Burns Doubles Size Of Jesuitana Collection

Now among nation's largest

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

Burns Library has doubled its Jesuitana holdings with the recent acquisition of more than 5,000 rare books from France, and now boasts one of the largest US collections of Jesuit volumes published prior to the suppression of the Society of Jesus.

Boston College negotiated the acquisition of the antiquarian volumes from the Bibliotheque des Fontaines, a large Jesuit library in Chantilly. The books recently arrived at Burns Library, where they are being examined and archived.

"It's an extraordinary acquisition, and a very important step toward more direct cooperation between Jesuit libraries," said Burns Librarian Robert O'Neill.

"Effectively, it doubles, in one acquisition, our Jesuitana holdings that have been built up over decades, and it establishes a special link between the Bibliotheque des Fontaines, the largest Jesuit library in the world, and the Burns Library, offering opportunities for future cooperation between our two libraries."

As many as half of the volumes are believed to date from the era prior to 1773, a critical year in Jesuit history which saw European political machinations lead to a 41-year suppression of the Society of Jesus. The acquisition from Bibliotheque des Fontaines, along with some 1,200 rare volumes last year from the Weston School of Theology, brings the number of pre-suppression books alone in the Burns collection to more than 5,000, according to library staff.

Burns Library Senior Reference Librarian John Atteberry displays a Bible that was among the volumes recently acquired from the Bibliotheque des Fontaines in France.

O'Neill said he plans a major Jesuitana exhibit in fall 1998 that will showcase both sets of these materials. He will invite the French Jesuit provincial as well as representatives from the Bibliotheque des Fontaines to the event.

During a recent interview, Senior Reference Librarian John Atteberry displayed a selection of the books, including a 1607 volume of St. Francis Xavier's collected letters that can fit in the reader's palm, and a 1603 edition of the Ratio Studiorum , which provided the basis for Jesuit education. A 1632 edition of the Holy Bible with accompanying commentary by Scottish Jesuit James Gordon, SJ, featured a title page strikingly illustrated with portraits of Pope Urban VIII and French King Louis XIII.

The collection also includes a large two-volume tome on New Testament history published in 1613, Commentarii in Evangelicam Historiam et in Acta Apostolorum , authored by Spanish Jesuit Alphonse Salmeron, SJ, one of the original companions of Society of Jesus founder St. Ignatius Loyola.

That Boston College was able to negotiate the acquisition of such valuable books indicates the respect with which the school is held in Jesuit library circles here and abroad, Atteberry said.

"They understood we would be a suitable home for the holdings," he said. "Boston College has gained an international reputation as a place for Jesuit studies. We have already had international scholars here looking for works they couldn't find in Europe. The addition of the French element will strengthen our holdings considerably."

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