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One of the primary purposes of writing history, along with the recording of events, is the recording of the names and actions of people so that contributions they have made to various fields of endeavor will be remembered. The early history of the Franciscan Institute Library revolves around the name of Fr. Mathias Faust (1879-1956).1 Fr. Mathias was responsible for seeing to the procurement of a large portion of the present day Institute collection. This includes the procurement of the rare books and Franciscana materials which had been at Holy Name College in Washington, D.C., but which later became part of the the Institute collection. Fr. Mathias oversaw the putting together of both of these collections by early years of the 1950s. Even now these materials easily comprise over 60% of the library of the Institute.

It has been accurately noted concerning Fr. Mathias:

Fr. Mathias was born in Oberimbach, Germany (near Fulda) in 1879. His early days of study were at the Collegium Urbanum Fuldense. In 1892 he entered the Seraphic Seminary of St. Louis in Harreveld, Holland.3 In 1896 he sailed for the United States and it was in Paterson, N.J.4 that he entered the Order making his simple profession on December 25. After studying philosophy at St. Stephen's Monastery in Croghan, N.Y., he made his solemn profession in 1901. He continued his studies both at Paterson and at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. culminating in his ordination to the priesthood in 1906.

Almost at once Fr. Mathias found himself holding a long line of important administrative positions within the province and within the Order as a whole. He was master of novices (1908-1919), minister provincial (1919-1925, 1931-1937), guardian (1925-1928), provincial custos (1928-1931, 1937-1942), delegate general for North and Central America and adjacent islands (1942-1946), procurator general for the whole Order (1946-1951) and delegate general for American commissariats (1952-1956). Along with these offices Fr. Mathias was also active in parish work from time to time, visited the Chinese missions in 1936 and was visitor general no less than nine times.

In spite of all these activities Fr. Mathias took the utmost interest in the promotion of learning and research among Franciscans in the United States. It was Fr. Mathias who acted as spokesman for the provincials in this country to applaud the first meeting of the Franciscan Educational Conference in 1919.5 In regard to that he writes, "There has not been, in recent years, an event which has given such genuine pleasure and hopeful satisfaction to the sons of St. Francis in this country . . . ."6 During his tenure as provincial and later as delegate general he saw to the establishment and equipping of three major research and study facilities in the province; namely, Holy Name College, The Franciscan Institute and The Academy of American Franciscan History. He felt that as the Franciscan apostolate in this country grew and the ties to Europe became less and less, there was a pressing need to foster research centers in America.

As early as 1919, after having hosted a visit from the minister general, Fr. Mathias writes in his first encyclical letter as minister provincial:

In January of 1920, Fr. Mathias saw to the purchase of the land which would become the future home of Holy Name College, although it was not built for another ten years. It seems that in the period between the purchase of the site to the time of the building of the college Fr. Mathias was busy acquiring the volumes which would go to make up its library. Many of these items were assembled at the provincial headquarters in New York City. In a handwritten list of manuscripts and incunabula dated October 1924 we find all the items which would soon become known as the Holy Name collection. In fact in Stillwel's second census of incunabula in American libraries there is a cross reference in the listing of owners which reads, "Mathias Faust Library. See: Holy Name College."9 Along with these there is a further list of other rare books which became part of the Library in Washington, and we can assume that many of the more recent Franciscana titles were also being collected at this time.

In these early years of collecting Fr. Mathias had a European agent who located and purchased appropriate materials. In a letter from Fr. Denis McGuckin to Fr. Conrad Harkins, dated June 22, 1984, Fr. Denis recalls being told that

These descriptive sheets are still very much in evidence in these volumes. Later Fr. Denis recalled that the name of the family of rare book dealers was Rosenthal, certainly one of the foremost names in that field. He also remembered having been told that Fr. Mathias had money deposited with the friar for the on-going purchase of books.

Holy Name College was dedicated in December of 1930 and its first librarian was Fr. Barnabas Abele (1904-1984).11 Fr. Barnabas, after having graduated from St. Bonaventure College, entered the novitiate at Paterson, N.J. in 1930. When he made his simple profession in August of 1931 he went to Holy Name College to study theology. During his time of study there he worked in the library, probably with its initial organization. When he was ordained in February of 1935 he left Holy Name to get his M.L.S. degree from Columbia University. Afterwards he was assigned to St. Joseph's Seminary in Callicoon, N.Y. It was not until 1948 that he returned to Holy Name College. The stay was only until 1950 when he was assigned to Siena College were he was to spend the rest of his working days.

Fr. Denis McGuckin (1981-1994) was librarian at Holy Name College from 1958-1970. Fr. Denis, having obtained a B.L.S. from Villanova College, became librarian at Timon High School in Buffalo, N.Y. and then librarian at St. Joseph's in Callicoon. After he obtained his M.L.S. from Columbia University he went to work at Holy Name College. During his tenure at Holy Name Fr. Denis put together a listing of the incunabula collection.12 But most of his time was spent building up the theology collection. It seems that the rare books and Franciscana materials were little used by those studying at the College. From 1970 until shortly before his death in 1994, Fr. Denis served as priest and confessor at St. Anthony's Shrine in Boston.

Sr. Ruth Heiberg, RCSJ and Sr. Miriam Daley, RCSJ filled in the period between the departure of Fr. Denis and the arrival of Br. Anthony LoGalbo. Br. Anthony, having obtained his M.L.S. from the University of Denver, came to Holy name as librarian in September of 1972 and remained until September of 1982. It was he who was responsible for overseeing the transfer of rare books and Franciscana materials to The Franciscan Institute in 1975, which will be discussed later.

Before leaving the Holy Name collection two things should be noted. The first is the classification system. This seems to have been a modification of the Dewey Decimal system, wherein a handful of letters (S, F1, F2, etc.) designated broad subject categories underneath which would appear a Dewey-like number. The second thing is that in 1969 it was discovered that there had been a major theft of rare materials including 36 manuscripts, 24 incunabula and 19 other items. Although the proper authorities had been notified none of these materials has been recovered to date.13

The library which was collected specifically for the Franciscan Institute was also very much under the patronage or Mr. Mathias Faust. With the arrival in September of 1939 of Fr. Philotheus Boehner the Institute began to take shape. It is interesting to note that in November of that same year Fr. Mathias writes to Holy Name College to ask for a number of rare books for the use of Fr. Philotheus. At the end of this letter he assures those in charge of the collection that, "He will take good care of them and return them to Holy Name College." After this first request Fr. Philotheus himself wrote to ask to borrow many of the books which Fr. Mathias had carefully gathered in New York.

From the start of the Institute library there is a continuing correspondence between Fr. Mathias and Fr. Irenaeus Herscher (1902-1980). Fr. Irenaeus, after having obtained his M.L.S. from Columbia University, came to St. Bonaventure College in 1934 as assistant to Fr. Albert O'Brien.14 When Fr. Albert died suddenly in 1937, Fr. Irenaeus became the next director, a position which he held for over thirty years.15

The correspondence between Fr. Mathias and Fr. Irenaeus was, of course, about the purchase of books. In a letter of March 1, 1943, Fr. Mathias writes, "I am very much interested in the building up of our Franciscan Institute, which would come more or less under my jurisdiction." In an earlier letter dated March 11, 1941 he speaks of what he envisioned in regard to the growing Institute collection in relation to the established Holy Name collection:

It was to take more than thirty years for this wish of Fr. Mathias to be fulfilled.

The date of the actual founding of the library of the Franciscan Institute would have to be May 2, 1943. On that date, Fr. Mathias sent a correspondence to Fr. Irenaeus in which, among other things he said:

It is apparent both from this letter and from his other activities, that Fr. Mathias Faust was the founder of the Institute Library. In a memo, probably written about 1946, from Fr. Thomas Plassmann "To the Board of Operations, The Franciscan Institute" Fr. Tom writes:

The letters between Fr. Mathias and Fr. Irenaeus continued through the 1940s up until the time when Fr. Mathias was called to Rome to become procurator general of the whole Order. In this correspondence Fr. Irenaeus would very often suggest the purchase of materials which Fr. Mathias would almost always agree to buy for the Institute Library. In a letter dated Sept. 15, 1945, Fr. Mathias expressed the desire of both men in saying that he hoped that, "The Institute will some day have a first-rate Franciscan Library."

As was the case earlier with the Holy Name collection, Fr. Mathias also had a European connection to help with the building of the Institute collection. This connection consisted of a group of friars from the province of St. Joseph in Belgium. These friars were Fr. Celsus Uyttenbroeck (1902-1985), Fr. Damien van den Eynde (1902-1969), Fr. Aurelius Mertens (b. 1916) and Fr. Eligius Buytaert (1913-1975).17

The Library itself was said to have been organized in 1949 by Fr. Celsus.18 This would have been the philosophy/theology portion of the collection and most of the rare books. These areas were classified by a unique system which broke the collection down into a series of subject groupings, each subject being designated by a latter of the alphabet. In this system one can see what the emphasis of the collection was by noting that 10 of the 27 letters were reserved for a chronological breakdown of philosophy, and 7 of those 10 dealt with scholasticism. The Franciscana collection was classified according to the Dewey Decimal system. It is probable that this was cataloged by Friedsam Library staff under the direction of Fr. Irenaeus.

From these early beginnings the responsibility of overseeing the library of the Franciscan Institute seems to have been passed among various staff members and clerical workers until a position was established through Friedsam Library in 1974 of special collections librarian.

In a 1955 report Fr. Eligius Buytaert is said to have been in charge of the library.19 In that same report (in the same sentence of that report) it states that, "Father Innocent would become librarian when he arrives." Fr. Innocent Dam was a well known religious writer and leader in his native Hungary, producing many articles both of scholarship and also of pious devotion for the people in the Church.20 He lived and worked in Hungary until he received an invitation to teach in Rome in 1948. This call coincided with his discovery that the Hungarian communist authorities were about to arrest him, presumably for the popular religious following that he had. Fr. Innocent left Hungary by way of Yugoslavia but was arrested there because he did not have the proper papers. He spent some time in a communist prison in that country until he was able to escape. He went first to Greece and afterwards to Rome, arriving there by 1950. Four years later he applied for work at the Franciscan Institute. He was invited to come, arriving in 1955. Although Fr. Innocent's activities in relation to the library were probably minimal in the decade that he worked at the Institute, he was at least initially named as its librarian. He was also so designated in a number of the bulletins of the University.

Another name that should be mentioned in relation to the Library is that of Fr. Gaudens Mohan. Although Fr. Gaudens was never listed as librarian, he was very active in working on descriptions of the manuscripts and incunabula owned by the Institute.21 He taught paleography for many years.

A list of some of the other people who have been listed as librarian for short periods of time were Susan McCarthy, Sr. Justina Grothe, S.M.I.C. and Fr. Bernard Creighton. Fr. Bernard, who came to the Institute in 1972 from St. Joseph's Seminary in Callicoon, NY, spent his first year working with library materials. Afterwards he took over the management of the printing end of Institute publications, which is what he had requested to work with in the first place.

This shuffling around of library responsibilities, from scholars to clerical workers and everyone in between, was the norm until the position of special collections librarian was established in 1974. This was a staff position not of the Franciscan Institute but of Friedsam Library. It entailed overseeing both the Institute circulating and rare book collection along with the sizable rare book collection belonging to the University itself. It is not surprising that this position was created at this time, for this was the same year in which Fr. Conrad Harkins became director of the Franciscan Institute. Most of the Institute's library was purchased and cataloged by the early 1950's. After that time there were books added to the collection but in a random fashion. Fr. Conrad took great interest in the further development of the Institute library. He took an active part in the acquisition of new titles, the seeking of older materials and in the improvement of library facilities and staff.

The first person to fill the newly created position of special collections librarian was Andrew E. West. Mr. West was born in New England but educated in Canada. While pursuing his Masters in Library Science at the University of Toronto he took special courses in rare book librarianship and the history of libraries and printing. He worked on a part time basis at the Library of the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies. Mr. West was an Episcopalian, and for a number of years lived in community as a Brother in the Society of St. John the Evangelist before becoming a Roman Catholic. The monumental problem that faced Mr. West in taking on his new job was finding out that the main collection that he had charge over was really made up of three separate collections (Franciscana, philosophy/theology, Holy Name) each having a different classification system and each with a separate card catalog. In the three years that Mr. West was here he gathered together these collections (which had been located in different areas) and began the process of standardizing the cataloging.

Gilbert M. Boutroix was the next to fill the position. He had a strong background in the study of Latin and also had done work in Greek and French. Dr. Boutrioux continued recataloging the collections but stayed for only one year.

The next special collections librarian was Louis J. Reith. Dr. Reith was a Lutheran who had a strong background in both European history and church history. In the six years of Dr. Reith's work at the library he was able to see to completion the task of recataloging the circulating collection of the Institute. He also did much work with the rare book collection.

When Dr. Reith left, the position of special collections librarian became part of the responsibilities of Paul J. Spaeth. Mr. Spaeth had earlier been hired as director of technical services for Friedsam Library (1980) and as such had the task of overseeing all library cataloging including that of special collection materials. Mr. Spaeth came to the job from being the librarian at Liberty Baptist Seminary. While at St. Bonaventure he completed the master's degree program at the Franciscan Institute, becoming the first Protestant to do so.

In 1988 Br. Anthony LoGalbo was hired by Friedsam Library to work with the Institute circulating collection. It is ironic that Br. Anthony came to work on some of the same books which he had the care of at Holy Name College. It is even more ironic that Br. Anthony was the one who saw to the shipping of much of that collection to the Franciscan Institute in 1975.

Over the course of its history the Franciscan Institute was shuttled to five locations outside of the main University Library. But while the Institute itself moved, the library for the most part remained in Friedsam Library. When the Institute Library was formally begun in 1943, it was located in two large rooms in the basement corridor of Friedsam Library. These rooms housed the Franciscana collection and the philosophy/theology collection. The Franciscana collection remained in that same room until 1975. The philosophy/theology collection moved to the second floor of Friedsam Library when the Institute offices moved to the old Immaculate Conception Convent building behind Hickey dining Hall. A small part of the collection traveled with the Institute offices as they moved from the old convent building to the steel barracks (on the future site of the post office) and then on to the old Music Hall and then to Reilly Center. This "travelling" collection consisted of reference volumes and texts which the research team needed to consult on an almost daily basis.

It was not until 1975 that all of the various components of the collection of the Franciscan Institute were brought together in a single place again. That place was in the newly named Francis Hall. Even the Holy Name materials had arrived by this time and were housed there. The only part that was missing were the rare books which continued to be kept in Friedsam Library. The Institute portion of Francis Hall was renamed Boehner Hall and the collection itself was renamed the Boehner Library.

This reunion of Institute staff and materials was to be disrupted. In two years time the Institute was forced to leave their facilities in Francis Hall to return to their place of origin in Friedsam Library. Although this meant that finally the entire Institute collection was in one place, that place was and continues to be too small to accommodate either the Institute's collection or personnel. Initially the move meant that for a prolonged period of time portions of the library remained in boxes in Francis Hall awaiting a space to be made for them in Friedsam Library.

Over the years there have been many significant additions made to the Library of the Franciscan Institute. The foremost was of course the rare books and Franciscan materials from Holy Name College. In May of 1974 a provincial committee was formed consisting of Fr. Conrad Harkins, Fr. Cyprian Lynch, Fr. Denis McGuckin and chaired by Br. Anthony LoGalbo. The charge of this committee was to investigate the pros and cons of a relocation of materials from Holy Name College to the Franciscan Institute, so that the Definitorium might come to an informed decision on the matter. Br. Anthony circulated a questionnaire to members of the Holy Name College community to find out what they thought of such a move. Most friars were inclined to favor such a transfer seeing that the Franciscan materials and rare books were little used in Washington. By the early part of 1975 the work of the committee had been completed and the results given to the Definitorium for their April 4th meeting. In July of that same year the collection was at St. Bonaventure University, more than thirty years after Fr. Mathias Faust expressed his desire for this to happen in a letter to Fr. Irenaeus. In a strongly worded agreement of transfer drawn up in November it was stated in no uncertain terms that the province would retain ownership of the Holy Name collection and could withdraw it from the University if they so desired. This transfer added thousands of titles to the circulating collection of the Franciscan Institute that are represented nowhere else in this country. Also it doubled the size of the rare book collection adding to the Institute what are today its most important manuscript and incunabula holdings. The Institute Library, with the addition of the Holy Name materials, became the best Franciscan research library in the Americas.

Another significant contribution to the library of the Franciscan Institute was the Mariological collection of Fr. Juniper B. Carol (1911-1990).22 Fr. Carol, a noted Mariologist, gave the collection in 1984.

The library obtained materials on St. John Capistran that had been gathered by Fr. Ottokar Bonman (d. 1977) who had hoped to publish an edition of Capistran's works. Fr. Ottokar died before this wish could become reality. Fr. Conrad Harkins requested that these materials, consisting of six large wooden filing cabinets and another cabinet with nearly 30,000 index cards, be sent to the Institute. That request was granted and those materials are now part of the Institute collection.

In 1989 The Franciscan Institute obtained hundreds of titles of Franciscan interest from the library of the former Duns Scotus College in Detroit, Michigan. The College was the philosophy house for the Province of St. John the Baptist. A number of years after it had ceased to function as such, Br. Gabriel Balassone contacted Friedsam Library to see if there would be interest in relocating part of the collection to St. Bonaventure University. The University was able to work out an arrangement which saw the rare books of that collection and a large number of Franciscan titles become part of the holdings of the University and the Institute. Much of the rare book collection of Duns Scotus College had been gathered by Fr. Edwin J. Auweiler (1881-1970).

In 1991 the Institute Library received many Franciscan monographs and periodicals from Mary Immaculate Friary in Garrison, New York. The Friary is part of the Capuchin Province of Saint Mary and had for many years been the site of their novitiate and theologate programs. The Friary also gave many general interest titles to the University Library.

The Institute was again contacted about a collection of materials in 1992. This time it was by the Franciscan Province of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The materials consisted of a rare book collection that had been located in various educational facilities around the province until it finally ended up at St. Francis Friary and College in Burlington, Wisconsin. The collection had been gathered mainly by Fr. Maurice Grajewski (1916-1993) and had many items of Franciscan and Mariological interest.

Paul J. Spaeth, St. Bonaventure University
from Franciscan Studies 51 (1991): 69-82.


1 Two lengthy biographical notices can be found in Provincial Annals (Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus). The first appeared in 6 (1947): 73-92, at the time of his appointment as procurator general. The second was an obiturary which contains a rather complete chronology, in 13 (1956): 236-43. Other obituaries appeared in Acta Ordinis Fratrum Minorum 75 (1956): 247-48 and Thuringia Franciscana 11 (1956): 154-58.

2 Franciscan Studies 14 (1954): 333.

3 This seminary was primarily for candidates from the province of the Holy Cross (Saxony) but also accepted candidates from the province of St. Elizabeth (Thuringia).

4 St. Bonaventure Monastery (Paterson, NJ) was at that time part of the custody of St. Elizabeth, dependent on the province of the same name. The province of the Holy Name was formed five years later in 1901.

5 Report of the Proceedings of the Franciscan Educational Conference 2 (1920): 14-19.

6 Report of the Proceedings of the Franciscan Educational Conference 2 (1920): 19.

7 Antonine Tibesar, "The Academy's Apostolate," Provincial Annals 30 (1976): 144.

8 Provincial Annals 6 (1947): 80.

9 Margaret B. Stillwell, Incunabula in American Libraries (New York: Bibliographical Soc. of America, 1940) xxix.

10 This friar was probably Fr. Redemptus Menth (1872-1939). He originally entered the Order taking the name Gregorius. Not only did he change his religious name but he is also listed as belonging to two different provinces; namely, the province of St. Anthony (Bavaria) and the province of the Holy Cross (Saxony). He is mentioned in the Schematismus of the Order issued in 1938 but not in those of either 1903 or 1909, even though he had entered the Order in 1895 and was ordained in 1901. Fr. Redemptus worked for a time at Quaracchi (See: Beda Kleinschmidt, "Saxonia und Quaracchi," Vita Seraphica 12 (1931): 84). He published ten articles in Franziskanische Studien between the years 1926 and 1941 which mainly centered on studies involving manuscripts and early printed books. A brief notice of his life can be found in: Benedikt Peters, Totenbuch der Sachsischen Franziskanerprovinz vom Heiligen Kreuz, 2 vols. (Werl: Franziskus-Druckerei, 1938) 2: 27. There is an obituary notice in: Acta Ordinis Fratrum Minorum 58 (1939): 111.

11 An obituary notice can be found in: Provincial Annals 34 (1985): 110-12.

12 Denis McGuckin, "Franciscana," Interest 1:6 (1963): 30-31, 1:7 (1963): 23-26.

13 For a complete listing see: Paul J. Spaeth, "Purloined Parchments and Burglarized Book Rooms," Franciscan Studies 47 (1987): 373-81.

14 An obituary notice can be found in: Provincial Annals 1 (1936-1938): 199-203.

15 An obituary notice can be found in: Provincial Annals 32 (1983): 237-39. Also see: Thomas T. Spencer, "Irenaeus Herscher, O.F.M.: An Appreciation," Cord 33 (1983): 34-38.

16 This division remained in place until 1975. The Franciscana materials stayed in the same room while the philosophy/theology materials, which came to be referred to as the Institute library, moved to the second floor of Friedsam Library.

17 This information is taken from a document entitled: Report Submitted to the Commission for the Franciscan Institute (Franciscan Monastery, Washington, D.C. October 24, 1955). It is probable that the major contributor to this report was Fr. Eligius Buytaert. A biographical notice on Fr. Eligius can be found in this volume. Biographical notices on Fr. Celsus and Fr. Damien can be found in: Oogst. Jubeljaar 1880-1955 (Lier: Koninklijke Oud-Studentbond, Sint-Gummaruscollege, 1055). Fr. Celsus had been teaching at the Pontificio Ateneo Antonianum at the time and was later elected provincial of the Belgian Province. An obituary notice for Fr. Damien can be found in: Acta Ordinis Fratrum Minorum 89 (1970): 143-46. Fr. Aurelius was also associated with the Antonianum as its "Bibliothecarius pro Sect. Biblia Hierosolymitana" (Acta Ordinis Fratrum Minorum 88 (1969): 42).

18 Report Submitted to the Commission for the Franciscan Institute.

19 Report Submitted to the Commission for the Franciscan Institute.

20 Fr. Innocent's bibliography runs to well over sixty items, many of which are in Hungarian. These works range from scholarly studies to popular religious writings. Besides his native Hungarian, he was said to have been fluent in German, French, Italian, Croatian and Latin. He had a special interest in Marian studies.

21 Gaudens Mohan, "Incunabula in the Library of the Franciscan Institute," Franciscan Studies 9 (1949): 63-70.

22 For an early listing of this collection see: Irenaeus Herscher, List of Marian Books and Pamphlets in the Libraries of Holy Name Province (1950): 77-140.


PHOTO CAPTION:  Fr. Philotheus Boehner, O.F.M., the Institute's first director (left) and Fr. Irenaeus Herscher, O.F.M., first librarian of the Franciscan Institute (right) are pictured among the manuscript books in the Rare Book Vault at St. Bonaventure College.  They are studying an eleventh century manuscript discovered as a cover for a 16th century book.

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