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Sacred Heart Major Seminary maintains a rare book collection in the Ward Reading Room. The collection is a merger of the Sacred Heart College collection and the rare book collection from St. John's Provincial Seminary (Plymouth, Michigan).
The rare book collection is an eclectic assemblage of 16th and 17th century miniatures, special edition papal documents, and materials from the Fr. Gabriel Richard Library. It also contains representative portions of libraries belonging to Bishops from Michigan's history, and rare Michigan history materials.
Fr. Gabriel Richard
The definitive highlight of the collection is the Gabriel Richard Library. Fr. Richard (1767-1832) was a Sulpecian priest from France. Sent to the new world to do missionary work, Richard went first to Illinois and then to Michigan Territory, establishing schools and missions, particularly for Native Americans. Richard co-founded the University of Michigan; brought the first printing press to Michigan; printed the first newspaper and some of the first books in Michigan; built the original St. Anne's Parish in Detroit, and participated in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In 1805, Fort Detroit burned and Richard travelled to Toledo, gathering men, medicine, and supplies to help rebuild Detroit. During the War of 1812, Richard sided with the Americans and was imprisoned for refusing to show allegiance to the crown.
Richard succumbed to cholera, September 13, 1832, after ministering to other victims in the area. He was given a large funeral with a procession of mourners who came from throughout the region.
The Cardinal Szoka Library contains approximately one-third of Fr. Richard's personal library. The complete library was divided amongst the University of Michigan, the Archdiocese, and Detroit Public Library by the Bishops of Detroit in the first quarter of the Twentieth Century. The seminary owns the largest portion of the collection, including his hand written journals, several autographed books, and a marriage certificate signed by Fr. Richard.
While the Rare Book collection is being integrated into the electronic catalog maintained by the SHMS Library System, these books will not circulate and will only be available by special appointment and will be controlled by a strict usage policy.