The library belonging to the Dominican convent at Taylor’s Hill in Galway was recently acquired by the James Hardiman Library at NUI Galway. A substantial acquisition, consisting of over 150 books and volumes dating from the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the collection offers a valuable insight into the spiritual and intellectual world of the Dominican sisters over the course of their 373 year history in Galway.
The Dominican convent in Galway:
Established in Galway in 1644, the Dominican convent was initially located on New Tower Street (present day St Augustine Street), in the centre of the town. The Irish Provincial Chapter of the Dominicans, meeting at Kilkenny in 1643, had approved the new convent, which took the title of the convent of Jesus and Mary while the General Chapter of the order, meeting at Rome in 1644, confirmed the foundation. The community’s presence in New Tower Street would prove short lived, however. Following the outbreak of warfare in Ireland in 1649, and the surrender of Galway to Cromwellian forces in April 1652, the community was dispersed with many of the sisters forced to seek exile in Spain. In 1686, the community was re-established at Kirwan’s Lane in a house donated to the sisters by the mayor of Galway, John Kirwan. The community remained at the Kirwan’s Lane premises (referred to as the ‘Slate Nunnery’) until moving to their present site at Taylor’s Hill in 1845.
The Galway Dominican convent library collection:
The Dominican convent library collection, which remains un-catalogued, is thematically, linguistically and chronologically diverse. It includes a range of literary, devotional, liturgical, biographical and historical works in English, Irish, French, German and Italian as well as bibles, primers, dictionaries and thesauri. The majority of items post-date 1700, with the seventeenth-century material representing only about 14 per cent of the overall collection (not surprising considering the turbulent history of the Galway Dominican community during that period). Despite its small number, however, the seventeenth-century Dominican material constitutes some of the oldest and rarest items held by the Hardiman Library at NUI Galway; the earliest text is a 1616 biography of the Spanish Carmelite and mystic Teresa of Ávila (1515-82) written by Diego de Yepes, Vida, virtudes, y Milagros, de la bienavenrurada virgin Teresa de Jesus (Lisbon, 1616).
Three seventeenth-century books from the convent library collection:
Three of the seventeenth-century books from the convent collection recently featured in an exhibition of early modern printed books held at the Hardiman Library. Curated by myself, Felicity Maxwell and Marie Boran (Special Collections Librarian), the exhibition was displayed during the project’s recent conference, ‘Reception, Reputation and Circulation in the Early Modern World, 1500-1800’, which was held at the Moore Institute, NUI Galway between 22-25 March 2017. Below is a description and images of the Dominican books featured in that exhibition.
- Ottavio Carducci, Caratteri dello virtue del vitii … Venetia, 1628
Ad honore dell’Immacolata Concettione della Beatissima Vergine Maria… Trevigi: Appresso Simon da Ponte, 1649
This book comprises two distinct works that were printed separately and bound together as a composite volume. It begins with Caratteri dello virtue del vitii, an Italian translation of the Calvinist catechism, Confession of Faith and Catechism, first published in Edinburgh in 1619 by Scottish Presbyterians John Hall (c.1559-1627) and John Adamson (1576-1651?). A French translation of the catechism was subsequently published in Geneva and it is from this French translation that the Italian version derives. Published at Venice in 1628, it is the only known work by Ottavio Carducci, a Florentine priest. Carducci’s translation is followed by Ad honore dell’Immacolata Concettione della Beatissima Vergine Maria (For the honour of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary), published in Treviso in 1649.
- Claudius Arnaud; Bartolommeo Gavantis, Thesauri sacrorum rituum Epitome, Selecta Quaeque notatu dignissima, ex intimis Rubricarum… Parisiis, Apud I. Iombert, 1685
Edited by Claude Arnaud (a French priest belonging to the Congregation of the Oratory), this work consists of a synopsis (or ‘epitome’) of an earlier work by Italian Barnabite priest and liturgist, Bartolommeo Gavantis (1569-1638), titled, Thesaurus sacrorum rituum seu commentaria in rubricas Missalis et Breviarii Romani (Milan, 1628). Arnaud’s edition was a condensed version of Gavantis’ earlier thesaurus, which offered historical, spiritual and theological analyses of rituals and liturgical directions from the Roman Rite Masses and Roman Rite Breviaries. Several editions of Arnaud’s thesaurus were published during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Its inclusion among the reading material of the Galway Dominican sisters indicates the centrality of the Divine Office to the spiritual regimen of the community; not only were the sisters reciting liturgical texts on a daily basis, they were also studying the significance and historical origins of the liturgy.
- Antoninus Cloche O.P., [Master General], Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae Iuxta ritum Ord[inis] Praedicat[orum]… Romae: Typis Nicolai Angeli Tinassij; Impressoris Cameralis, & Vaticani, 1693
The Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae Iuxta ritum Ord Praedicat is the liturgy used by the Dominican Order for the Divine Office and Mass during Holy Week (Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday). This edition was printed by Nicolaus Angelus Tinassius at Rome in 1693. The title page features an illustration depicting the ‘Taking of Christ’. Opposite the title page are a series of abbreviated Latin annotations in an eighteenth century cursive hand, probably by a member of the Galway community. The annotations appear to be quotations from Biblical passages on the annunciation, including Luke 1:26-27. The back flyleaf contains a further two annotations, both of which appear to be prayers: one for the community to recite together (titled ‘oremus’) and another for individual recitation (titled ‘ore’).
*I am grateful to Felicity Maxwell and Marie Boran for their assistance with curating the exhibition, to David Brandt of Brandt Studios for taking photographs of the exhibition and to the James Hardiman Library at NUI Galway for permission to reproduce images of the Dominican books. I am also grateful to Ultan Lally (PhD candidate, History, NUI Galway) who was instrumental in arranging the recent acquisition and who kindly provided me with additional information regarding the collection.
Rose O’Neill, O.P., A rich inheritance: Galway Dominican nuns, 1644-1994 (Galway, 1994).
Máire Kealy, O.P., From Channel Row To Cabra: Dominican nuns and their times, 1717-1820 (Dublin, 2010).
Bernadette Cunningham, ‘Nuns and their Networks in Early Modern Galway’, in Salvador Ryan and Clodagh Tait (eds), Religion and Politics in Urban Ireland, c.1500-c.1750: Essays in Honour of Colm Lennon (Dublin, 2016), pp 156-72.