Stanbrook Abbey Press collection
- circa 1950-1989
Scope and Contents
The Stanbrook Abbey Press collection contains 3.5 linear feet of materials created by the Press and its head printer, Sister Hildelith Cumming, between 1950 and 1989. Press materials make up the bulk of the collection and include bookplates, broadsides, greeting and prayer cards, exhibition programs, invitations, pamphlets, poems, prayers, prospectuses, and specimen pages. Correspondence is made up of letters from Sister Hildelith to collectors Philip and Mary McNiff and Thomas F. O'Connell as well as a small number of letters from other parties working with Sister Hildelith. Exhibition materials provide useful background on the Stanbrook Abbey Press and details about exhibited materials. Some of the leaflets were also printed by the Press, and one has inlaid photographs.
Oversized materials in Series II., IX., and XII. are located in Box 4.
- Stanbrook Abbey. Press (Organization)
- McNiff, Mary Stack (Correspondent, Person)
- Adams, Margaret, 1912-1996 (Calligrapher, Person)
- Nicholson, David, 1919-2009 (Correspondent, Person)
- Five Seasons Press (Correspondent, Organization)
- Cumming, Hildelith (Contributor, Person)
- Lawrence, Simon, 1958- (Correspondent, Person)
- Stanbrook Abbey. Press (Organization)
Language of Materials
Materials are written predominantly in English, with some Latin.
Restrictions on access
Collection is open for research. Some items, particularly in Series IX. and X., have been hand-illustrated and illuminated by Margaret and Henry Adams. Please do not directly touch the illustrations; this helps preserve their detail.
Restrictions on use
Copyright interests have not been transferred to Boston College.
Stanbrook Abbey Press is a press operated by cloistered nuns of the English Benedictine Congregation of Our Lady of Consolation. The Press was established in 1876 by Father Laurence Shepherd and was intended to supply the needs of the English Benedictine Congregation while occasionally printing scholarly or academic works.
Stanbrook Abbey Press declined during WWI and WWII, when resource restrictions affected its abilities. After WWII, the press was revived by Sister Hildelith Cumming. Sister Hildelith (also known as Dame in the Benedictine tradition) was head printer for Stanbrook Abbey from 1956 until her death in 1991. Although she had suggested that the printing equipment be sold during the downturn in production, Sister Hildelith devoted herself to improving the Press when she was appointed as its head printer. She earned the Press international renown in fine printing and oversaw important collaborations with typographers John G. Dreyfus and Jan van Krimpen, and the purchase of Eric Gill’s Perpetua type.
The Press’s small staff of approximately four and the commitment of the sisters to prayer and song kept its productivity low, even at its height. Notable printed works from the early years of the Press include the Bosworth Psalter, a 1908 printing of an account of a pre-Conquest manuscript. The Psalter was a collaboration with Sir Sydney Cockerell, director of the Fitzwilliam Museum and a staunch supporter of the Press. Works commissioned in the post-war revival period include books of poetry by Siegfried Sassoon, The Lisping Goddess by artist Sir William Russell Flint, and Russian poet Raïssa Maritain's Patriarch Tree. Trappist monk and Catholic mystic Thomas Merton also worked with the Press, translating works and corresponding with Sister Hildelith. In 2009, the Abbey moved from Stanbrook Hall in Callow End, near Worcester, England, to a new eco-friendly building in North Yorkshire, near Wass.
Margaret Adams, whose calligraphy and illumination work is on display in this collection, was not a Benedictine nun though she worked alongside them for many years. She and her husband, Henry, a skilled illuminator, taught calligraphy and illumination to the nuns of Stanbrook Abbey. They also worked on many Press productions themselves.
Philip and Mary McNiff, who collected the majority of the materials in this collection and corresponded with Sister Hildelith, had close ties to Boston College. Philip graduated from Boston College in 1933 and later served on a strategic committee for the University library. Mary worked for St. John’s Seminary, whose campus is adjacent to Boston College. Both McNiffs also had close links to libraries as well; Philip was Director and Librarian of Boston Public Library and Mary acted as Assistant to the Librarian at St. John’s.
Butcher, David. Stanbrook Abbey Press, 1956-1990. Lower Marston, England: Whittington Press, 1992.
Dreyfus, John. An Exhibit of Productions from Stanbrook Abbey Press, 1876-1966. [Worcester, England?]: [Stanbrook Abbey Press?], 1967.
Driscoll, Edgar J. Jr. "Philip J. McNiff was director of Boston Public Library; at 82." Boston Globe, November 10, 1994.
"Obituaries: Mary McNiff, Brighton librarian." Boston Globe, February 4, 1976.
Stanbrook Abbey. The Stanbrook Abbey Press: Ninety-two Years of its History. Worcester, England: Stanbrook Abbey Press, 1970.
1.5 Linear Feet (4 containers)
The Stanbrook Abbey Press collection contains materials created by the Press and its head printer, Sister Hildelith Cumming. Press materials make up the bulk of the collection and include bookplates, broadsides, greeting and prayer cards, exhibition programs, invitations, pamphlets, poems, prayers, prospectuses, and specimen pages. A small number of these have been hand-illustrated and illuminated. Correspondence is made up of letters from Sister Hildelith to collectors Philip and Mary McNiff and Thomas F. O'Connell as well as other parties. Materials date from the 1950s through the 1980s.
This collection is arranged in twelve series: I. Bookplates; II. Broadsides; III. Cards; IV. Clippings; V. Correspondence; VI. Exhibitions; VII. Invitations and programs; VIII. Pamphlets; IX. Poems; X. Prayers; XI. Price lists and advertisements; XII. Specimen pages and prospectuses.
Series III. is divided further into five subseries, arranged alphabetically: A. Christmas cards; B. Easter cards; C. General cards; D. Holy cards; and E. Postcards. These contain stationery cards as well as one-sided cards that could also be referred to as prayer cards. Subseries E. contains photograph postcards of Stanbrook Abbey and its inhabitants, as well as illustrated cards.
The bulk of the collection was originally collected and maintained by Philip and Mary McNiff in the 1960s and 1970s. Other materials were collected by former Boston College Librarian Thomas F. O'Connell during the same period. Throughout the 1980s, additional materials were acquired through purchases by Boston College.
Because the current accessioning system was not used until January 1986, it is not possible to know exactly the dates of acquisition of materials received before that time.
Books included in the donated materials have been transferred to the Fine Print Collection at the John J. Burns Library.
- Advertisement, order form, and invitations printed by the Press of the Woolly Whale.
- Stanbrook Abbey Press Collection
- circa 1950-1989
- Stephanie Bennett
- August 2012
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description