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Burns Library Collections


Jesuit & Catholic

Burns Library collection descriptions

In keeping with Boston College's foundation and mission as a Jesuit, Catholic university, Burns Library holds and continues to build its extensive collections pertaining to the history of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) and American Catholicism.


The Jesuitica Collection includes more than 5,000 titles published by or about the Jesuits prior to the papal suppression of the order in 1773 and a comparable number following its restoration in 1814. Approximately 1,200 of these titles have been digitized to date. The collection documents the contributions of Jesuits to a wide range of disciplines in the early modern period, including many rare and seminal works in the fields of mathematics, science, history, travel, philosophy and Biblical exegesis.

Special attention is given to collecting editions of the works of the Society's founder, Ignatius of Loyola, Jesuit biographies, and primary sources on Jesuit education. Original letters and manuscripts pertaining the Society's early modern development are actively sought and acquired.

Burns Library also holds the records of Jesuit educational organizations, the papers of Massachusetts Congressman Robert Drinan, SJ, and other prominent Jesuits affiliated with Boston College, such as peacemaker, theologian, and author Raymond G. Helmick, SJ, and historian John F.X. Murphy, SJ.

Other notable Jesuit holdings include papers of the family of poet Gerard Manley Hopkins and British Jesuit authors, editors and scholars, including Philip Caraman, Peter Hebbelthewaite, and Peter Levi.

American Catholicism

Many of our collections pertain to American Catholicism, most notably the "Liturgy and Life" collection. This collection was established by Boston College theologian and liturgical specialist William J. Leonard, SJ in 1978 to document the liturgical movement in the American Catholic Church from 1925 to Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) reforms. The book collection, numbering more than 20,000 titles, is complemented by a sizable archival collection that includes manuscripts, ephemera, devotional items and other artifacts (approximately 1,100 of which have been digitized), along with more than 15,000 pamphlets (approximately 600 of which have been digitized).

Liturgical and Devotional Manuscripts

Burns Library holds a few examples of illuminated liturgical and devotional manuscripts from the late medieval period, including Books of Hours, graduals, and antiphoners. Most have been fully digitized.

Sacred Music

To support the study and performance of sacred music at Boston College, Burns Library has been assembling a modest collection of pre-1800 breviaries, missals, and other service books used in the liturgy of the Catholic Church, as well as musical scores containing settings of texts from the Mass and the Office that extends from Gregorian chant, through to polyphony and the Baroque. 

In collaboration with BC musicologist and choral director Michael Noone, the BC Libraries Digital Scholarship group has been creating enhanced digital versions of sacred music sources held by Burns Library:

  • Burns Antiphoner presents a Franciscan antiphoner (sanctorale) with sequences, circa 1300-1350, as an interactive resource through which metadata, music notation, textual incipits, and multimedia based on the encoded contents can be viewed and searched
  • Morales Mass Book is an open-access companion site to Cristóbal de Morales's Missarum liber primus (Lyon, 1546) that focuses on the composer, printer, and processes that informed the composition of four of Morales’s polyphonic masses, supplemented with video and audio recordings

Other such texts have been digitized, including: