Library in Focus: do we still need pamphlets?
Keziah Van Aardt
Are pamphlets worth preserving in an academic library such as Campion’s? While pamphlets are often small, cheaply printed, usually rather ‘dated’ and lacking in academic content, pamphlets certainly have historical value. Pamphlets were printed for a particular purpose and a particular audience. They were written largely for ordinary people, not for academic use and therefore, pamphlets often provide insight into how certain issues, controversial matters, or religious doctrines were understood and explained. As well as being a wealth of information, the historical nature of pamphlets certainly makes them worth collecting, preserving, and making available for new generations of students.
The library at Campion contains over 350 pamphlets which are stored in small, clothbound pamphlet boxes to allow patrons to browse them easily. These pamphlets cover the range of subjects taught at Campion, from philosophy to social sciences, literature and history, however the majority of the pamphlets deal with religious topics.
Pamphlets have a long history and have been used for many political, religious, and literary purposes over the years, however during the last century, they have been used extensively by religious denominations to disseminate religious instruction. The Catholic Church has used the pamphlet format prolifically to condense religious instruction and make it readily accessible for the laity. Topics such as morality, papal teachings, the creeds and catechism, sacraments, liturgy, and devotional content are common topics among the pamphlets in Campion’s library.
The Catholic Truth Society (CTS) has published a huge number of pamphlets since its establishment in 1868. One of the pamphlets published by the CTS and available in Campion’s library is titled The History of the Mass by Francis J. Ripley. It is 24 pages long and was sold for a sixpence in the late 1950s. The content is concise, informative, and clearly presented. The inside of its front cover contains information about the Catholic Truth Society including its objects, which were:
- To publish and disseminate low-priced devotional works.
- To assist all Catholics to a better knowledge of their religion.
- To spread amongst non-Catholics information about the Faith.
- To assist the circulation of Catholic books.
Not only do pamphlets provide easily digestible information, they also are a window into the thoughts and viewpoints of previous generations. They are a historical record in their own right, and are therefore a valuable, not to mention interesting part of the library’s collection!
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