The Georgetown University Library has acquired the John Thatcher Collection of Lives of Women Saints. The collection with more than 1,000 volumes printed between 1520 and the mid-20th century – many of them written by Jesuits, is available to researchers now and will soon be fully cataloged online.
New Jersey collector John Thatcher started gathering the books more than 40 years ago. As a recent Catholic convert, he began to study the history of the Church but found little information about women.
University librarian Artemis Kirk calls the acquisition a wonderful example of the library’s efforts to diversify its works.
“The Thatcher collection not only helps to highlight the university’s Jesuit and Catholic heritage, it also promotes the university’s diversity efforts by shedding light on an important facet of women’s history, which is too often overlooked,” says Kirk.
Thatcher says he is delighted the collection has found a home and will be conserved at the oldest Catholic and Jesuit university in North America. He is also pleased the books will not only be used by scholars, but also by students in the Special Collections Research Center’s classroom outreach program.
Intellectual curiosity led Thatcher to acquire book after out-of-print book. He often purchased from antiquarian book catalogs or directly from European auction houses or dealers, and studied Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and French in order to read many of them.
“Many of the books are very scarce. Until now, a significant number could be found only in European libraries, and in some cases the Thatcher copy may be the only surviving copy,” says John Buchtel, director of the Special Collections Research Center.
The collection includes 18th-century imprints from Mexico and Peru and several early biographies of St. Rose of Lima – two works published prior to her canonization in 1671 as the first saint of the New World.
“The Thatcher collection preserves a fascinating window into the popular cultural reception of spiritual women in each of the eras covered,” says Buchtel.
Spanish professor Barbara Mujica, an expert on St. Teresa of Avila and the history of women’s spirituality also says the collection contains “ample material to provide undergraduates with a tangible experience of history.”
The Thatcher Collection complements some of Georgetown’s existing holdings, including rarities such as first-edition works of St. Teresa of Avila and the memoirs of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first saint born in the United States.
“With this purchase, the Georgetown University Library has positioned itself to provide world-class support for the advanced research needs of its faculty and graduate students in areas of key interest,” Kirk says.
About Georgetown University
Georgetown University is the oldest and largest Catholic and Jesuit university in America, founded in 1789 by Archbishop John Carroll. Georgetown today is a major student-centered, international, research university offering respected undergraduate, graduate and professional programs in Washington, DC, Doha, Qatar and around the world. For more information about Georgetown University, visit www.georgetown.edu.