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Catholica collection anticipates new dimension with addition of Sisters of St. Basil the Great

The Digital Library is proud to announce a new partnership between Villanova University and the Sisters of St. Basil the Great.

After the legal agreement was signed at the beginning of 2011, I had the pleasure of presenting to the Sisters on the project: to scan documents and other materials from their history, including realia (three-dimensional objects from real life) for the purposes of scholarship and digital preservation.   These items are vital to an understanding of a major aspect of the life of Ukrainian Catholics in the Philadelphia region.

It is greatly anticipated that this project will be of benefit to a greater understanding of this bit of Church history and for a wider understanding of the contributions this particular order of women religious and the Eastern Catholic tradition generally, have made and continue to make to both Catholic heritage and local history. Working to document and disseminate primary source material from particular ethnic communities for future generations of scholars in Catholic studies and allied disciplines widens the scope of Catholica which we have undertaken to preserve. Not only because it is relatively unique, but because it adds to the mosaic of materials from a variety of backgrounds which would otherwise remain in greater relative obscurity.


Melville’s Marginalia from the Berkshire Athenaeum

Posted for Audrey Hamelers, Digital Library Intern, Spring 2010:

The digital preservation of books formerly owned by Herman Melville in collaboration with the Berkshire Athenaeum was recently completed, and the books have been added to the Villanova University’s Digital Library and are available for perusal in the Berkshire Athenaeum Books section. The project was completed with help from scholars at Melville’s Marginalia Online, who will be adding commentary to each volume.

As lead preservationist and first line of quality control for this project, I learned a lot about working in a digital library and about digital preservation. I gained experience handling and scanning many very different rare books, from the large, beautifully illustrated The Renaissance of Art in Italy (30 cm) to the very tiny, proverb filled The Reticule and Pocket Companion or Miniature Lexicon of the English Language (10 cm). The nine volumes of The Works of Moliere were especially challenging, as they were extremely fragile.

By far my favorite book in this collection, and the most interesting to work with, was A History of the County of Berkshire, Massachusetts in Two Parts. Melville used this book extensively after his 1850 move to Arrowhead in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Peter Norberg, the Associate General Editor for the Melville’s Marginalia project and our lead contact for work with the Berkshire Athenaeum books, says that Melville probably carried this volume around in his pocket. It includes two large, color maps.

Berkshire Map

The book also contains inserts possibly added by Melville, like a two-page newspaper clipping inside the front cover.

Berkshire Tales

Most importantly, A History of the Country of Berkshire is filled with Melville’s notes and marks of interesting passages, including remarks that reveal his thoughts and sense of humor.


Working with this volume really made me feel like I was handling a part of history, and scanning the fragile pages, which ranged in size from the normal text, to oversized inserts, to the quadruple-sized maps, taught me a lot about digital preservation. It was sometimes difficult to scan each page for the best quality image, but I kept at it and the end result is indicative of how much effort was put into the project.

While my internship project focused on digital preservation of rare books, the Villanova Digital Library offers potential interns experience in many areas, including creating in-person and online library exhibits. I would recommend the Digital Library internship to anyone interested in digital library experience. I couldn’t have asked for a better hands-on introduction to digital library work.


Catholic Research Resources Alliance Portal: Scholars Preview

Posted for Darren Poley:

In 2009 Falvey Memorial Library joined with other Catholic University libraries in the Catholic Research Resources Alliance which has developed a free online research portal for scholars interested in the Catholic Church, particularly Catholic-related items held in the United States. Unlike some other fields of research that are cross-disciplinary in nature there has never been an effort, until now, to collectively identify what may be called Catholica. Catholic Studies in America has certainly grown a great deal as a locus for scholarly research in the last couple of decades and now libraries, rather than creating a single repository, are working together to use current tools and technology to enhance methods for discovering the primary source material. The intent is to aid researchers and students to do the kind of ferreting out of lesser known or little used publications and manuscripts related to the Catholicism.

Its participation started last year when the Catholic Research Resources Alliance invited Villanova University librarians to actively get involved in a strategy last summer. Since then the Digital Library has begun to contribute data to the Catholic Portal project about our holdings in a number of “collecting themes” identified by the CRRA member libraries. Additionally the VuFind search and browse open source software developed by Falvey Library staff was adopted and now provides the infrastructure for the Catholic Portal’s functionality. In November of 2009, as new member of the CRRA, Falvey Memorial Library was asked to conduct a focus group of scholars to test and discuss the feasibility and user-friendliness of the project.

The Collection Policy Statement for the Catholic Portal says, “The purpose of the Catholic Research Portal is to provide global access to the wealth of research resources relating to the Catholic experience. Of primary interest are rare, unique and uncommon Catholic research materials. Because these resources are often uncataloged and little known outside their institutional repositories, the Portal seeks to encourage broad participation and to provide support to libraries, archives, and other institutions that wish to participate in this project but lack the resources to do so. The Portal will ultimately facilitate and assist researchers and students in identifying Catholic research resources and make Catholic scholarship more productive. In doing so, the Catholic Research Portal will contribute substantially to the generation of new knowledge.”

To this purpose volunteers from Villanova’s department of history, as well as that of theology and religious studies including some administrators and even a nationally recognized scholar in the field of Catholic Studies from another local university shared their views saying the purpose, audience and content of the project makes sense tinted with a little optimism at the prospect of the Library’s involvement. “I’m hoping for real energy and support to fulfill its clear possibility.” There was little agreement as to what to call the body of literature that would be useful to American Catholic Studies as a field of study, but the reason for Portal’s development does seem to be clear. As one focus group member said, “In a decentralized community like Catholic higher education, being able to discover the treasures hidden away in libraries and archives is very desirable.” The usefulness of the Catholic Portal and the positive reaction to Falvey Memorial Library’s digital library involvement seems clear to our patrons, and the Portal’s potential users.

It should be noted that the Collection Policy Statement for the Catholic Portal also makes it clear that, “As the Portal develops and expands, all Catholic colleges, universities, seminaries and archives in North America will be welcome to participate in this effort. Non-Catholic institutions with holdings of Catholic interest will also be welcome to contribute records.”


Scanning in the Margins: Vestiges of Melville in Wordsworth

While it is common to find the traces of readership in the margins and end-pages of books and manuscripts, often those traces do little to illuminate the thoughts and subsequent works of that particular reader. The form that these traces take can be as complex as actual sentences with textual notes that curl and loop around the margins of the printed lines, or as brief as a check drawn to highlight a particular passage. Known as marginalia, these tracings to the expert eye provide clues that elucidate a writer’s inner thoughts while reading a particular passage and often shed light on later works.

The Melville Marginalia Online project represents the efforts of one group of experts to find, annotate, and then make available to the educated public the marginalia written in texts by the great American novelist and poet Herman Melville. The Digital Library has been working with the scholars at the Melville Marginalia Online to digitize the same editions owned by Melville; these editions can then be accessed in the Melville Marginalia Collection, and are used by the scholars who add in the marginal notes of Melville and scholarly commentary on those notes to create a truly scholarly version of the text.

In early June the Melville Marginalia Online scholars were able to go one step further and secured access rights to digitize an actual physical volume owned and annotated by Melville. This volume, the Complete Poetical Works of William Wordsworth, is richly annotated by Melville and important to scholars of Melville’s life and thought; indeed an article has been written about this specific volume by Thomas Heffernan. And this book has really traveled: Melville took this volume with him on an ocean voyage to the Pacific in 1860, with his brother Thomas as captain. Now owned by the Woodstock Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., the work was transported to Villanova for digitization. As time was limited to keep the book in-house, members of the Digital Library Team worked quickly to complete all of the scans and to check the quality of all of the images before the book was back on the road again, this time going south. Some books seem to live lives filled with constant streams of movement, fated to pass between owners, or in this case, to travel the world!

Here is a link to the digitized work.

Scanning Mellville
Scott Grapin (left), and Teri Ann Pirone and Johanna Hibbs (right) scanning the Wordsworth volume.

Michael Foight scanning (left), and a sample of Melville’s Wordsworth marginalia (right).

For more information about this volume and Melville’s Wordsworth marginalia, see:

Melville and Wordsworth / Thomas F. Heffernan. American Literature, Vol. 49, No. 3 (Nov., 1977), pp. 338-351. [JSTOR link]

For more on literary marginalia, see:

Marginalia: Readers Writing In Books / H. J. Jackson. Yale University Press, 2001.

Romantic Readers: The Evidence of Marginalia / H. J. Jackson. Yale University Press, 2005.


Partners in Digitization


Falvey Memorial Library has partnered with the American Catholic Historical Society to digitize a collection of rare Catholic documents and records.

The signing of this limited partnership took place on Oct. 17 at 10:30 a.m. in Falvey Memorial Library, on the campus of Villanova University.
Villanova University’s Falvey Memorial Library and the American Catholic Historical Society (ACHS) will forge a historic association Oct. 17 when the two organizations meet to sign an agreement which authorizes the library to digitize and post on the internet its collection of rare Catholic documents and records.

The digitization archival project will make available a wealth of print Catholica that would otherwise be inaccessible or lost to scholars, researchers and the public. It will also enhance Falvey Memorial’s growing digital library, which already includes 81 collections containing 2,073 records, archives a range of irreplaceable volumes and documents from original 15th-century illuminated Augustinian manuscripts to 3,000 monographs on Irish and Irish-American history.

Joseph Lucia, MA, MS, University Librarian and Director of Falvey Memorial Library, and ACHS president Louis N. Ferrero, PE signed the legal documents forming a limited partnership at a ceremony in the Special Collections Room on the second floor of the library. ACHS Executive Director Monsignor James P. McCoy and Rodger Van Allen, Ph.D., ACHS vice-president, Villanova University professor and co-editor of “American Catholic Studies,” the ACHS journal published at the University, attended.

As part of its agreement with the ACHS the University will first digitize “The Records of the ACHS” in their entirety, moving on to issues of the society’s journal, “American Catholic Studies.” The journal, published at Villanova University is the oldest American Catholic periodical in continuous publication.

The ceremony has special historical significance for both Villanova University and the ACHS since the Rev. Thomas C. Middleton, O.S.A., the University’s first librarian and 10th president was a founding member and the first president of the ACHS.

Text based on Press Release from Villanova Office of Communication at:


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Last Modified: October 31, 2007

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