– by Steven Szegedi, Archivist and Special Collections Librarian
This week sees the publication of a bibliography of one of our rare book collections. In 2010, Dominican University received a call from a Rosary College alumna with an intriguing collection of books. Maureen Wade (graduate of our library school, class of 1988) asked if we would be interested in caring for and sharing with our community her mother’s collection of Irish-themed books, and we are grateful for her generosity. Dominican University’s Archives and Special Collections is pleased to announce that the Mae Kennedy Kane Irish Book Collection is ready for the public to enjoy.
Mae Kennedy Kane, mother of Maureen Wade, was very proud of her Irish heritage. Born in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood in 1906, Mae maintained her connection with her family back in Ireland, and with the Irish communities in Chicago, throughout her childhood and adolescence. Her love of all things Irish was especially evident through two of her passions, dance and book collecting.
Mae, who took part as a dancer in the Irish Free State’s Irish Village in the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair – A Century of Progress Exposition, was a dance instructor for much of her adult life in the Chicagoland area. She took part in many an Irish Feis in her time, and continued to teach throughout her life. She is perhaps most remembered as an Irish dance teacher, so permit us to highlight this less-well-known facet of her activities.
Mae collected books on Irish culture and history whenever and wherever she could. Several booksellers in the area knew of her interest and would give her a call when especially choice selections came their way. While not a voluminous collector, with about 200 books in total, Mae certainly knew how to select works that speak with a piquant harmony.
The works within the Mae Kennedy Kane Irish Book Collection encompass political treatises, cultural communiqués, and historic literature. Several of the books are quite rare or unusual and are emblematic of nearly extinct book arts such as fore-edge painting, other works are special editions of more commonly available works. There is a small collection of Thomas Moore’s works on Irish history and on Richard Brinsley Sheridan , as well as a wealth of material about the tumultuous political circumstance of Éire. Many of the 19th century works are copiously illustrated and well worth a look in person. The limited edition of Moore’s Irish Melodies in the collection (with the aforementioned double fore-edge paintings) is very likely the most sumptuously bound work in the entire library!
We invite you to come and visit Special Collections, to enjoy these books and to immerse yourself in the pleasures and knowledge they provide.