Call it the luck of the Irish: When Frank McGinity was contacted by representatives of the estate of a bookseller in Santa Paula, the president of the California chapter of the American Irish Historical Society walked into a book aficionado’s chance of a lifetime.

“(He) must have had a particular interest in Irish history and literature,” McGinity said of the late Edward Miller, who sold books in Burbank. Miller’s family was not interested in keeping any of the estate’s books so McGinity soon found himself the proud new owner of a couple thousand volumes, several rare, most out of print, and many on Irish history and literature.

But it wasn’t just a coup because of all the early editions by William Butler Yeats and Frank O’Connor, or the excellent condition of books that documented the Irish struggle for independence from England. Among the stacks and boxes of books he, California AIHS vice president Patricia Clark Doerner and UCSB professor Enda Duffy went through was the second volume of Martin Luther’s Der Ander Teil (The Other Part), a treatise the Protestant Reformer published in 1548.

“It just blew my mind,” said Doerner, who discovered the book while sorting first editions from copies, Irish books from everything else. “We’ve got a real treasure here.”

The 12,000-page book, in fragile but good condition, leather bound and just a little larger than a phone book, is an early edition published before Luther’s death. McGinity said there’s a good chance Luther reviewed this edition, before the two volumes were broken down into 12.

Other books of note include The Story of the Irish Citizen Army, Sean O’Casey’s account of the events leading to the Easter Rising of 1916 in Dublin, and The Fate of Father Sheehy, which chronicles the trial and execution of a priest who encouraged his congregation not to tithe to the Church of Ireland.

“It’s not just the story, but the legal proceedings,” Doerner explained.

On Sunday, the California chapter of the American Irish Historical Society will be holding a book sale, with more than half of its 15,000-book acquisition available for purchase. The early editions of the books on Irish culture won’t be for sale, but many of the collection’s old or out-of-print copies of novels will be. And the club might be persuaded to part with Der Ander Teil, for the right offer.

About the size of a phone book, Martin Luther's <i data-recalc-dims=Der Ander Teil (The Other Part) is in relatively good condition, considering that it’s 461 years old.” width=“310” height=“400” />

About the size of a phone book, Martin Luther’s Der Ander Teil (The Other Part) is in relatively good condition, considering that it’s 461 years old. (Michelle J. Wong / Noozhawk photo)

Club members will get first crack at the book sale, to be held at the Santa Barbara Mission, 2201 Laguna St. They’ll be able to book browse at 1 p.m., and the general public will get its chance at 3 p.m. Even if they don’t sell all the books, joke McGinity and Doerner, it’s not a problem.

“We’ll want to buy them ourselves,” Doerner said.

As for the rare finds, they’ll be joining the club’s already extensive collection. Some will go on exhibit in the near future.

The New York City-based American Irish Historical Society was founded in Boston in 1897 with the aim of making the Irish chapter of American history better known. Prominent members have included President Theodore Roosevelt, Adm. Richard Meade and sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at