Rare Book Collection

volumes from the Mount St. Michael's Rare Book Collection

The elegant cases of the William Hutchinson Cowles Rare Books Library and the 10,500 square-foot vault of Special Collections house over 16,000 books. Over three thousand volumes constitute the The Gonzaga Collection, focused on theology, philosophy, and the classics, in works mainly from the 16th-18th centuries. Some are quite rare, such as the 1484 Roman Missal, with only one other copy known outside the Vatican. Indeed, the only known copy of some volumes is at Gonzaga University. "Treasures from the Vault," an exhibition of books from The Gonzaga Collection, was displayed the Cowles Rare Books Library February 4-June 6, 2008, and remains online. The new exhibition, "The Gospels in Nez Perce: The Evangelizing Work of Fr. Joseph Cataldo, S.J.,"  puts this translation work in the context of Jewish and Christian biblical translation, shown in part through facsimile editions of ancient biblical manuscripts, editions which are part of The Gonzaga Collection. Gonzaga University has additional rare books at the Chastek Law Library and the Jundt Art Museum.

Three very early books (incunabula) were printed before 1500, the oldest being the Bruno Psalter of 1475. In addition are the 1484 Roman Missal and the 1490 edition of Antoninus' Summa Theologica, both in The Gonzaga Collection. Individual manuscript leaves date back to 1290. In addition, several valuable facsimiles of ancient biblical manuscripts and medieval codices are included. Unique in all the world, the University's copy of the Dominican Missal of 1521 is the subject of a sample digitizing project, which can now be seen and studied online. Supplemental webpages provide  information on the woodcuts in this volume, the presentation of women in it, and its use for the study of Latin. For proper handling of the rare books themselves, consult the Use of Rare Books. An Advisory Board has been created to assist in guiding the access to and use of the rare books. Visiting scholars are warmly welcomed (please see the contact information below.)

Also, the Jesuit Oregon Province Archives has 2,250 titles in Books and Periodicals, including the Lewis and Clark Journals and the Woodstock Letters (1872-1969). The Hopkins Collection includes books on the Victorian era, especially poetry, English Jesuits, and Hopkins' circle. Some books are in the vault not because of intrinsic rareness, but because they belong to a specific special collection. For instance, the Jay Fox Papers and the Crosby Collection contain numerous volumes pertaining to regional labor history and to entertainment, respectively.

The history of the book can be studied through the rare books at Gonzaga. Moreover, fine printing is well represented. For instance, the vault holds nearly 500 volumes from Ye Galleon Press of Fairfield, Washington, and numerous works produced by the Benedictine nuns at Stanbrook Abbey. An exhibition of works from Stanbrook Abbey is currently on display in the rare books reading room (through August 31, 2007). First editions in theology, philosophy, and literature begin with the original edition of the Douai Rheims Bible (the New Testament in 1582, the Old in 1609) and include works by Charles Dickens, Edmond Husserl, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Evelyn Waugh. (For more information, click on "First Editions" in the Introduction to the Mount St. Michael's Rare Book Collection.)

Reference works are located in the Reading Room of the Cowles Rare Books Library. The circular bookcase that encloses the hub of that room was designed to house the complete National Union Catalog (NUC), both the pre-1956 set in 754 volumes and all supplemental series (through 1978). Valuable to researchers, the NUC contains bibliographic records on many titles held in U.S. institutions but not yet entered into WorldCat. Other resources include the original Catholic Encyclopedia and the five-volume Finding Aid to the Mount St. Michael's Rare Book Collection. Volumes concerning the history of the book and of printing include Printers' and Publishers Devices 1485-1640 and Early English Printed Books.

Records for over 14,000 of these volumes are in the online catalog. At present the volumes of The Gonzaga Collection  are being added to that catalog. Of that collection, 75%of the titles are on the online catalog as of June 1, 2009. For the Dr. Robert L. Bruna collection of art volumes from Stanbrook Abbey and for all other questions, please contact Stephanie Edwards Plowman, the Special Collections Librarian. Her email is plowman@gonzaga.edu and her telephone is (509) 313-3847. The mailing address is:

Special Collections Department
Foley Center Library
Gonzaga University
Spokane, WA 99258