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Information Update, Fall 2022

Edward R. Leahy ‘68 donates rare book to Hill-Davis Jesuit Collection

Edward R. Leahy ’68 has donated his copy of Hieronymous Natalis, S.J., Evangelicae Historia Images, printed in Antwerp by the press of Christopher Plantin in 1593, to the Weinberg Memorial Library’s Hill-Davis Jesuit Collection. Vicar Hieronymous Natalis, S.J. (known as Jerome Nadal), was commissioned by Ignatius Loyola to create an illustrated book of Gospel stories which served as the inspiration for subsequent illustrated versions of the Spiritual Exercises. The book had tremendous importance for the Jesuits and for the Catholic Reformation. It presented new techniques for interpreting Gospel images utilizing contemporary Renaissance artistic techniques which influenced Catholic art around the world.

Nadal (1507-1580) had known Ignatius at the University of Alcala and at the University of Paris but did not join Ignatius’ circle at that time. A few years later, as a priest in Spain, he read St. Francis Xavier’s letters from India and discovered that Ignatius had formed the Jesuits. He traveled to Rome and joined the order in 1545 and became Ignatius’ secretary. He founded the first Jesuit college in Messina and coined the phrase “contemplative in action.”

In 1554, Ignatius appointed Nadal Vicar General of the Society. Ignatius asked Nadal to produce the book. He worked with the prominent Antwerp printer, Christopher Plantin, and Plantin’s successor, Martin Nutius, to recruit artists and create the work. The images were based primarily on pen and wash drawings by Livio Agresti, which were turned into drawings, primarily by Bernardo Passeri, that could be used by engravers.

It took 40 years between Loyola’s initial commission and the publication of the work. The book’s imagery influenced Catholic art within Europe and in the Americas and Asia. The annotated illustrations also served as a model for future Jesuit meditative manuals. This very rare book is in fine condition and is bound in red morocco leather with gilt-decorations.

—Professor Michael Knies, Special Collections Librarian and University Archivist

Transfiguration illustration from Evangelicae HistoriaImages

Transfiguration illustration from Evangelicae HistoriaImages

Annunciation illustration from Natalis’ Evangelicae HistoriaImages

Annunciation illustration from Natalis’ Evangelicae HistoriaImages