Between 1655 and 1657, Francesco Agostino della Chiesa (at the time the bishop of Saluzzo, Italy) published Corona reale di Savoia : o sia relatione delle provincie, e titoli ad essa appartenenti. Con due copiose tauole, una dell citt,̉ e luoghi, e l’altra della famiglie, & huomini pi ̮illustri in essa nominati, a two-volume history on the House of Savoy. A search online shows the first edition of this text in only about a dozen library catalogs spread throughout the world. As of July 2023, it is in one more. A record for this book can now be found in the online catalog of the Redemptorist Archives Library in Philadelphia.
The Redemptorist Archives houses the collections of the Baltimore Province and the Denver Province of the Redemptorists. These came together several years ago at the St. John Neumann Center in Philadelphia. With the archives came books—thousands and thousands of books that had originated in Redemptorist communities and seminaries around the United States. The varied sources also meant varied levels of cataloging, with only about one-sixth of the books in an electronic database that was not online, leaving the approximately 25,000-volume library accessible to only a few. This is all changing. More than 4,000 titles are now discoverable through the Redemptorist Archives Library online portal, and more books are being added every week.
The library has a strong focus on Redemptorist authors, on the works of St. Alphonsus Liguori (the founder of the Redemptorists), and on the study of moral theology. As might be expected of a collection compiled from multiple sources by an order that has been in the United States for nearly 200 years, we have more than one version of important texts. A search of the online database shows 29 versions and editions of Theologia Moralis by St. Alphonsus, dated between 1775 and 1885 and printed in at least five different languages—Latin, Italian, German, French, and Armenian. We also have 24 versions of Visits to the Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin Mary dating from 1840 to 1972 in German, English, Czech, Italian, and French. And that’s just St. Alphonsus. Our library holds many books by prolific Redemptorist author Michael Müller, C.Ss.R., including eight editions of The Blessed Eucharist: Our Greatest Treasure spanning more than 100 years—the records of which can be viewed in the online catalog. Or you can browse through the records of 89 titles by Bernhard Häring, C.Ss.R., in English, German, Portuguese, and more. The list could go on. But why then would this library have a book on the House of Savoy?
While 4,000 titles have been cataloged, approximately 21,000 are not yet in our system, and among those are books that are part of a subcollection compiled by several Redemptorists, most notably Edward Wuenschel, C.Ss.R, who were experts on the study of the Shroud of Turin. The Wuenschel Shroud of Turin Collection casts a wide net. It includes books on Italy and Turin, on the history of photography, forensic sciences, medicine, and many books about or dedicated to the House of Savoy, which acquired the Shroud in 1453. To date, about 200 books from this collection have records in our database online, including rare books from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, with more to come.
Thanks to the Botstiber Institute for Austrian-American Studies, we have been able to hire a project cataloger to help us move forward with adding books to the database. As more books enter the system we will expand the already vibrant collection of Redemptorist texts and reveal more of the Wuenschel collection. The project will also open up access to other subcollections: American history, the history of Catholicism in the United States, sacred music, 19th- and 20th-century religious pamphlets, and even more rare books. With more than 20,000 waiting to be cataloged the process will take time, but hundreds of records have already been added since the launch and more appear every week.
Jennifer Vess is the archivist for the Redemptorist Archives of the Denver Province. To explore the new portal, visit 1590.sydneyplus.com/genieplus/final/Portal/Default.aspx.
This report appears in the fall 2023 issue of the Cushwa Center’s American Catholic Studies Newsletter.