The Defendant has previously published reports on two special collections of Chesterton’s works – one in London (now managed by the USA’s University of Notre Dame at its UK campus), the other in Sydney (developed at Campion College).
This section of our newsletter gives updates on these collections, and relates the story of a young American student at Notre Dame who wrote a thesis on Chesterton as a result of using the London-based collection.
Chesterton in London
The Notre Dame University collection springs from the superb collection of Chesterton’s books, journals and memorabilia assembled over many years by Aidan Mackey, a former teacher and bookseller and noted Chesterton scholar.
The collection was originally developed in Aidan’s home in Bedford; then housed in a number of locations in Oxford, before being relocated to Notre Dame’s London Global Gateway just off Trafalgar Square.
Aidan Mackey outlined the proposed move to London in The Defendant (Autumn 2016), and our Winter 2019 issue provided an update.
Most recently, the Academic Director of the London Global Gateway, JoAnn Della Neva, has announced plans to encourage individual scholars to access the Chesterton collection. These include the offering of public lectures and academic conferences to showcase the results of recent research, some of which can be conducted in conjunction with the British Library’s significant Chesterton collection.
For a sneak preview of the collection now at Notre Dame’s London campus, see:
Aidan Mackey with the Chesterton collection he developed
A semi-annual newsletter reporting on the collection can be requested for free at https://signup.e2ma.net/signup/1915416/ 1895974/
The Student Who Discovered Chesterton
A young American student at the American campus of the University of Notre Dame applied to study for a year at its London campus – and used the relocated Chesterton collection in London as a basic resource for his major undergraduate thesis.
Brady Stiller (pictured at Chesterton’s grave in Beaconsfield UK) was recently named as Valedictorian at Notre Dame for the Class of 2020. His remarkable story can be found at https://london.nd.edu/
In summary, he began studying a ‘Chesterton and Catholicism’ course taught at Notre Dame by the theology professor, David Fagerberg, a devotee of Chesterton and regular columnist to the American Chesterton magazine, Gilbert.
“Just a few classes in,” Stiller recalls, “I knew I’d found my favourite author for life.”
On reaching England, Stiller decided to follow literally in Chesterton’s footsteps. He started locally in London, visiting such sites as Fleet Street, the traditional haunt of British journalists including Chesterton, and then travelling to Beaconsfield west of London, where Chesterton spent the last 14 years of his life.
The student then began to use the precious collection that Notre Dame had moved to London. The material was still in boxes, but the University’s staff helped the young researcher to find the resources for his senior thesis on the idea of vocation and the ways in which Chesterton’s sense of story and romance and adventure can reveal to every person a vocation from God.
Stiller was deeply impressed by the quantity of pictorial material that Chesterton produced. There was an abundance of designs and illustrations, worthy of Chesterton as a former student of the Slade School of Art in London, which he had attended after leaving school instead of going to university.
The original characters that Chesterton had drawn for the toy theatre he designed were of special interest, and Stiller read Chesterton’s copious notes.
“I think the toy theatre is the star item from this archive,” he has remarked. He came to realize how much these pieces symbolized Chesterton’s worldview – so deeply artistic as well as intellectual, depicting reality as well as conceptualizing it.
An inspiring footnote to Brady Stiller’s discovery of Chesterton is that he met Aidan Mackey who had painstakingly developed the original collection.
Aidan told me in May this year that he had the great pleasure of meeting Brady in London in 2019. He was deeply impressed by the young student, and believes that Brady’s thesis deserves to be published and made more widely available.
Chesterton in Sydney
The Sydney-based collection of works by and on Chesterton has been developed at Campion College in the suburb of Old Toongabbie.
The Campion Librarian, Keziah van Aardt, described the collection in The Defendant (Winter 2016), and provides the following update:
The GK Chesterton special collection at Campion College library is a small but important part of the library collection, containing over 200 monographs and subscriptions to journals such as the Chesterton Review and Gilbert Magazine – and, of course, The Defendant! Many of the older editions are works by Chesterton such as a first edition of Robert Browning.
Some of the newer items added to the collection include William Oddie’s volume, Chesterton and the Romance of Orthodoxy, and The Holiness of G K Chesterton, edited by Oddie and containing chapters by various authors including Aidan Nichols and Sheridan Gilley. The latest purchase was Dale Ahlquist’s recent book, Knight of the Holy Ghost.
In 2016, the library acquired the four-volume set G.K. Chesterton at the ‘Daily News’: Literature, Liberalism and Revolution, 1901-1913, edited by Julia Stapleton. This was an important addition, not only for Campion’s collection but also for all Australian libraries as it is the only copy of this particular edition recorded in Trove, the online database maintained by the National Library in Canberra.
While the collection at Campion has currently reached its full capacity due to space limitations, items continue to be purchased so they can be added into the collection when more space becomes available. This is hopefully not too distant as Campion College has plans for a major new library building and is fund- raising for this project.
Collecting is only one part of a librarian’s job when managing a special collection. Encouraging and facilitating borrowing is just as important. Students are encouraged to read Chesterton’s works which are sometimes showcased though library displays and book reviews.
The most borrowed titles in the Chesterton Collection are Orthodoxy, Manalive and Everlasting Man, all of which are especially popular with students.
Chesterton’s works have an enduring value and his diverse writings are still widely appreciated by Campion students and staff, as well as other scholars and library visitors.
Anyone visiting the college is welcome to contact the library if they wish to view the Chesterton collection.