Rome: Venantium Monaldini, 1748. Quarto (12 1/8 by 9 3/4 inches), modern navy morocco, gilt spine, uncut. Copper-engraved on fine deckle-edged paper and mounted on tabs, bold impressions with several discreet marginal repairs not affecting plates. Fine. Item #965
AD MAJOREM DEI GLORIAM INQUE HOMINUM SALUTEM ("FOR THE GREATER GLORY OF GOD AND THE SALVATION OF HUMANITY") Rare collection of 18 large copper-engraved portraits of St. Ignatius de Loyola and the earliest Superiors General of the Jesuits—iconic images of the "Compagnia di Gesù" at the peak of its global influence just before the 1773 Suppression of the Jesuits. The Society of Jesus was founded by Ignatius de Loyola at the University of Paris when "the bantam-sized ex-soldier gathered a small band of men in a little church on the hill of Montmarte in 1534 to take vows of chastity, obedience, poverty, and a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Loyola created a force that would help transform the Catholic Church and shape much of its history for the next four centuries. He was a God-intoxicated soul, a mystic with a unique genius for communicating his own love of God" (Thomas Bokenkotter). Endorsed by the Papacy, the Jesuits established themselves in Rome and set about building a global presence for their missionary and educational programs. The Father General of the Society, elected for life, was sometimes known as "the Black Pope"—a reference to both the plain black cassock worn by the Jesuits and the formidable influence wielded by the Society.
Derived from a popular illustrated biography of the Jesuit Superiors (published in Rome between 1748-1758), this is the publication of the plates only, gathering all 18 of the copper-engraved portraits from three separate editions. The first edition was published in 1748 with 15 portraits, supplemented with letterpress biographies (sub-titled, "Ritratti de Preposti Generali della Compagnia di Gesù") by Niccolo Galeotti. The second (1751) and third (1756) editions each added an additional portrait and the final edition of 1758 contained 18 engravings. Prefaced by the original 1748 engraved title page—and beginning with the founder of the Order, St. Ignatius Loyola (canonized 1622)—the portraits include Diego Lainez (one of Loyola's original companions in Paris, Lainez was elected as the second Superior of the Order after Loyola died in 1556), St. Francisco de Borja (founder of the Collegio Romano, canonized 1670), Everard Mercurian, Claudio Aquaviva, Muzio Vitelleschi, Vincenzo Carrafa, Francesco Piccolomini, Alessandro Gottifredi, Goswin Nickel, Giovanni Paolo Oliva, Charles de Noyelle, Tirso Gonzalez, Michelangelo Tamburini, Franz Retz, Ignazio Visconti, Aloysius Centurione, and Lorenzo Ricci.
These portraits represent the high-water mark of the Company, a rise already in danger when these biographies were published. The Society of Jesus aroused animosity in many quarters and, by the middle of the century, "the Jesuits were the epicenter of controversy. Their spectacular success in almost every field they seemed to touch sparked jealousy, especially as their schools grew in size, prestige and number." An "informal and highly unlikely coalition of Jansenists, Gallicans, and 'philosophes' agitated for the suppression of the Jesuit order and bit by bit was able to convince, hoodwink, or intimidate the monarchs of Portugal, Spain, Naples, France, and finally Austria into pressuring the papacy" for the suppression of the order. The final blow fell in the summer of 1773 when the Society of Jesus was formally suppressed by Pope Clement XIV, "a colossal tragedy for Catholicism" (John W. O'Malley). The final edition includes an engraving of the ill-fated Lorenzo Ricci of the Collegio Romano, newly elected as Superior in May 1758. Seized by the papal police after the Suppression, Ricci and five of his aides were imprisoned in Castel Sant'Angelo. Held without a trial, Ricci died in November 1775 after forgiving everyone who conspired in the downfall of the Order. His assistants were released several months later but the Society of Jesus was largely silenced for the next thirty years. Father Ricci is buried in the tomb of the Jesuit Generals at Il Gesù. Backer-Sommervogel. Bibliotheque de la Compagnie de Jesus, Vol. 3, columns 1108-1109 (not listing a publication of plates only, as here). Bokenkotter. A Concise History of the Catholic Church. O'Malley. A History of the Popes: From Peter to the Present.