Archive of the Month
New books recently acquisitioned by the RCB Library
By Bryan Whelan
With the welcome news of the continuing easing of restrictions, the RCB Library is devoting its November Archive of the Month to highlighting its extensive collection of recently–published books that may be of interest to its Members and the wider public.
The people who use the services offered by the RCB Library are incredibly diverse: from genealogists researching their family history to local and academic historians producing a range of research publications. This diversity is also reflected in those who are Members of the Library: clergy, staff and ordinands in the Theological Institute, historians and researchers, as well as those interested in church history and the Church of Ireland.
March 2020 saw the beginning of a disruption to services that had never before been experienced by the Library. Although Library staff could not serve its Members directly – and the general public who use its services – in the traditional manner, they continued to work behind the scenes with regards to many projects over the past year–and–a–half. These included digitisation, cataloguing, archiving, and the receiving of registers and general parish material. Another important task that continued while the building was closed to the public was carefully selecting items that would be of future interest in terms of the printed book collection. Library staff were aware that its Members would not be able to borrow these items until restrictions were eased, but felt that it was essential that this process was maintained during lockdown.
The RCB Library continues to select newly–published items with the aim of augmenting the extensive print collection of some 70,000 titles. Of primary focus is meeting the demands of the ordinands and staff of the Theological Institute, as well as keeping up–to–date with new trends in theology, history, biography, politics and other areas.
The parish history section of the Library is a valued and eclectic part of the Library’s collection, and the Library continued to accession parish histories that will be of use to researchers, historians, and the general public. Of particular interest was the publication this year of Desmond Gillmor’s Drumlease: Two Centuries of a Church of Ireland Parish in County Leitrim. Adding to this was the accession of several local histories on areas such as Ballymahon, Shrule, and Kilchreest. The Library has also received Anne Moore’s colourful history of St Mura’s, Fahan parish church. This work is particularly welcome as previous to its accession, the Library did not hold a complete history of this parish. It should also be noted that the Library received copies of indexed transcriptions of records from parishes in the Raphoe Diocese by Revd Canon Crooks. The Library was delighted to receive a copy of St Mary’s Church of Ireland: An Illustrated Guide, compiled by Robert Dier, to mark that church’s bicentenary. This is a comprehensive and lavish publication with many fascinating images, genealogical tables, plans of the church as well as portraits of prominent members of the community throughout the church’s history in Kildare. Niall Howe’s Howe About that! was another recent accession. Niall Howe, son of Canon Howe, former Rector of Rossory, tells the story of his life growing up as a clergyman’s son in County Fermanagh.
Although many may wish to take a break from reading about Covid–19, it was pleasing to see so many titles published that dealt with theological reflections on the pandemic. The Diocese of Derry and Raphoe produced Hope in the Pandemic: Prayers During Covid–19 which included ‘prayers for those bereaved by the virus and those who are ill or suffering because of it’. There were also three very interesting titles published as part of the popular Grove Series of theological pamphlets: Covid–19 Environment: Justice and the Future, Covid–19: Where is God in all this? and Learning from Lockdown: How Churches have dealt with Covid–19. It is worth noting – and celebrating – that the theological–focus of these texts are imbedded with an understanding of the need to approach this subject with a practical – and indeed pastoral – sense.
In addition to these particular subject areas, the Library accessioned many new current affairs, history and biography titles. Of particular interest to the Library’s Members may be the memoirs by Mary McAleese (Here’s The Story, published by Penguin Ireland) and Barack Obama’s insightful A Promised Land about his journey from community organizer to president. George Berkeley’s career is reappraised in Tom Jones’ George Berkeley: A Philosophical Life with a work that ‘offers a comprehensive account of the life and thought of the major Irish philosopher of the Enlightenment’. It is perhaps no surprise that many titles recently have recently been published to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the partition of Ireland. 2019 saw the publication of Cormac Moore’s Birth of the Border: The Impact of Partition in Ireland as well as Diarmaid Ferriter’s popular The Border: The Legacy of a Century of Anglo–Irish Politics. More recently was the publication from the Irish Academic Press in 2020 of James Cousins’ Without a Dog’s Chance: The Nationalists of Northern Ireland and the Irish Boundary Commission, 1920–25 as well as Charles Townshend’s The Partition: Ireland Divided, 1885–1925. Published by Penguin earlier this year, Townshend’s definitive work was described by Diarmaid Ferriter in the Irish Times as ‘a timely and important book’. The Library has also just accessioned Katy Hayward’s The Irish Border, which has been described by the Most Revd John McDowell, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland as ‘a succinct and clear eyed view’ of the political situation.
Another key aspect of selecting and accessioning the right titles for our Members is keeping an eye on titles that will be published in the future. The final months of the year is an incredibly busy time for publishing, but thankfully publishing houses will often feature prominent titles in advance. Of particular interest for the Library is a range of titles from Oxford University Press focusing on religion and education. There has been a welcome increase in ‘ecotheology’ titles, and Philip Jenkins’ Climate, Catastrophe, and Faith: How Changes in Climate Drive Religious Upheaval provides a thought–provoking reappraisal of religious history to include the ‘missing dimension’ of climate. Another title of particular interest from Oxford University Press is The Rise and Fall of Christian Ireland by Crawford Gribben. We have listed a selection of these Oxford University Press titles below.
All of these titles – as well as the vast majority of the books in the Library’s printed collection – are available to borrow. The Library has devised a new way of allowing borrowers through its Click–and–Collect service, and staff are now welcoming Members to visit the Library to ‘browse and borrow’ during normal opening hours.
To see a full list of all the recently published items accessioned by the RCB Library, see here.