Adopt a Book: Roma Sotterranea: opera postuma by Antonio Bosio

The Archives and Special Collections Center is launching a new Adopt a Book program! This program gives donors the opportunity to contribute to the conservation of specific items from our collection that interest them. Each month, we will feature a different adoptable book here on our blog. To learn more about the program, or to make a donation, please visit our Adopt a Book page.

Roma sotterranea: opera postuma

The vast catacombs of Rome provide a critical link to the past. Because they were shielded from the elements and remained nearly untouched for centuries, they have yielded spectacular examples of early Christian art, insight into the culture and burial practices of Rome, and stunning architectural elements. These catacombs were nearly lost to history, but were accidentally rediscovered in 1578 by laborers working in a field on the outskirts of Rome.

Shortly after the rediscovery, a number of scholars took interest in the catacombs and made explorations of them. However, none of these early explorers saw fit to fully document and publish their findings, leaving only scattered notes and oblique references to the catacombs as their legacy. One man, Antonio Bosio, is responsible for initiating serious and thorough archaeological study of the catacombs, earning him the nickname “Columbus of the Catacombs.”


Antonio Bosio was born in Malta in 1575, and spent most of his life in Rome. He became interested in the catacombs at an early age, and read any text which he thought might give him some insight into the subject, including ancient records in Greek and Latin, ecclesiastical histories, lives of the saints, and theological treatises.

His determination to learn about the catacombs extended far beyond the study of books and manuscripts, and led Bosio to explore the underground structures himself—an undertaking that was often difficult and even dangerous. On one of his first exploratory trips, Bosio was so enthralled by the monuments before him that he had soon progressed so far through the twisting passageways that he could not remember the way back. He had lingered longer than expected, and his lights began to burn out. Eventually, he was able to feel his way back to the entrance and avoid joining the martyrs in their final resting place. That experience did not deter him in the slightest in his pursuit of knowledge of the catacombs, and he made many more investigatory trips in his lifetime. (Although thereafter he made sure to carry an ample supply of lights, food, and water on his expeditions.)

Bosio continued his work for 36 years. He devoted his life to it, and was one of the first to apply systematic methods of the newly forming science of archaeology to the study of the catacombs. In 1629, Bosio died at the age of 54 without finishing his work and bringing it to print. For a short time, it seemed that Bosio’s life’s work might never see publication. However, the Knights of Malta, to whom he had left his estate, recognized the importance of his research and entrusted Oratorian Giovanni Severani with editing and compiling the work. It was finally published in 1632, three years after Bosio’s death, in a large folio volume titled Roma sotterranea: opera postuma di Antonio Bosio.

Bosio dedicated his life to discovery, scholarship, and above all advancing our understanding of the archaeology of ancient Rome. While Bosio never saw his work come to fruition, it still lives on over three centuries later. No archaeological study of the catacombs can commence without paying homage to Bosio.

roma-sotteranea cover

The Archives and Special Collections Center holds a rare 1632 edition of Roma sotterranea. The book is showing its age (384!) and is badly in need of conservation treatment to ensure its preservation for years to come. You can help support the conservation of this important work! Any donation toward preservation of this rare volume would be gratefully accepted. To donate, please visit our Adopt a Book page.

Introducing the Daniel J. Leab collection

In 2015, the Archives and Special Collections Center received a donation of research materials from Seton Hall Professor Emeritus Daniel J. Leab. Dr. Leab taught in the history department for over thirty years, and over the course of his career he has served the University as director of the American Studies program, chair of the History Department, chair of the Rank and Tenure committee, and founder and director of Seton Hall’s Multi-Cultural Program. The materials in this collection were used by Dr. Leab in his research on various topics, including the Cold War, American communism, the American labor movement, the history of the FBI and the CIA, and the history of film.

The majority of the collection is made up of books, most notably a nearly complete run of House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) reports. The HUAC materials represent years of hearings based on the alleged subversive activities of private citizens and they seem to symbolize the climate of fear and suspicion during the Cold War era. Included in the HUAC reports are the controversial Hollywood investigations, in which many members of the entertainment industry were subpoenaed based on alleged communist activities.

HUAC hollywood blog
HUAC report on communist infiltration of the motion-picture industry. The reports, printed by the U.S. Government Printing Office, had only paper covers and were bound by two staples driven through the pages near the spine.
Some of the HUAC reports in the Leab collection were combined into large volumes and sturdily re-bound, with a decorative marbling effect applied to the exposed edge of the pages.
Some of the HUAC reports in the Leab collection were combined into large volumes and sturdily re-bound, with a decorative marbling effect applied to the exposed edge of the pages.

The collection contains many additional books which address the Cold War era, providing rich context for the HUAC reports and exploring other aspects of the time period, such as Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist activities. In addition, there are a number of volumes on American labor relations. A full list of the books in the collection can be viewed in the Daniel J. Leab collection research guide.

unamericana blog
A quarter-century of un-Americana : a tragico-comical memorabilia of HUAC: This book of “Un-Americana” contains political cartoons and writings satirizing the House Un-American Activities Committee.

As a supplement to the book collection, there is also a small archival collection containing publications relating to the Cold War and labor relations, and a number of photocopies from the American Heritage Center’s Louis de Rochemont collection, which Dr. Leab consulted while researching his book Orwell Subverted: the CIA and the filming of Animal Farm. A finding aid for the collection is available.
The Daniel J. Leab collection may be viewed by appointment in the Archives and Special Collections Center Reading Room. To make an appointment, please contact 973-761-9476 or

The Jacob I. Fass papers now available for research!

The Archives and Special Collections center recently acquired the Jacob. I Fass papers, a small collection of the WWII-era correspondence, notes, and photographs of chemical scientist Jacob I. Fass.

Passport photograph of Jacob I. Fass
Passport photograph of Jacob I. Fass

Fass was a chemical engineer who worked at National Oil Products Co. (NOPCO) during World War II. The collection includes the secret notes that he took while employed there, documenting his work processes as well as office politics and conversations between employees. The fact that these notes were kept in secret—folded up into tiny squares so that Fass could smuggle them out of the building—speaks to his unease and even paranoia surrounding his work, his co-workers, and his fear of being drafted for the war.

One of Fass's "secret" notes (front)
One of Fass’s “secret” notes (front)


One of Fass's secret notes (back)


The majority of the collection consists of his correspondence with family and friends. The letters cover a wide variety of topics including politics, philosophy, music, photography, and the war. While much of the correspondence is serious, there are also many letters from close friends with a lighthearted, affectionate tone. Fass received one letter from a friend in Washington that was hand-written in miniscule print, joking that the full letter of 3,210 words could be found on the head of a pin stuck through the middle of the page.

A joking letter from one of Fass's friends. The pin in the center of the page gives perspective to the tiny size of the text. (Click to expand.)
A joking letter from one of Fass’s friends. The pin in the center of the page gives perspective to the tiny size of the text. (Click to expand.)

This collection will be of interest to researchers investigating World War II, the history of chemistry, and American communism. The finding aid for this collection can be viewed here. The Jacob I. Fass papers may be viewed by appointment in the Archives and Special Collections Center Reading Room. To make an appointment, please contact 973-761-9476 or

A Rare Accession: New Additions to our Rare Book Collections

The Archives has recently acquired some new materials to add to its rare book collections, which will strengthen our holdings in some of our key focus areas, such as Catholic Studies, Ireland and Irish-American Studies, Immigration, and local Newark and New Jersey history. Some notable additions to the collection include:

Directorium inquisitorum: A guide for inquisitors written as early as 1376 by Nicholas Eymerich, the inquisitor of the kingdom of Aragon. The text became the most influential handbook for inquisitors, and it was widely used until the 17th century. This copy, printed in Rome in 1578, is one of the first printings of the Directorium Inquisitorum to contain extensive commentary by Francisco Peña, a Spanish canon lawyer.


Directorium inquisitorium bottom edge blog
Bottom edge of the Directorium inquisitorium, showing the title inked on at an early point in the book’s history, and ex-library stamps from a previous owner.
Directorium inquisitorium page blog
Page from the Directorium inquisitorium.


Platform of Principles of the New York Know Somethings: A broadside defining the Know-Something Party, a group that separated from the Know-Nothing party in 1855. While they shared the Know-Nothing Party’s anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic beliefs, the Know-Somethings differed by taking a strong anti-slavery position.

Opinion of Assistant Vice-Chancellor Sandford, Nov. 5, 1844 : Citizenship by birth in the United States, –although of alien parents temporarily residing here. In chancery. Bernard Lynch vs. John Clarke and Julia Lynch. [Reported for the Albany Argus].: A pamphlet detailing Sandford’s landmark decision defining United States citizenship. He determines that Julia Lynch, a child who was born in New York City to Irish immigrants but lived in Ireland for most of her life, was a natural born citizen of the United States and therefore able to inherit property left to her by a family member who died in New York State. He rendered this decision 24 years before the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed, declaring that children born in the United States are citizens regardless of the citizenship of their parents.


Civil rights vs. Mayor Hague : extracts from a hearing before Hon. William J. Clarke, Judge of the Federal District Court, Newark, N.J., on an application by the American Civil Liberties Union and others for an injunction against the practices of Jersey City officials violating civil rights, (March 1937).: Excerpts from a hearing charging Frank Hague, Mayor of Jersey City from 1917-1947, of violating civil rights by using the police to prevent labor union members from striking.

Civil Rights vs Mayor Hague cropped
The cover of the Civil Rights vs. Mayor Hague pamphlet shows a political cartoon with the caption: “Mayor Hague signs a pact creating the newest international understanding, hereafter to be known as the Rome-Berlin-Jersey City Axis.”


Travels of an Irish gentleman in search of a religion. With notes and illustrations: The poet Thomas Moore’s controversial defense of Catholicism in which an Irish man searches for reasons to become a Protestant but fails to find justification for converting.

Foreign Pauperism in Philadelphia: A memorial to the legislature of Pennsylvania, exhibiting reasons for the amendment of certain laws in relation to the poor and to Foreign migrants, with the bill annexed.: A treatise by the American Emigrants’ Friend Society proposing the use of tax money to send immigrants entering the port of Philadelphia to the west, in order to relieve overcrowding and unemployment in Philadelphia.
A full list of the acquired books is available in our Rare Books Research Guide.

Materials from our rare book collections may be viewed by appointment in the Archives and Special Collections Center Reading Room. To make an appointment, please contact 973-761-9476 or

Perspectives on Israel: the Cantor Morris Levinson pamphlet collection

The Cantor Morris Levinson collection consists of 28 pamphlets relating to Israel and the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Also known as the Six Day War, the 1967 Arab-Israeli War was fought between Israel and the Arab states of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. It resulted in the capture of new territories for Israel: the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank of the Jordan River, which have proven to be strategically important and hotly contested. The collection is small, but represents a number of voices and attitudes toward Israel in that tumultuous period, with the majority of the collection dating from 1967-1969.
Many of the pamphlets, such as Julius Stone’s legal analysis of the conflict “No Peace—No War in the Middle East: Legal Problems of the First Year,” address the legal and political implications of the war. Others, such as “Christian Churches in Israel: Recent Developments in the Relations between the State of Israel and the Christian Churches” focus on interfaith relations. For a full list of the pamphlets, visit our research guide for the collection.

CantorMorrisLevinson pamphlet
This pamphlet contains excerpts from the addresses delivered before the Security Council on the subject of Jerusalem.
This pamphlet contains excerpts from the addresses delivered before the Security Council on the subject of Jerusalem.

This collection is an excellent supplement to the archives’ holdings in the area of Judeo-Christian studies. Other collections which address the Arab-Israeli conflict include:

  • The Msgr. John M. Oesterreicher papers: John M. Oesterreicher founded the Institute of Judeo-Christian studies at Seton Hall. His collection contains extensive subject files relating to Israel.
  •  The Sister Rose Thering papers: Sister Rose Thering was a professor in the Judeo-Christian studies program at Seton Hall, and an activist for Jewish-Christian relations throughout her life. Her collection contains a series on interfaith and international relations, which includes letters of protest that she wrote to the United States government regarding their policies on Israel.
  • The Nancy Forsberg papers: Nancy Forsberg was an educator and a reverend at First Congregational Church in Union, NJ. She was a strong advocate for interfaith cooperation, and gave many lectures on the Middle East, Israel, and Jewish-Christian relations. Her collection includes subject files on Israel and interfaith topics.

The collection is available for research in the Archives and Special Collections Reading Room, open 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday. To make an appointment, contact 973-761-9476 or

The Third Installment of WWI: A Centennial Exhibition

The third installment of our three-part series commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Great War is now on display in the Msgr. William Noé Field Archives and Special Collections Center, and will remain until 30 April 2015.

This final phase of the exhibit demonstrates the changes that had taken place by the end of the war. Figurines depicting German and British infantry show that despite the technological advances of the war, foot soldiers remained key on both sides. Dioramas and models show the state of medical facilities and care of the wounded, as well as the contribution of women to the war.

WWI diorama


Figurines of U.S. infantry and marines highlight U.S. involvement in the WWI. Antique “dime store” toy soldiers made of hollow-cast lead, which became popular after the war, are displayed alongside modern figurines and models. We continue to display rare books from the Archives, which feature photographs, illustrations, and poetry inspired by WWI.

The exhibit can be viewed any time the Walsh Library is open, in the display cases across from Walsh Gallery.

Communion Wafer Tongs

Did you ever think about how the Communion Wafers used at mass are created? According to church doctrine, the wafers must be made only of pure wheat flour and water. Traditionally, the dough was rolled out flat and squeezed between the two iron plates of baking tongs, such as the example from the Archives pictured below. The plates are embossed in order to separate the wafers from the rest of the dough and add decorative designs.


tongs open_blog

Originally, a parish would choose a particular baker from the community who was sanctioned to produce the communion wafers using tongs like these. Later, the task of baking the wafers was taken up by cloistered nuns, who were able to produce the wafers on a larger scale and generate income for their convents.

tongs closed_blog

Today, 80% of the wafers in the US market are baked on large scale industrial equipment by the Cavanaugh Company of Greenville, Rhode Island, which boasts that its wafers are “untouched by human hands.” Some convents also carry on the tradition, and have found other ways to compete with private industry. The Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Missouri, now produce a low-gluten wafer that is safe for consumption by parishioners with Celiac disease.

A Look Back at Archdiocesan History: Time Capsule from the Old Chancery Building

On 11 October 1932, the Chancery Building at 31 Mulberry St. was dedicated. The new building replaced the parochial school of St. John’s Church, which housed the Chancery office until the widening of Mulberry St. forced the Diocese to demolish it. At the dedication, a time capsule was placed inside the cornerstone of the building. This time capsule was recovered in 2011, almost 80 years later. Inside, there was a collection of surprisingly well-preserved Diocesan artifacts and ephemera.

Tin box which was inserted in the cornerstone of the Chancery building in 1932
Tin box which was inserted in the cornerstone of the Chancery building in 1932

Several news articles relating to the construction and dedication of the new Chancery building, as well as a four page letter detailing the history and circumstances of the Chancery building’s construction, provide context for the time capsule.

The time capsule also contained a photograph of Bishop Thomas J. Walsh, who later became the first Archbishop of Newark when the Diocese was elevated to Archdiocese in 1937. A 1927 medal depicting Immaculate Conception Seminary on one side and Bishop John J. O’Connor on the other was found in its own small case within the time capsule. Bishop O’Connor’s calling card was also enclosed in the case. In addition, there was a small collection of coins, including a Pius X medal, a 1907 quarter, a 1923 buffalo nickel, a 1925 Liberty dime, and a 1901 Liberty nickel. Lastly there were three stamps from 1932: a cancelled Washington stamp, 1¢; postage due stamp, 2¢; and a cancelled Washington stamp, 3¢.

Coins and Immaculate Conception Seminary medal
Coins and Immaculate Conception Seminary medal

These materials provide a fascinating look back at the history of the Archdiocese of Newark. To learn more visit the Archdiocesan history and archives page, or the A&SCC page on Archdiocesan history.

The Second Installment of WWI: A Centennial Exhibition

The second installment of our three-part series commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Great War is now on display in the Msgr. William Noé Field Archives and Special Collections Center, and will remain until 31 January 2014.

This phase of the exhibit demonstrates many of the technological advances that came about during the war. It includes figurines of German, French, and British soldiers using machine guns and artillery, which came into widespread use during the war.

Sopwith side_blog

In addition, model tanks, armored cars, and airplanes highlight the ways these new machines developed and changed warfare. Rare books from our Archives add poetry, photographs, and illustrations of the war to complete the display.

The exhibit can be viewed any time the Walsh Library is open, in the display cases across from Walsh Gallery. It will be followed by the third installment on 1 February 2014.


A History of the Family of Seton during Eight Centuries

October is American Archives Month

A History of the Family of Seton during Eight Centuries is a two-volume work written by George Seton in 1896 that details the history of the Seton family back to the 10th century. Drawing on an earlier work by Sir Richard Maitland, he traces the main line of the Seton family to its origin.  A member of an old British family named Say moved to Scotland, where he adopted the surname Sayton or Seyton upon receiving a grant of land in East Lothian. The name has gone through several spelling changes since that time, including Setone, Setton, Settone, Seytoun, Seaton, Saeton, and Ceton, before Seton was finally adopted by all the principal branches of the family.

Seton Family Crest
Seton Family Crest

The first Seton whose full name could be found was Dougall de Seton, believed to be the son or grandson of the Anglo-Norman immigrant who first assumed the surname. Dougall lived during the time of Alexander I (1107-1124).

Although the family has had ties to Scottish nobility and high society through marriage since its beginning, the first Seton to become a member of the nobility himself was Sir William, the first Lord Seton.  Sir William was a distinguished knight, who also became Premier Baron of Scotland and a Lord of Parliament. He appears to have traveled as far as Jerusalem, a significant accomplishment during the mid 14th century in which he lived.

Original Seton Arms
Original Seton Arms

In 1763, seventeen-year-old William Seton, descended from a line of the family that resided in the county of Fife, Scotland, immigrated to the United States to find fortune. Within two years he established himself as a businessman in New York, importing goods from Europe and India. He was a loyalist during the Revolutionary War, but after the war remained in New York and became a citizen of the United States. His eldest son, William, followed in his father’s footsteps as a successful merchant and businessman. On the 25th of January 1794 he married Elizabeth Ann Bayley. After William Seton’s death in 1803, Elizabeth Ann Seton converted to Catholicism. She later founded the first order of the Sisters of Charity in the United States, and opened St. Joseph’s School, the first free Catholic school in the country. She was also the aunt of Bishop James Roosevelt Bayley, who decided to name Seton Hall College after her when it was established in 1856. Later, she was canonized as the first American-born saint.

Elizabeth Ann Seton
Elizabeth Ann Seton
William Seton
William Seton










The Seton family can trace their history back eight centuries, how far back can your family go? The Archives has a number of great genealogy resources. One of our most-used collections is the Latter Day Saints microfilm of parish and cemetery records in the Archdiocese of Newark. These microfilms largely consist of sacramental records and cemetery records which can provide key information to genealogists studying their family history. The films, which were made in the mid-1980s by the Latter Day Saints, can be viewed in the Archives by appointment, or can be ordered from Salt Lake City to be sent to a local LDS Family History Center. For more information about Family History Centers, visit the FamilySearch website. You can also request a search to be performed by Archives staff for a $25.00/hour research fee. For more information please visit our Genealogy Resources page, and have fun exploring your family history!