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Books and Religious Devotion: The Redemptive Reading of an Irishman in Nineteenth-Century New England

Books and Religious Devotion: The Redemptive Reading of an Irishman in Nineteenth-Century New England

by Allan F. Westphall


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In Books and Religious Devotion, Allan Westphall presents a study of the book-collecting habits and annotation practices of Thomas Connary, an Irish immigrant farmer who lived in New Hampshire in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Connary led a pious life that revolved around the use, annotation, and sharing of religious books. His surviving annotated volumes provide a revealing glimpse into the utility of books for a common reader—and they show how one remarkable, eccentric reader turned religious books into near icons. Through a careful excavation of book adaptations and enhancements, Westphall gives us insight into the range of opportunities provided by the material book for recording and communicating Connary's religious fervor. The study also investigates the broader nineteenth-century cultural setting, in which books are seen as testimonies of personal faith and come to function as instruments of social interaction in both domestic and public spheres. Underlying Connary’s many and varied interactions with books is his belief that working in books, as physical objects, can be a devout exercise instrumental in human salvation.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780271064055
Publisher: Penn State University Press
Publication date: 12/15/2015
Series: Penn State Series in the History of the Book
Pages: 248
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Allan F. Westphall is an honorary research fellow at the University of St. Andrews.

Table of Contents

Preface: A Discovery and Serendipitous Journeys


Chapter 1: Irish American Print Culture in the Nineteenth Century: A Private Library

Epiphany: “Seeing very plainly”

Chapter 2: “Labouring in my Books:” Thomas Connary’s Book Enhancements

Epiphany: The Lamp

Chapter 3: Redemptive Reading in the Connary Household

Epiphany: The Road to Lancaster

Chapter 4: The Farmer’s Treasure: Thomas Connary Reading St. Francis of Sales and Julian

of Norwich

Epiphany: “No priest or bishop in this church but Himself alone”

Chapter 5: Book Keeping, Longing, and Besetment

Epilogue: Rome Uninvited



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