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The Rev. J. Donald Monan, S.J. Collection of Jesuitana, The John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections

Collection Profile

It is only fitting that the largest of the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States should boast the premier Jesuitana collection in the nation. Exhibitions, catalogs, and conferences in the past focusing on the collection have given the library the opportunity to publicize its Jesuit treasures. The collection represents a wealth of material that is critical to a fuller understanding and appreciation of the many Jesuit contributions to early modern thought and culture, not only in Europe, but also in the New World and the Far East. Some highlights include seminal works in science and mathematics from Christopher Clavius (1538–1612), Gaspar Schott (1608–1666), and Athanasius Kircher (1602–1680); devotional material by Gerónimo Nadal (1507–1580); and travel literature, one outstanding example being the first comprehensive account of Asia to be published in English by Richard Willes, The History of Travayle in the West and East Indies and Other Countreys Lying Eyther Way Towards the Fruitful and Ryche Moluccaes (1577).

In 1986, Boston College published the first print catalog of its rather modest but important collection of Jesuit material. Since then, the Jesuitana collection has grown tremendously and is currently one of the most dynamic special collections in the Burns Library. In the 1990s came three major acquisitions from the Weston School of Theology in Cambridge, Massachusetts; the Jesuit Library from the Rue Dauphine residence in Old Quebec City, Canada; and the Bibliothèque des Fontaines in Chantilly, France. In 1996, the collection was named the Rev. J. Donald Monan, S.J. Collection of Jesuitana at Boston College, in honor of Boston College's outgoing, long-serving president. Currently, the collection numbers some 15,000 titles, covering virtually the entire spectrum of human knowledge, including many rare and seminal works in the fields of theology, philosophy, Biblical exegesis, mathematics, science, history, politics, and travel. It is especially rich in pre-Suppression (i.e., pre-1773) materials. In addition, the collection includes three original letters from Jesuit saints—Francis Borgia, Robert Bellarmine, and Francis Xavier.

Cataloging of the collection has progressed steadily, but the Chantilly acquisition has proven especially challenging because of its many "bound-with" volumes, each of which contains numerous pamphlets requiring separate title analysis. Growth has also continued in other areas of the Jesuitana Collection due to generous gifts from the Jesuit Community of Boston College and the Jesuit Institute of Boston College, as well as the efforts of a number of independent booksellers who have taken a special interest in helping Boston College strengthen this important scholarly resource. In late 2006, Boston College converted the temporary cataloging appointment into a permanent one, underscoring the college's commitment to sustaining, extending, and showcasing this unique collection. The Jesuit Institute has been instrumental in helping widen scholarly access to the collection. In 2004, the institute created a Traveling Research Grant available for research in any field of the humanities making use of the Jesuitana Collection, with preference given to scholars specializing in the early modern period.

Collection Profile and Overview: Jill G. Thomas and Robert K. O'Neill
Illustrations: Stephen Vedder

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