This magnificent volume; it is an essential addition for every Jesuitica collection.
910G Johannes Bolland 1596-1665. Jean de Tollenaere 1582-1643. Godefridus Henschenius 1601-1681
Imago Primi Saecvli Societatis Jesv A Provincia Flandro-Belgica Eivsdem Societatis Repræsentata
Antuerpiae : Ex officina Plantiniana Balthasaris Moreti: 1640 $4,500
Folio 13 ½ X 9 inches *4, A-Z4, Aa-Zz4, Aaa-Zzz4, Aaaa-Zzzz4, Aaaaa-Zzzzz4, Aaaaaa-Gggggg4. . (Gggggg4 Blank). First edition. This copy is bound in full original vellum over boards with gilt ornaments in the center of both boards.
John O’Malley SJ writes in Art, Controversy, and the Jesuits: The Imago Primi Saeculi (1640)
““In 1640 the Society of Jesus observed the centenary of its founding with elaborate celebrations worldwide. The most lasting monument from the occasion is the Imago primi saeculi Societatis Iesu, a magnificent volume of 952 folio-sized pages of poetry, prose, and 127 exquisite copperplate engravings published by the prestigious Plantin-Moretus Press, Antwerp, in a Latin edition, followed later that year by a Dutch adaptation. No other book better reveals Jesuit self-understanding at the moment when the order had achieved its mature form. The ink was hardly dry on its pages before it became an object of controversy, one of the first volleys in the bitter Jesuit/Jansenist culture war that divided French society for a century and that contributed to the papal suppression of the Jesuits in 1773.”
Published on the occasion of the centenary of the Jesuit Order. Sometimes ascribed to Jean de Tollenaer, provincial of the Society of Jesus in the Low Countries, who commissioned the work. But chiefly the work of Joannes Bollandus and Godefridus Henschenius. Each book followed by “Exercitatio poetica” (Latin and a few Greek poems) by Sidronius de Hossche, Jacques van de Walle and others. cf. Paquot’s Mémoire littéraire, Brit. mus. Catalogue, The engraved title page, designed by Philips Fruytiers and engraved by Cornelis Galle. This work contains 126 emblematic engravings within ornamental borders by Cornelius Galle, in which title, image, and explanatory text are combined to illustrate further the history of the Order of the Society of Jesus in the Low Countries, to mark the centenary of the Order.
DeBacker-Sommervogel,; vol. 1, col. 1626, no. 5;; Corpus librorum emblematum. Jesuit series, J.45; Landwehr, J. Emblem books in the Low Countries; no. 264; Bib. catholica Neerlandica impressa,; 9332; The Illustration of Books Published by the Moretuses. Antwerp: Plantin-Moretus Museum, 1996; 51; Praz,; p. 380;Désigné comme auteur principal de cet ouvrage par le P.J. Drews, “Fasti Societatis Jesu”, p. 127, et par J. Vogt, “Catalogus … librorum rariorum”, p. 362
Each book followed by “Exercitatio poetica” (Latin and a few Greek poems) by Sidronius de Hossche, Jacques van de Walle and others. cf. Paquot’s Mémoire littéraire, Brit. mus. Catalogue, The Engraved title page, designed by Philips Fruytiers and was engraved by Cornelis Galle. This wonderful book contains 126 emblematic engravings within ornamental borders by Cornelius Galle, in which title, image, and explanatory text are combined to illustrate further the history of the Order.The Printer’s device Commissioned by Jean de Tollenaere, provincial of the Society of Jesus in the Low Countries, to mark the centenary of the Order. Praz describes the work as “the celebration of celebrations, the triumphal arch erected by the Jesuits in rich, luxuriant scrolls, in bizarre and pompous cartouches” and notes how the style of the emblems matches the subjects of the various sections, including persecution, martyrdom, travails in Japan and England, the trophies and homages of popes and sovereigns, etc.
This volume is combining history, poetry, and emblematics that set forth the Society’s accomplishments, goals, and ideals. The Imago, a book intended for the edification of both Jesuits and laypersons, combines sophisticated Latin and Greek poetry and prose with engravings intended to instruct and inspire. The work is organized around several “postures” of the evolving Society: being born (nascens)—with a horoscope cast on its birthday, growing (crescens), laboring (agens), suffering (patiens), and ultimately honored (honorata), thus casting the Society in the role of a living person, one that emulates in its actions and goals the divine Person of the Savior.
The illustrations, in some cases masterworks of the engraver’s art, combine realism, appreciation of contemporary technology, classical allusion, and sometimes arcane symbolism to convey the accomplishments and objectives of the ever-active Society.
Page 321 shows a muscular putto (perhaps suggesting the robust youths who attended Jesuit schools) poised on a cloud, manipulating screws and gears to elevate the earth, which hangs like a watch or pendant from a cable. The caption, an echo of the famous remark of Archimedes, “Give me a place to stand on and I can move the earth” (Δος μοι που οτω και κινω την γην), declares, “Give him a place to fix his foot, and he shall move the earth” (Fac pedem figat, & terram movebit). The rising globe, drawn by constantly turning machinery, reinforces the pun on the word conversio, which can mean both “a complete turn” (of the pulleys and gears) and “conversion.” In one vision, mechanics, baroque ornamentation, apostolic zeal, and the world scope of the Society combine to create an arresting image of purposeful change.
Archimedes returns on page 718 in the apocryphal story of the scientist defeating an enemy fleet attacking the Sicilian city of Siracusa by directing the rays of the sun onto the ships, which then burst into flames. The illustration shows Archimedes at the city’s harbor performing this wonder, but the interpretation here leads us to the Founder of the Society: Ignatius è cathedra divini amoris igne concionem inflammat—Caelestibus armis eminus expugnat (Ignatius from the throne of divine love sets aflame his hearers with fire—From a distance by means of heavenly arms he wins the victory).
Thumbnail image from the Imago primi saeculi
In the Imago the Society not only turns loyally like a sunflower toward the sun of papal authority, but is also on occasion portrayed as the sun itself. In the engraving on page 565, a quartet of archers in fools’ costumes vainly attempt to attack the sun, but their arrows only turn back to fall against them. The superscription proclaims, “In vain do those jealous of the Society attack it” (Societas frustrà oppugnatur ab invidis), and below we read, “No arrow reaches the sun” (Solem nulla sagitta ferit). In this instance the message conveyed elsewhere in the Imago of how the Society is made stronger by blows is turned in a new direction: instead, it is the attackers of the Society—the word invidis suggests these are not pagans or heretics but Catholic rivals (perhaps the Franciscans or Dominicans?)—who are made to feel the force of their own blows. And in the exact center of this emblem a foolish archer is already cringing as an arrow descends directly onto his head.
Thumbnail image from the Imago primi saeculi
Animals abound in the Imago. An ancient myth held that the she-bear after delivering her young licked her shapeless cubs into the form of small quadrupeds that then could grow to ursine adulthood. Playing on the double meaning of lingua (tongue), the artist of this emblem on page 465 depicts a robust mother bear shaping her still podlike offspring with her tongue, an act that the superscription identifies as “the work of ordered clergy” (concionatorum munus). This message is reinforced by the command below the illustration: “Shape ye minds with your tongue” (Vos mentes fingite lingua).
Jesuit teachers of rhetoric were therefore not merely teaching a practical skill when they instructed youths in the art of speaking, but were also promoting morals. The verse accompanying this picture explains:
Cernis? En cultu rediere mores:
Efferos turbae posuere ritus:
Pulchra virtutis facies renidet
(Do you see? Morals have been restored through cultivation: ceremony holds the savage elements of the crowd in check: the fair visage of virtue shines forth with language as its champion.)
The Imago, a rich expression of Jesuit baroque sensibility perhaps best compared to a work of architecture, was never equaled among the hundreds of historical or pedagogical titles produced by Jesuit presses in the next 133 years, and remains the definitive expression of the Jesuits’ own vision of their mission and the world they hoped to transform.”
The preceding was copied from the online component of the Special Collections exhibit, “Spiritual Journeys: Books Illustrating the First Two Centuries of Contemplation and Action of the Society of Jesus,” displayed in the St. Louis Room of Pius XII Memorial Library from September 10, 2008 to January 23, 2009. Featuring early Jesuit works from Pius Library’s rare book collection, this exhibit explores the evolution of Jesuit identity over the first two centuries of the Society’s existence.The exhibit was curated by Paul Shore, with Rare Books Librarian Jennifer Lowe. The textual content of this website is an expanded version of the essay by Professor Shore that appears in the printed catalog.
Landwehr, J. Emblem books in the Low Countries,; no. 264; DeBacker-Sommervogel,; vol 1, col. 1626, n. 5; The Illustration of Books Published by the Moretuses. Antwerp: Plantin-Moretus Museum, 1996.,; 51; Praz,; p. 380;Désigné comme auteur principal de cet ouvrage par le P.J. Drews, “Fasti Societatis Jesu”, p. 127, et par J. Vogt, “Catalogus … librorum rariorum”, p. 362, le P. de Tollenaer n’en serait que l’instigateur, d’après Sommervogel, qui en attribue la plus grande part au P. Bolland dont les collaborateurs furent, entre autres, le P. Henschenius pour le texte en prose et les PP. Hosschius et Vande Walle pour les pièces de vers. – Illustré de 124 emblèmes, dus vraisemblablement au graveur du frontispice, Cornelis Galle. (Palau 118458, IT\ICCU\VEAE\008060) Cfr. C. Sommervogel, Dictionnaire des ouvrages anonymes et pseudonymes…, Paris 1884 v. 1 col. 409 e P.J. Drews, “Fasti Societatis Jesu”, p. 127, et par J. Vogt, “Catalogus … librorum rariorum”, p. 362, le P. de Tollenaer n’en serait que l’instigateur, d’après Sommervogel, qui en attribue la plus grande part au P. Bolland dont les collaborateurs furent, entre autres, le P. Henschenius pour le texte en prose et les PP. Hosschius et Vande Walle pour les pièces de vers. – Illustré de 124 emblèmes, dus vraisemblablement au graveur du frontispice, Cornelis Galle. (Palau 118458, IT\ICCU\VEAE\008060) Cfr. C. Sommervogel, Dictionnaire des ouvrages anonymes et pseudonymes…, Paris 1884 v. 1 col. 409