being a Mrs. Miller novel, there are a few subplots to supplement the surface-level romance. The most interesting of these involves a murder near the Chicago World’s Fair which bears at least a superficial resemblance to the story of conman and murderer H. H. Holmes, who received sensational newspaper coverage around the same time that this novel was published. However, given that Holmes’ crimes didn’t begin appear in the national news until about two months after the serial ended, this seems to be coincidence rather than a case of the author taking inspiration from the headlines.

If you want to read the book for yourself, the full text can be found online (or downloaded in popular eBook formats) at Project Gutenberg.


From the Archives: Happy Mother’s Day to All Moms

For all the mothers and the mothers-at-heart, thank you for your care and kindness. Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother’s Day is an unlikely popular tradition of Villanova history. From the early 1900s, Mothers were invited on campus to celebrate Mother’s Day with their child. The day’s events would include tree-planting ceremony, corsage giving, mass, luncheon, games, and entertainment. Mother’s Day activities were incorporated into Junior Week festivities which began in 1935. By the 1950s, more than 400 Mothers and Grandmothers would visit marking it as one of the largest events each year. Parents Weekend overtime replaced Mother’s Day traditions. Though having Mothers partake in Junior celebrations bolstered the idea of Villanova’s community representing families of students too.






An especially long-standing tradition, that started long before it was incorporated with Mother’s Day activities, was the Junior tree-planting ceremony. The tree-planting ceremony was considered the class tree, a precursor to more elaborate class gifts. Typically, the event was held after Mass and students would walk in a parade to plant the tree. With time, the tradition evolved to include Mothers participating in the planting ceremony.







More about Mother’s Day and Junior Week can be found in Blazers and Class Rings digital exhibit and Digital Library.


The Printed Image: Max Aub’s ‘Juego de Cartas’

For this installment of The Printed Image, I’m taking a departure from book-related items in Distinctive Collections to highlight a unique set of playing cards. Titled Juego de Cartas, the cards include the typical suits of hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades, but the back of each card also includes a note written from one character to another, related to the mysterious life and death of Máximo Ballestros.

The cards are the creation of Max Aub, a Mexican-Spanish experimental novelist, playwright, poet, and critic. Born in Paris in 1903, Aub’s family emigrated to Spain during World War I and became Spanish citizens. At the onset of World War II, Aub was forced into exile and settled in Mexico, joining other Spanish exiles, and where the majority of his professional writing took place.

Card box for Max Aub's Juego de Cartas.

Card box for ‘Juego de Cartas.’

The Three of Clubs drawing from Max Aub's Juego de Cartas.

The Three of Clubs card drawing and text.

Text from the Three of Clubs card from Max Aub's Juego de Cartas.

As stated in the rules on the back of the card box, a set of cards are dealt to the game players, each one taking turns reading the note on their card. Players then take turns pulling and reading cards from the remaining deck until it is finished, the winner being the one who can guess the identity of Máximo Ballesteros.

The drawings on the cards are attributed to Jusep Torres Campalans, who was the subject of a fictitious biography that Aub wrote in 1958, so we may surmise that Aub himself drew the cards. The drawings veer close to abstraction, but still recall the iconic nature of playing cards as we know them today. The drawings also include other symbols and characters, such as cups and swords, which recall the iconography of tarot cards. These attributes, along with their larger size (4.25 x 6.75 inches each), help in creating a dual meaning for the cards.

Text from the King of Spades card from Max Aub's Juego de Cartas.

Text and drawing for the King of Spades card.

The King of Spades card drawing from Max Aub's Juego de Cartas.
The Ace of Hearts card drawing from Max Aub's Juego de Cartas.

The Ace of Hearts.

Only a couple of Aub’s works have been translated into English, and Juego de Cartas still remains only available in the original Spanish and French text. But even if the language proves to be a barrier to some, the deck still stands as a remarkable object, presenting a unique example of story deconstruction, where the act of reading becomes both a game and a storytelling device itself.

Juego de Cartas is available to view in Falvey Library’s Rare Book Room by appointment only.

Mike Sgier is a Distinctive Collections Coordinator at Falvey Library.


Papermaking Mills in Pennsylvania

“Birdseye view of the Riverside Paper Mills”


Villanova University’s Digital Library presents and preserves digital collections of selected holdings from our University Archives and Special Collections, as well as partner materials including institutional partners as well as individual donors. A recently added title from my own family’s bookshelf, Along the Pathway from Fibre to Paper, shares a rare, illustrated history and step-by-step detail of the papermaking process in one of Philadelphia’s many paper mills at the turn of the twentieth century.


Riverside Paper Mills

The booklet was produced by W.C. Hamilton & Sons, owners of the Riverside Paper Mills, “where good paper has been made since 1853” – according to its title page.  The description opens with the history and long tradition of the papermaking industry in the Philadelphia region including the very first paper mill built in North America, established by William Rittenhouse in 1690.


The Riverside Paper Mills were located in Whitemarsh township, Montgomery County, situated on the Schuylkill River. The area, adjacent to Roxborough, Philadelphia and formerly known as Lafayette Station, is now known as Miquon.

An explanation of the company’s trademark image and the name “Miquon” is given. The trademark, appearing on nearly every page as well as the book’s endpapers, depicts the face of William Penn within a round circle over a feather quill pen, with the words – MIQUON – RIVERSIDE MILLS.

The origin of the name Miquon is said to derive from a meeting of Lenape people with William Penn. Penn’s interpreter, searching for a way to translate Penn’s name, pointed to a goose quill on the ground and said, “Onas, signifying a Quill or Pen. But his familiar name was Miquon” [8].



The Papermaking Process

The book then details the many steps and processes of turning wood fiber to paper, with large photographic plates of the machinery and workers to illustrate each step. The second half of the book incudes samples of the final products, including Hamilton’s Fine Writing paper, buff colored paper, and envelope papers.


“The Steam Splitter”


“The Fourdrinier Paper Machine. Dry End.”


My favorite part of the whole publication is, of course, that it belonged to my great-great-grandfather. A dedication bookplate on the front fly leaf reads, “Harry West, associated with W.C. Hamilton & Sons / Riverside Paper Mills / Lafayette / Montgomery County / Pennsylvania / for twenty-seven years / is the owner of this descriptive-history of the institution he has helped to build.” Signed by Freas B. Snyder, President. [Dated] 7/1/21. being no. 19 of 350 copies.” The italicized words are hand-written in the intentional blank spaces left in the printed text. I love that there is a blank space for he (and therefore, also presumably for she) indicating that copies were likely given to both men and women who worked in or were associated with the mills.

Unfortunately, Harry West died at the mill in 1925. His death certificate indicates that he was working as “Head Drainer” and cause of death listed as “crushed skull, cervical vertebrae, and left shoulder by belt driven pulley at W/C Hamilton & Sons White Marsh Township, Monty Co., Pa.”

In 1999, the former mill buildings were preserved and redeveloped into an office complex (named River Park I and River Park II). Since 2012, River Park II has been home to the campus of AIM Academy, an independent school for grades 1-12.

For more on Paper and Papermaking in Greater Philadelphia see also:

If you have a unique or interesting item you would like to see digitized, please reach out to us at


Rebecca Oviedo is Distinctive Collections Archivist at Falvey Memorial Library.



1 People Like This Post

Meg Piorko’s Friday Falvey Favorites: the Magdeburg Himmelsbrief

A Magic Letter from God

Himmelsbrief, which translates to “heaven’s letter” is a miraculous religious textual object believed to have been written by God himself. The object’s purpose is to protect the owner of a copy from all evil and danger and punish disbelievers, so long as the owner follows the moral covenants detailed in the letter. These divine letters could also be invoked to communicate with someone departed, or to request assistance from God in heaven. Scholars today consider Himmelsbrief to be part of the Folk Medicine tradition.

Pennsylvania Dutch Powwow

The Pennsylvania Dutch participate in a magical worldview, where superstitions and charms have apotropaic properties. The Powwow was a popular method of physical and spiritual healing for believers. The integration of the Native American term “powwow” illustrates the diverse cultural influences of the Pennsylvania Dutch beyond their German ancestry.

Performing a Powwow hinges on repetition of specific Bible verses and other incantations to ensure that their owners would be protected from death, injury, and other misfortune. In addition to verbal repetition of magical and religious phrases, simply owning a copy of a Himmelsbrief can serve as a protective talisman against evils and ailments. Although the text of these letters is often written in a formulaic rhyming scheme, Powwow practitioners charged steeply for these magical letters–with prices dependent on the reputation of the practitioner (referred to as a Hexenmeister or Braucher).

Falvey’s Magdeburg Himmelsbrief

The two most popular examples of these Powwow letters are the Koenigsberg Fire Brief of 1714 and the Magdeburg Himmelsbrief of 1783. Falvey Library holds a copy of the latter, described on the bottom of the page as “Magdeburg, 1783.” The title at the top of the letter reads:

Ein Brief, so von Gott selbsten geschrieben, und zu Magdeburg niedergelassen worden ist. // A letter written by God himself found in Magdeburg.

It is believed that these divine letters miraculously fall from the sky, and are subsequently found by the devout (in this case, found in Magdeburg–historically one of the most populous cities in the Holy Roman Empire). The title is followed by 27 lines of prose, and tacked on the back of the frame are six nails with the note “Original hand-made nails used on frame backing—frame refinished March ‘82”.


1 People Like This Post

« Previous PageNext Page »


Last Modified: April 21, 2023

Back to Top