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The Rev'd Robert James M'Ghee (1789-1872) was a Church of Ireland minister and passionate anti-Catholic campaigner. This collection, shelved at CCA.9, comprises 32 volumes given by him to the University Library between 1840 and 1868 discussing a perceived attempt by the Catholic church in Ireland to promote the work of Pierre Dens (1690-1775), a Belgian priest and theologian. M'Ghee believed that Dens' works were subversive, corrupt and disrespectful, and mounted an extensive campaign during the mid 1830s of public speeches denouncing him and the Irish church. In 1840 he gave the first part of the set to the University Library, the Bodleian Library in Oxford, and Trinity College, Dublin. He declared that the books were given as proof of his case against Dens and the Irish church hierarchy, and attached strict conditions to the donation: the books were never to be taken out of the Library "unless they might be required by the Vice-Chancellor ... or unless they might be required to be brought before a committee of either House of Parliament", and they were only to be consulted in the presence of the Librarian.

Not a reference collection so much as a piece of historical evidence, M'Ghee declared that the books were given "in the name and for the cause of the God of truth, humbly trusting that he may be pleased to make them an instrument of blessing to our Church and Country". The first set of books, given in 1840, includes 4 Catholic bibles; volumes of theology by Bailly and Delahogue which were set texts for student priests at Maynooth, "that seminary of crime"; papal encyclicals and diocesan statutes; and an Italian catechism which re-interpreted the ten commandments in such a way as to remove the instruction banning false idols. Perhaps more valuable for their extreme rarity are 10 volumes of orders of divine office for Irish priests, covering the years 1830 to 1840, which included an advertisement for a new edition of Dens' work. This was considered the conclusive proof that his argument was correct.

The Librarian and Syndicate faced some difficult decisions on accepting M'Ghee's books; they were willing to accept his conditions, but not the brass plate originally attached to the bookcase in which the books were presented, which read "Documents on the crimes of the papal apostacy presented to the University Library by the Red'd Robert James M'Ghee AM, May 1840". The collection includes letters from M'Ghee to the Librarian and the Vice-Chancellor justifying his choice of words, and eventually agreeing to the less controversial title suggested by the Syndicate, which states more simply "Documents on the papacy ...". He wrote that he was surprised at the Syndicate's concern, since no problems had arisen at Oxford or Dublin when he gave the books; in fact at Trinity College in 1852 the Provost requested that the plate be removed to avoid offence.M'Ghee subsequently gave a further 12 titles to the library, mainly pamphlets written by himself, including a further explanation of the significance of the documents written in 1868. Many of the volumes remain partly or fully unopened, suggesting M'Ghee's enthusiasm for his cause may not be reflected among the Library's readership. All quotations in this description are taken from materials within the collection.

References and further reading:

C.E. Sayle, A catalogue of the Bradshaw collection of Irish books in the University Library, Cambridge (Cambridge, 1916) vol. II nos. 8310-8357 B128.2
The Church of Rome ... A report on "The books and documents on the papacy" deposited in the University Library, Cambridge ... (London, 1852) 8100.c.506