Thomas Connary was an Irish immigrant who loved books, particularly Catholic devotional literature. He had over two hundred in his library – a rare thing for a New England farmer in the nineteenth century. Connary spent countless hours modifying his books by writing notes in the margins, pressing flowers between the pages, and adding clippings of newspaper articles. Although Protestant authorities declared him insane, Connary labored feverishly to fashion each book into a storehouse of memories and Catholic moral teaching. In his book, Books and Religious Devotion: the Redemptive Reading of an Irishman in Nineteenth-Century New England, Allan Westphall discusses how books can become sites of religious devotion and what we can learn by considering the diverse ways that readers use books.
Listen to my podcast interview with the author at http://marginalia.lareviewofbooks.org/first-impressions-36-allan-westphall/