The Rare Book Collection consists of over 17,000 volumes ranging from the earliest days of printing through the twentieth century, as well as several manuscripts. The collection offers a rich resource for the study of: Systematic Theology (particularly Patristics), Canon Law, and Church History (particularly the history of the Church in the United States, with a significant amount of anti-Catholic material). There are smaller holdings in Sacred Scripture, Classics, and early American History.
La Strenna (The Gift) is a catechism used for the natively speaking Italian population in Philadelphia. Printed in 1884, during the largest influx of European immigration into the United States, this book is part of Ryan Library’s Catechism collection.
Published in 1910, this German-English Reader was used in Catholic schools to teach the German Script to students. The front piece is of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, patron saint of teenagers, who received his First Holy Communion from Saint Charles Borromeo.
The Testimonianze was printed in 1792, shortly after the French Revolution and at a time in which the Catholic Church in France was under attack. This rare book is a critical commentary about the French Constitution’s regulations on the Church.
Highlights of the Rare Book Collection include:
- 27 incunabula (books printed before 1500)
- Copies of the first English Catholic Bibles
- Copies of the first English Catholic Bibles printed in the United States the Acta Sanctorum (early Latin lives of the saints)
- Five volumes bearing the signature of Saint John Neumann
- Four volumes inscribed by Pope Paul VI and presented to John Cardinal Krol