A SYSTEMATIC APPROACH TO MENTAL PRAYER
Tractatus Directorii horarum canonicarum et Exercitatorii vite spiritualis.
Paris, Jean Petit, 13 April 1511.
8vo. ff. 99 (v). A-B8, a-n8, last blank. Lettre Bâtard. Title in red and black, printer’s woodcut device within four block woodcut border, fine woodcut, white on black, criblé initials in various sizes, two small woodcut scenes of the life of Christ on verso of last, early autograph at head of title page, another on verso of last ‘1532’. Light age yellowing, minor light water stain at gutter on a few quires, title page very fractionally dusty. A very good clean copy, on thick, crisp paper, in excellent contemporary Parisian sheep, covers blind ruled to a ‘gril de St. Laurent’ design with blind rolls of thistles and acorns, spine with three blind ruled raised bands, corners a little worn, early repairs to head and tail of spine, remains of ties.
Very rare early printing of these treatises by the Spanish Franciscan Garcia de Cisneros, both important precursors of Spanish classical mysticism which had a profound influence on the ‘Spiritual Exercises’ of St. Ignatius Loyola, itself one of the most influential works of the C16th. “Fray Garcia Jimenez de Cisneros (1455-1510) was a first cousin of a Franciscan, Cardinal Francisco de Cisneros, right arm of the Catholic Kings in the religious reform of the peninsula. In 1493 together with thirteen other monks from the monastery of St. Benedict of Valladolid, he had arrived at Montserrat with a mission of reform.
In 1499 he installed the first printing press in the monastery and in 1500 brought out his two major works: the ‘Ejercitatorio de Vida Espiritual’ and the ‘Directorio de las Horas Canonicas’. Neither are strictly speaking original works, but skilful compilations from the authors from the Middle Ages and the Devotio Moderna. Among these, five names in particular stand out: St. Bonaventura, Hugh of Balma, John Gerson, Gerard of Zutphen, and John Mombaer. From the first two, Cisneros took the classic scheme of the ‘three ways (purgative, illuminative and unitive); to Gerson may be traced many of the counsels and considerations on Prayer and the contemplative life; and to Zutphen and Mombaer the methodical presentation of the spiritual life characteristic of the Devotio Moderna.” Javier Melloni, ‘The Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola in the Western Tradition.’
Guided by zeal for reform, and convinced of the virtues of methodical prayer, García de Cisneros devised these small teaching manuals to introduce novices to mental prayer, and guide their progress along the path of spiritual ascension. A close study shows it is not a merely a compilation, but a carefully designed work in its own right. The ‘Ejercitatorio’ is regarded as the first comprehensive Spanish methodical treatise on prayer. St. Ignatius spent a brief three day stay at the Abbey of Montserrat, where he hung up his sword and made a detailed confession. He no doubt became acquainted with Garcia’s de Cisneros’ work there and later during his stay at the small monastery of Manresa which also followed Garcia’s teachings and method. A very charming copy in its original Parisian blind-stamped binding. A very similar binding is shown in the British library catalogue of bindings, shelf mark c107bb83.
Not in BM STC Fr. C16th. Palau VI 98637.