From ABC57 News: "Creepy Chronicles: Notre Dame's rare books collection"

Author: Medieval Institute

From ABC57

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The Hesburgh Library Rare Books and Special Collections includes handwritten manuscripts of the Christian gospel pre-dating the Gutenberg Bible, along with a book of spells claiming to contain rituals to summon the devil. But even old Fighting Irish football game programs give insights into public views of the supernatural.

Within the collection lies the "Grimoire of Pope Honorius," which, along with supposed spells for summoning demons, are medical treatments and recipes. It falsely claims to be written by the 7th century Bishop of Rome, according to Medieval Studies Librarian Julia Schneider. But shows the debate of its day of what is reality and what is ritual.

"It's part of the world that these people lived in," Schneider said. "What we would consider now to be maybe superstitious, they thought that was just absolutely part of their world."

The University has collected materials since its founding in 1842, with the rare books collection starting in the 1960’s.

Now, there's more than 132,000 volumes of printed books and another 6,000 feet of manuscripts, prints, and other materials.

The sports collection is one of the University's largest and deepest catalogs, telling it's own unique story about the history of Halloween. Trademark images of the holiday are absent from college football gameday programs until the 1950's, suggesting Halloween was seen as too controversial to include until it became more acceptable.

"These programs recognize Halloween as a more broader cultural phenomenon. It's part of the whole society, it's more family friendly, it's child oriented. So they're more comfortable using pumpkins and witches," Curator of Joyce Sports Research Collection Greg Bond said.

While José Guadalupe Posada's skull iconography, now heavily associated with the Day of the Dead, started as cultural and political critiques.

"It's an interesting question about how culture changes over time," Bohlmann said.

The library has taken the time to digitize old folklore, legends and ghost stories from its collection, including The Goblin Spider and The Legend of Sleepy Hallow.

"I think that's one of the benefits of a collection like ours is that you do get a chance to look at what has staying power, what translates from one legend or mythology to another fiction story?" Digital Projects Specialist Sara Webber said.

The Hesburgh Library's Rare Books and Special Collections is open to the public for research projects Monday through Friday, 9:30am-4:30pm, on the campus of Notre Dame.


Originally published at on October 23, 2023. Republished at on October 30, 2023.