Rare Book Donations by John Geraghty

Over the past year Special Collections has been fortunate to receive a series of outstanding rare book donations from John Edward Geraghty, a notable collector of the works of John Milton (1608–74). Mr. Geraghty’s collection is the result of a lifetime’s passion for early modern English literature, and he is now equally passionate that his books be available for teaching and research. He is a past student of Professor Sara van den Berg, and because of that association has selected SLU as the object of his donations. Among the items he has given to the library are his rare first edition of the works of the playwright and poet Ben Jonson (1572–1637), who is perhaps best known today for his plays Volpone, or the Fox (ca. 1606), The Alchemist (1610), and Bartholomew Fair (1614). Printed in London in 1616, seven years before the more famous First Folio of Shakespeare was published in 1623, it is sometimes known as the “other first folio.” Jonson daringly titled the volume his Workes, a term until then reserved for the Greek and Latin classics, or the works of the Church Fathers, or of theologians, legal scholars, philosophers, and physicians—not of playwrights writing in English. Mr. Geraghty also gave a copy of the 1692 third edition of Jonson’s complete works. In December 2018, Professors Sara van den Berg and Jonathan Sawday organized a symposium sponsored by SLU’s English Department on Ben Jonson in honor of John Geraghty’s donation. It was the first of what is planned to be an ongoing series of public programs connected with his gifts of books to SLU. Among other items Mr. Geraghty has recently donated are the British and US first editions (1825) of Milton’s De doctrina christiana, or, On Christian Doctrine, published from a manuscript of Milton’s discovered only in 1823. Also notable among his gifts an early edition of Sir Walter Raleigh’s History of the World, which Raleigh wrote while in prison (1603–16) and is the literary work for which he is best known. The edition is particularly rare first (it was reprinted multiple times through the seventeenth century) because it was suppressed by King James I on the grounds of its critical view of monarchs throughout history and for its irreverent remarks about Henry VIII and himself. John Geraghty’s growing collection of gifts can be found listed in the SLU Libraries’ catalog. 

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