10 August 2021

Never for any reason whatsoever.

I find the following tale rather thought-provoking.

I have a Sarum Portiforium (ed. C Seager, 1843) which has this bookplate: 

Virtue and Cahill Library.

The Founders of this library earnestly request their successors in the See of Portsmouth to keep this library intact and never to sell or dispose of any book for any reason whatsoever.

No 8720 

John Virtue (or Vertue), 1826-1900, was the first Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth (consecrated 1882); John Cahill was the second Bishop, from 1900 until his death in 1910.

I presume that two episcopal coats of arms on the bookplate are those of the two bishops; and that the Library may have been founded for the edification of their Diocesan Clergy. The number suggests that the Library was not a small one.

Clearly, their Lordships, admirable pontiffs, knew full well the dangers, given episcopal frailty and infirmity of purpose, of the Library being got rid of, and formulated these words  ... in so far as could be possible ... so as to exclude that possibility.

Sed frustra!!

I wonder when the book (and the Library?) went wandering. Pencilled inside its front is "£10.50"; which must date from after the decimalisation of our currency in the early 1970s. (It came to me from the library of a great priest and mighty bibliophile, Fr Michael Melrose, [Anglican] pp of S Giles, Reading.)

The disorders which followed the Council must have led to the disregard of a large number of earlier injunctions which included such phrases as Never for any reason whatsoever.

I hesitate to thrust my own drearily predictable views into the defenceless mouths of departed others; but, surely, the original addition of this volume to the Portsmouth Library must in some way hint at a willingness to envisage users of that library being ... shall we say ... not entirely protected from the infections of an earlier liturgical culture. 

And, apparently, the person responsible for the eventual dumping of that Library or part of it (the bookseller who was happy to sell this breviary on for £10.50 cannot himself have paid a Cardinal's Ransom for it) did not share the same hermeneutic, or assumption, of continuity.

I wonder if any of the Virtue and Cahill Library did survive ... even its catalogue would be an interesting historical relic of the clerical culture which was so swiftly, ruthlessly, and comprehensively obliterated by the gauleiters of the 1970s.

8 comments:

B flat said...

Dear Father,

What follows is hearsay. I cannot remember if I perused any part of this library or am conflating with experience of others. However, I recall it being said that the naval base at Porstmouth, being a prime military target in wartime, the Library in the Bishop's House next to the Cathedral in the city was in danger, and so it proved. The house was hit during a bombing raid in WWII, and the library was moved out into sheds by the successor of the two founders, Bp Timothy Cotter. The then auxiliary bishop John Henry King (named after the late Cardinal) was distressed by this careless treatment of the collection, and arranged to have it evacuated across the water to the rural quiet of Quarr Abbey, where it remained separate from the considerable library of the monastery, but safe and dry during the war years and throughout the 1950's into the early and mid-sixties. Bp King was not fond of Portsmouth as a habitation although it was the cathedral city of the RC Diocese. After succeeding Bp Cotter, Bp King stayed in Winchester, which had been the diocesan seat from the time of St Augustine's mission. He was rewarded for his great care for recusant history, with the personal title of Archbishop. Perhaps his physical distance contributed to the Library's becoming almost overlooked as a Diocesan Treasure in the post-war years. I do not know if it had real friends or users in the diocesan clergy in those post war years. I know of no defenders after Vat II.

Archbishop King did not attend the Vatican Council on grounds of ill-health, and died in 1965. It was the raging of Modernism which had interrupted his studies in Rome and returned him to Portsmouth, his home diocese long before WWI.
He was succeeded by Derek Warlock,the archetype of Ecclestone Square apparatchiki and recent Council peritus, who decided to sell the library to pay for adaptations of the cathedral to the new liturgical fashion. Theodericus, as the Sacristy nameplate identified him, probably would not give twopence for the breviary you obtained for half a guinea, faithfully following his visigothic spiritual forebear of the fifth century.
I understood that the bulk of the library was purchased at the end of the 1960s by a university in Canada, although the rare items may have been negotiated separately. The archives of the Diocese may have more information; certainly in the accounts of those years some small record should give a trail. I am certain that I never saw the index or catalogue of the Library which had some edition by Wynkyn de Worde, and perhaps incunabula.

The Custodians of the inheritance have not always proved faithful to the wishes of their predecessors. Very often it is alien forces beyond their control, which bring the loss of their patrimony on the innocent chidren who were the intended beneficiaries of the Founder. This is a very present concern since mid July, seeing the barbarian raging within the household, and we are as helpless to stop him now, as in the 60's; as at the Reformation in the West as Iconoclasm in the East. Indeed in every violent revolution.
That is why life is a Vale of Tears.

Friedlon said...

There is an Auction Catalogue, Books of Virtue and Cahill Library, 5 July 1967.
It details "Printed Books and a Few Manuscripts from the Virtue and Cahill Library Sold by the Order of the Bishop and Cathedral Chapter of the Diocese of Portsmouth"

Unknown said...

At least it did not contain the curses on those who alienated volumes like those in the manuscripts Bishop Leofric gave to his church at Exeter and which were cheerfully given by the Dean and Chapter to the nascent Bodleian Library in the 17th century (Sir Thomas being an Exeter man). At least it was only the Latin mss., the merely English ones (such as the Exeter Domesday and the Exeter Book of Anglo-Saxon poetry) were allowed to stay in Exeter.

Atticus said...

No doubt the herd will have beaten me to this, and apologies in advance for strewing links, but a catalogue was compiled of the items sold at auction in 1967: https://www.worldcat.org/title/catalogue-of-important-and-rare-printed-books-and-manuscripts-from-the-virtue-and-cahill-library-sold-by-order-of-the-bishop-and-cathedral-chapter-of-the-diocese-of-portsmouth-and-three-important-hebrew-mss-the-property-of-a-lady-which-will-be-sold-at-auction-by-christie-manson-woods-on-wednesday-july-5-1967/oclc/827179763

Some items definitely ended up in the Bodleian: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.b4215458&view=1up&seq=7&q1=cahill.

Google lists the auction catalogue without, alas, giving access to it, bit one can pick it up for a mere $15 here:

https://www.secondstorybooks.com/pages/books/1316459/catalogue-of-important-and-rare-printed-books-and-manuscripts-from-the-virtue-and-cahill-library

Nicholas Rogers said...

The dispersal of the Virtue and Cahill Library was one of the many consequences of the advent of Derek Warlock as Lord Bishop of Portsmouth in 1965. On 5 July 1967 there was a sale at Christie's of Important and Rare Printed Books and Manuscripts. These included a manuscript from Reading Abbey, which fortunately found a home in Reading Museum.

Nicholas Rogers

vetusta ecclesia said...



I had similar thoughts when looking at some side chapels in Westminster Cathedral where foundation were to be said in perpetuity and aren’t.

How much of the modern travails of the English Church can be laid at the door of the aptly named Warlock!

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

When Pope Francis visit The Great Roman Synagogue in 2016 he gave the Rabbis Codex Vaticano Ebraico 700 (It's easy to google and see for your own self).

Not a photo copy. No, the real item which is a collection of the 613 laws the Jews were required to follow as codified by Maminoides.

And it wasn't that long ago (July 19, 2021) that Mr. Abraham Foxman publicly thanked Francis for "restricting the Latin Mass which was insulting to Jews." He went on to say that "words matter when it comes to prejudice."

Speaking just for his own self, ABS would appreciate it if Pope Francis stopped giving away the treasures of the Church which he neither purchased or owned.

As far as ABS is concerned, he can give away any and al of his possessions.

F Marsden said...

Here are the relevant canons on the alienation of church property. One wonders if the disposal of the Portsmouth Library was legitimate, but I have no idea what the "maximum and minimum amounts" defined by the Episcopal Conference were back in 1967. Also it would have been under the old 1917 Code.

However can 1292.2 speaks of "goods precious for artistic or historical reasons" needing the permission of the Holy See. It's a pity nobody tried to block the sale by bringing a canon law case back in 1967. The manuscript from Reading Abbey and some of the other rare books might well have qualified as historically important.

Furthermore, using the funds to demolish a baldacchino hardly qualifies as "careful investment for the advantage of the church" (1294.2) or as "urgent necessity" or "grave pastoral reason" (1293.1.1)

Can. 1292 §1. Without prejudice to the prescript of can. 638, §3, when the value of the goods whose alienation is proposed falls within the minimum and maximum amounts to be defined by the conference of bishops for its own region, the competent authority is determined by the statutes of juridic persons if they are not subject to the diocesan bishop; otherwise, the competent authority is the diocesan bishop with the consent of the finance council, the college of consultors, and those concerned. The diocesan bishop himself also needs their consent to alienate the goods of the diocese.

§2. The permission of the Holy See is also required for the valid alienation of goods whose value exceeds the maximum amount, goods given to the Church by vow, or goods precious for artistic or historical reasons.

§3. If the asset to be alienated is divisible, the parts already alienated must be mentioned when seeking permission for the alienation; otherwise the permission is invalid.

§4. Those who by advice or consent must take part in alienating goods are not to offer advice or consent unless they have first been thoroughly informed both of the economic state of the juridic person whose goods are proposed for alienation and of previous alienations.

Can. 1293 §1. The alienation of goods whose value exceeds the defined minimum amount also requires the following:

1/ a just cause, such as urgent necessity, evident advantage, piety, charity, or some other grave pastoral reason;

2/ a written appraisal by experts of the asset to be alienated.

§2. Other precautions prescribed by legitimate authority are also to be observed to avoid harm to the Church.

Can. 1294 §1. An asset ordinarily must not be alienated for a price less than that indicated in the appraisal.

§2. The money received from the alienation is either to be invested carefully for the advantage of the Church or to be expended prudently according to the purposes of the alienation.