Burns Adds Belloc, History, Crime Novel Materials

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

Burns Library has been adding steadily to its holdings of rare books and scholarly materials recently, with an eclectic range of acquisitions that include family letters by the Catholic author Hilaire Belloc, various works on Boston, Irish and women's history, and more than 1,300 crime novels.

Burns Librarian Robert O'Neill said the library recently acquired the papers of Belloc's son Hilary, adding valuable family correspondence and photos to the University's already strong holdings on the French-born English author. Other new acquisitions include the personal library of the late John Galvin '37, one of the founders of the Boston Citizen Seminars at Boston College, and a huge collection of detective mysteries compiled by Prof. Emeritus John McAleer (English), a noted scholar of the crime genre.

O'Neill said several additions have been made to the library's noted Irish holdings, including a compilation of sheet music manuscripts by popular composer Thomas Moore; an early printed book on St. Jerome dating to 1483; and political pamphlets on the Ulster Troubles from the personal collection of a former lord chief justice of Northern Ireland.

An April 23 luncheon has been planned at the Burns to mark the donation of the personal library of the late Prof. Janet Wilson James (History), one of the pioneers of women's studies at Boston College. O'Neill said the several hundred volumes were donated to Boston College by James' family.

"What this shows is the maturing of the special collections at Burns Library," said O'Neill. "As the reputation of the University as a research institution has grown, so has the notice that donors and booksellers have given to Boston College. It's not accidental that a lot of these collections are coming here.

"These acquisitions also show the dynamic nature of the University's efforts to strengthen its research collections. This effort is made largely possible by the generosity of many, especially donors like John McAleer and the family of Janet James, who feel a very special part of the Boston College tradition."

O'Neill said the library made a significant addition to its Belloc Collection last month when it acquired the papers of the author's late son, Hilary. The acquisition includes pieces of correspondence and family photos that fill in gaps in the Belloc archive, which is a cornerstone of Burns' British Catholic Authors Collection.

Obtained by Boston College in 1980, the Belloc Collection is particularly notable for its wealth of personal correspondence, said O'Neill. Belloc (1870-1953), a sharp-penned Catholic polemicist and contemporary of G.K. Chesterton, George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells, was a latter-day Voltaire when it came to writing letters, according to O'Neill. "Anybody who was anybody in the English-speaking world at that time is represented in that collection," he said.

Also acquired in February was Galvin's library. His wife, Ruth, donated the collection of some 500 titles on Boston and Massachusetts history, which include books inscribed by John F. Kennedy and Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. Galvin's personal papers and several historic prints and autographs also were included in the bequest.

Among the more than 1,300 crime novels donated by McAleer - who previously steered the papers of mystery writer Rex Stout to Boston College - are signed editions by such mystery writers as P.D. James and Robert Parker.

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