Rare Book Collection

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 Sulpician 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 traveled 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 on 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 the 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.

The Rare Book Collection has been integrated into the library’s online catalog. However, books from this collection do not circulate and are only available by special appointment in accordance with a strict/limited usage policy.

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