The Nicholas Breier Scheetz Center for the Study of Rare Books and Manuscripts was founded at Fairfield University in 2015. Three components form its core: programs, exhibits, and collections.
Programs: The Center will host and sponsor conferences, seminars, classes, symposia, and digital initiatives that foster intellectual curiosity through use of rare books, manuscripts, and other formats from ancient to modern times.
Exhibits: In its own Reading Room and through exchanges and collaborations with other institutions, the Center will host and sponsor exhibits featuring rare books, manuscripts, and other formats promoting and highlighting their significance in contemporary scholarship. All exhibits on the Fairfield campus will be free and open to the public during our regular hours.
Collections: The Center will serve as a beacon for enhancement of the Special Collections of the Fairfield University Libraries, collections that can be used to engage those who visit the Center in the study of rare books, manuscripts, and other formats.
Nicholas Breier Scheetz (1952-2016) was a scholar and avid collector of books and manuscripts who often said that he “saved the past for the furture.” The focus of his personal collecting was 19th and 20th century American and English literature; the libraries of distinguished individuals such as DeWitt Clinton; medieval manuscripts; as well as first editions, fine bindings, and signed, dedication, inscribed, and association copies. His collections became the cornerstone of the Fairfield University Libraries’ Special Collections as the primary onsite repository of rare books, manuscripts, and other formats.
Educated by Jesuits, Nicholas graduated from Seattle Preparatory School and from Georgetown University magna cum laude with a double major in English and History. One indication of his intellectual reach was his decision to learn to read, write, and speak Old Gaelic at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS). He earned a Masters degree in Celtic Studies from Catholic University. As Manuscripts Librarian at Georgetown University’s Joseph Mark Lauinger Memorial Library, Nicholas was personally responsible for helping the university to secure many important books and collections, including papers relative to extraordinary authors such as Evelyn Waugh and Anthony Powell, and to diplomats and other members of the intelligentsia. During his lifetime, Nicholas mounted exhibitions, seminars, and conferences, which drew an international audience. “At a time when such discussions had begun to give way to literary theory in the English department itself, Nick’s work preserved memories of the authors themselves and what they had written, and informed students and scholars what they had intended and accomplished,” said Georgetown University Professor John Hirsh.
After retiring from Georgetown, Nicholas began work to launch The Nicholas Breier Scheetz Center for the Study of Rare Books and Manuscripts at Fairfield University as a tribute to his friend, Jeffrey von Arx, S.J., president of Fairfield. With the help of his family, friends, and other collectors, the Center came to fruition in 2015.
Fairfield University has established a Board of Advisors for the Nicholas Breier Scheetz Center for the Study of Rare Books and Manuscripts. In support of its mission, the Board’s role is to provide advice and support to the Center’s Director regarding every-day operations as well as assistance with the identification of individuals with knowledge of and expertise in the collection and use of rare books and manuscripts. This support includes the development and cultivation of relationships with individuals who have collections of these materials that could be borrowed, exchanged, or donated to the University to support the scholarly endeavors of the Center. While the Center is in its naissance stages, the Board will provide guidance on the design of the new space being created for the Center’s Reading Room.
The Dean of Libraries and University Librarian has appointed the following people to serve on the Center’s Advisory Board: