St. Leander

There are several obvious candidates for "patron saint" of the Burke Library, and one of them would certainly be Leander van Ess (1772-1847). Van Ess, erstwhile Benedictine and translator of an immensely popular German New Testament, amassed what would become the Library's first, core collection. Edward T. Robinson, a member of Union Theological Seminary's founding faculty, arranged for the purchase in 1838 of a portion of Van Ess's collection, including scores of medieval and early modern manuscripts, as well as thousands of early printed books and Reformation-era pamphlets (flugschriften). The Van Ess Collection remains a tremendously rich resource for the study of the material culture of the West, and of book history in particular. Among the collection's strengths are its many well-preserved contemporary bindings. The collection bearing his name, which is the result of Van Ess's life and work as a scholar and teacher, is the proverbial "cornerstone" of the Burke Library's renowned holdings. The above portrait includes the Johannine exhortation to scrutamini scripturas (5:39). In Van Ess's hand is inscribed a brief passage from 1 John 4:16: "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him."

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