The Dominican Theological Library

A brief excerpt from the article “Dominican House of Studies Library,” by Marty Rothwell, published in the Dominican Torch Volume 4, Number 4 – Fall 2006 (pdf available here).

History of the Library

One could say that the DHS Library is as old as the Dominican presence in the United States. When those four friars of the English Province arrived in Norfolk,Virginia, a good portion of their baggage would have been their books. When the first Dominican studium or house of studies was founded in Somerset, Ohio, in 1832, its library included not only the books of the recently deceased Bishop Fenwick [who willed his personal to the Province for just that purpose] but also the personal library of Bishop Luke Concanen, an Irish Dominican and first bishop of New York. Bishop Concanen never made it to the United States; he died in Naples waiting for a boat, but his books did; these he also had willed to the fledgling Dominican presence in America. These together with a few other donations made the Dominican Library in rural Ohio, oddly enough, one of the best theological collections in the country. It was at this first house of studies that the early American Dominicans studied, prayed, preached, and spread the Word of God throughout the “Old Northwest.”

By the end of the nineteenth century, it had become obvious that rural Ohio was not the best location for a center of learning like the Dominican studium. So the decision was made to move the house of studies to Washington, D.C., partly in response to an invitation from the American bishops for religious communities to locate their houses of study near the new Catholic University of America. The present building, directly across Michigan Avenue from the University, was completed in 1905; the library was located in the western wing of the building’s first floor and basement.

Since that time, the Library’s collections have expanded considerably. The Library has always tried to keep its collection up to date, but it has also retained much of that original collection. In the 1920s and 1930s a good number of rare books were acquired, some dating to the very earliest days of printing, some manuscripts from as early as the fifteenth century.These together with a handful of more recent additions and some of the books from the Province’s earliest Library constitute our present-day Rare Book Collection.