MEDITATION AND SPIRITUAL GUIDANCE

Exercitia spiritvalia.

Pont-à-Mousson, Melchiorem Bernardum, 1605.

£2,350

16mo. pp. 256, (x). A-R⁸. Roman letter, some Italic. Woodcut Jesuit device on title page, another on verso of last, text within double ruled border, typographical ornaments, head- and tail-pieces, small woodcut initials, ‘Colleg. Societ. Jesu’ in contemporary hand on title page. Light age yellowing, very rare marginal spot. A very good copy in contemporary limp vellum, yapp edges, all edges with red and blue bands, vellum a little soiled, joints with some cracks.

A very charming, near miniature edition, of St Ignatius’ Exercitia Spiritualia finely printed at the Jesuit College at Pont-à-Mousson. St. Ignatius underwent religious conversion while recuperating in 1521 from wounds suffered in battle. He began writing down his experiences in order to help himself “converse about the things of God.” These were the origins of the Spiritual Exercises, on which Ignatius continued to work for the next two decades. The Exercises encapsulated the essence of his own spiritual experience and presented it in a form that would guide others. It is a design for a process of prayer, meditation, and discernment that would “allow the Creator to deal directly with the creature, and the creature directly with the Creator.”

In the 1530s Ignatius studied philosophy and theology at the University of Paris, where he guided six of his fellow-students in the Exercises who, as a result, formed with him the nucleus of what in 1540 became the Society of Jesus. The book circulated in manuscript among members of the Society until it was finally published in Rome by Antonio Blado in 1548. That edition is now unfindable and all early editions are rare. One of the most innovative and distinctive aspects of the Exercises was that individuals did not undertake them on their own but with the help of another, who acted as guide. “The ‘Exercises’ (…) form a unique book, inspired by a remarkable fixity of purpose and designed for a clearly defined and practical end. (…) Its asceticism is not one of resignation or withdrawal, but full of a positive recognition of an active life. It is this characteristic in particular which made the book such a powerful influence. (…) As a work of religious inspiration the impact has been almost as great outside the Society of Jesus as within” Printing and the Mind of Man, pp. 45.

Pont-à-Mousson was one of the Jesuit colleges that were turned into a full university with faculties in theology, law and medicine. It was very successful with 1,200 students of which 400 at the university faculties at the time Jean Bouvet took over as rector in 1607. It was also one of the first colleges where mathematics was taught, usually by the philosophy professor, before an official chair was founded in 1611. It was clearly large enough to have its own press. A very good unsophisticated copy of this work.

Not in BM STC Fr. C17th.

L2080

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