‘For the Greater Glory of God and the More Universal Good’: a conference exhibition

Af-beeldinghe van d'Eerste Eeuwe der Societeyt Jesu (1604), SHL [D.-L.L.] F3 [Jesuits] Relation of the Bloody Massacre … (1689), SHL [D.-L.L.] Cc.5 [Ireland]

Karen Attar (Senate House Library)

For several years now Senate House Library has been supporting conferences hosted by SAS Institute’s wherever possible. Usually this is through small displays of books pertinent to the conference theme, to enhance the experience of conference delegates and demonstrate the relevance of library holdings – especially special collections holdings – for research.

We are marking an exciting new departure with the conference organised by the Institute of English Studies and Heythrop College to celebrate the 400th Anniversary of the Foundation of  Heythrop College and of the Jesuit Educational Tradition. For one thing the display is much larger than usual conference displays, filling six display cases and being represented in the Senate House Library website’s exhibition gallery. For another the collaboration between Senate House Library and SAS has taken on an additional dimension with the exhibition being a joint one between Senate House Library, Heythrop College and the Warburg Institute.

The books shown in the exhibition fall into five themes:

  • Founding the Jesuits
  • Anti-Jesuit Sentiment
  • Jesuit theology
  • Jesuit scholarship
  • Jesuit creativity

Missionary work crept in via the scholarship, with Guy Tachard’s Voyage de Siam des Peres Jesuites, Envoyés par le Roy, aux Indes & à la Chine (1687).  The greatest emphasis, however, is on Jesuit scholarship, appropriately so as scholarship and education have been at the heart of the Society of Jesus’s activities since its foundation in 1540 and are also at the core of University activity, and as the conference celebrates above all the Jesuit educational tradition.

Filippo Buonanni, Numismata summorum pontificum Templi Vaticani fabricam indicantia (1696), Warburg CNH 2455
Filippo Buonanni, Numismata summorum pontificum Templi Vaticani fabricam indicantia (1696), Warburg CNH 2455

Books range from Irish history (by Edmund Campion) to mathematics (Christoph Clavius), architecture (Gaspar Schott), philosophy (the Coimbra Commentators; Francisco de Toledo), numismatics (Filippo Buonanni), Egyptology (Athanasius Kircher) and even a treatise by Benito Pereira on magic, dream interpretation and astrology.

Some are textbooks. The Aristotelian commentaries Commentarii Collegii Conimbricensis e Societate Iesu in universam dialecticam Aristotelis Stagiritae (1607), intended as the basis for a Jesuit course in philosophy, served as philosophy textbooks in universities throughout Europe in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries and were frequently reprinted in Germany, France and Italy. The much smaller Epitome arithmeticae practicae (1583) is the earliest of several mathematical textbooks by Christoph Clavius, many of which he wrote for instruction in Jesuit schools. The book was published in six Latin and four Italian editions during his lifetime, showing a steady demand by Jesuits and non-Jesuits alike.

The large folios would have had smaller markets. Striking for its lavish illustration is Filippo Buonanni’s Numismata summorum pontificum Templi Vaticani fabricam indicantia (1696), a study of the coins issued by popes from Martin V to Innocent III; the book has 240 pages of text plus preliminaries, and 88 plates, a high proportion of illustration to text. For attractiveness it must compete with the work published by the Jesuits to celebrate their one-hundredth anniversary, Af-beeldinghe van d’Eerste Eeuwe der Societeyt Jesu voor Ooghen Ghestelt door de Duyts-Nederlantsche Provincie der Selver Societeyt, translated from Imago primi saeculi Societatis Jesu (1640).

Af-beeldinghe van d'Eerste Eeuwe der Societeyt Jesu (1604), SHL [D.-L.L.] F3 [Jesuits] Relation of the Bloody Massacre … (1689), SHL [D.-L.L.] Cc.5 [Ireland]
Af-beeldinghe van d’Eerste Eeuwe der Societeyt Jesu (1604), SHL [D.-L.L.] F3 [Jesuits]
Relation of the Bloody Massacre … (1689), SHL [D.-L.L.] Cc.5 [Ireland]
Not everything in the exhibition is scholarly, and the least scholarly (in the section “Anti-Jesuit sentiment”) is an anonymous eight-page English pamphlet from 1689 with crude woodcuts. Its title reveals the tenor of the content: A Relation of the Bloody Massacre in Ireland Acted by the Instigation of the Jesuits, Priests, and Friars who were promoters of those horrible murders, prodigious cruelties, barbarous villanies, and inhuman practices executed by the Irish papists upon the English Protestants with an account of the Spanish Inquisition. One can’t win them all.

Dr Karen Attar is Rare Books Librarian at Senate House Library. 

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