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Special Collections

The Canisius College Archives Balling Special Collections Room contains unique and rare items. These include books, manuscripts and collections related to the history of Canisius, Jesuits and western New York.  

The Archives preserves and protects these items while also making them accessible to the College community and researchers.   

The Balling Special Collections Room opened in 1988. It consists of approximately 3,000 items. Additions are made through the generosity of alumni donors and interested patrons.

The collection includes: medieval manuscripts, such as illuminated books of hours; a rare 1483 Koburger Bible and other early printed Bibles; the Joseph P. Desmond Collection of Irish literature, history and culture; the history of the Jesuits; and, facsimilies of the Gutenberg Bible, the Book of Kells, and others.

Items in Special Collections can be found through the library catalog.


Using the Collections   |   Collection Examples   |   Collection Development Policy


Special Collections is open to all members of the Canisius College community as well as the public.  If you simply wish to view the collection, you are welcome to come in anytime the library is open.  Classes or groups are also welcome to view and discuss the items in the collection.  Appointments are suggested for lengthy visits.  Please see one of the reference librarians, call 888-8422, or e-mail for more information.

The room itself consists of two separate parts: an inner work and storage room, and an outer reading and display area.  The collection remains shelved in the inner room, where the materials can be more easily monitored and the lights can be kept off as much as possible to prevent further deterioration.  The outer reading room holds rotating displays of selected portions of the collection and an area to use the materials.

Eating and drinking is prohibited in the Special Collections rooms.  Photocopying is allowed with permission.  However, in some cases the spines of the books may be damaged or the paper may be too fragile to permit it.  Items from Special Collections do not circulate and must be used on the premises.


Collection Examples


Lectionarium Evangeliorum



This manuscript, written in Italy in the XVth century, begins with the Second Mass of Christmas. It contains illuminated initials and the original wooden boards and white pigskin cover. Appearing inside is the bookplat e of Thomas S. Ashton, whose books were sold in London on February 17, 1783. De Ricci also cites this work in his census.



Koburger Bible



Perhaps the most valuable item in Special Collections, this German Bible was printed in Nuremberg in 1483 by Anthony Koburger, father-in-law of Albrecht Duerer, a number of years before Luther's famous German translation of the Bible appeared in print. It is one of the few examples in our collection of incunabula (books printed in the fifteenth century, the "cradle days" of printing).



Book of Kells Facsimile



Painstakingly fashioned from handmade paper, this book was faithfully recreated to resemble the original work in Dublin down to the smallest details such as holes in the paper and the irregular sizing of the pages. The or iginal Book of Kells was written by Irish monks in the VIIIth century and is considered the foremost example of early medieval Celtic art. Made in Switzerland, this beautiful facsimile was donated by Mrs. Julia Boyer Reinstein of Cheektowaga, NY.



John Lightfoot Bible



Printed in Rheims in 1582, this English translation of the New Testament is unusual because it was signed by a John Lightfoot in 1639 on the title page. To indicate ownership of a Roman Catholic Bible at that time was considered quite dangerous.



Aztec Facsimile



The original manuscript, Codex Vaticanus 3773, has been in the Vatican Library since 1566. It is a notable example of Aztec picture writing.






The date of composition is unknown for this manuscript, but it is a fine example of early Arabic writing. A note placed inside the binding states that it was taken from the Turks in a battle in Hungary before 1571 by a Count Schwarzburg.



Papal Bull



Printed in 1485 and housed in its own special case is this very unique item in the Special Collections Room, the papal bull decreeing the canonization of Saint Leopold.



Books of Hours









Two important Books of Hours (prayerbooks for laypeople) appear in the Special Collections Room. Both are manuscripts, beautifully illuminated, from the XVth century. One, written in France, contains the original wooden boards and stamped calfskin, and is lined with vellum fragments of a XIVth century liturgical manuscript. The other, written in Italy, includes illuminated initials and borders, and is encased in a white vellum wrapper. Seymour de Ricci cites both of the Hours in his Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada (New York, 1940).



History of the Town of Plymouth



This book is kept in Special Collections because the reputed autograph of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, appears on its frontispiece.



Collection Development Policy


Special Collections preserves the most unique items owned by the Canisius College Library. Among the collection are more than 3000 items and distinct collections including:

  • early printed tracts (medieval to 19th century) on theology or philosophy
  • early manuscripts (up to and including the 16th century)
  • unique or rare materials related to the history of Canisius College
  • The Collection of Rev. Ludwig Bonvin, S.J. (musical composition)
  • The Joseph P. Desmond Collection of Irish Literature, History and Culture 
  • The Collection of Rev. James J. Ruddick, S. J. (seismology; Jesuit Seismological Association; Braun Seismological Station)
  • inscribed books and manuscripts of visiting speakers, authors and guests gifted or donated to the College
  • early history of the Buffalo-Niagara region, and western New York state
  • Jesuit history and scholarship, and
  • theses (late 19th and early 20th century) related to education, religion, and immigrants to western New York by Canisius students

Use of Special Collections

Special Collections is available for research use by appointment. Those wishing to use the collection for instruction purposes (i.e., all -college honors or core classes, FYS or AP high school classes) should contact the archivist to arrange a session. The collection offers the opportunity to share,  from time-to-time, through displays and on-line exhibitions.


English and Latin dominate the Collection. Also represented are works in Greek and Arabic.

Chronological Coverage

15th century to the present day.

Geographical Coverage

Continental Europe, North America. 

Format and Type of Materials Collected

Print collection. Includes both books and manuscripts written on vellum and printed on paper.

Collection Policy

Canisius College Special Collections acquires materials through donation or transfer of items from the Library's collection.  We do not actively solicit donations for Special Collections due to conservation and preservation needs associated with such materials. Gifts are accepted if they complement the collection. Inclusion of materials in Special Collections is determined on a case-by-case basis and is at the sole discretion of the Archivist.

We do not conduct financial appraisals of material offered for donation.


All items housed in Special Collections are in Canisius College Library‚Äôs online catalog. They also are cataloged in WorldCat, a worldwide online database of over thirty million bibliographic items, accessible through library database subscriptions. 

In addition, several notable items, principally the Books of Hours, are listed in the 1940 print Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada (New York : H.W. Wilson).

Kathleen M. DeLaney

updated March 23, 2009