Monday, May 14, 2012

Unigenitus 101

"The fear of an unjust excommunication should never hinder us from fulfilling our duty...."             
                                      Proposition 91 condemned by Pope Clement XI in Unigenitus

On September 8, 1713 Pope Clement XI issued the dogmatic constitution Unigenitus, a document condemning 101 propositions purportedly found in the writings of the French Oratorian priest, Pasquier Quesnel. Issued at the behest of Louis XIV, Unigenitus followed years of contention between the papacy, the French crown, and various ecclesiastical entities tainted by or merely suspected of adherence to questionable theological precepts attributed to Cornelius Jansen, former bishop of Ypres. 

Pasquier Quesnel. (Frontispiece, Nouvelles Ecclesiastiques, 1713)

Quesnel himself belonged to the new generation of Jansenists.  His Réflexions morales, written in French, had more public impact than Jansen’s abstruse Latin theology. For years Quesnel’s nonconformist, not to say heretical positions, were seen as a threat to Louis XIV’s absolutist government, and when the seizure of Quesnel’s private papers in 1703 revealed his alarming network of Jansenist supporters all over Europe, the king had had enough. In 1705 Louis XIV persuaded the Pope to issue his first anti-Jansenist bull Vineam Domini. This bull was met with defiance in some quarters, and Louis embarked on a policy of repression, but the government’s brutality only sparked further unrest. By 1711 renewed anxiety drove Louis to seek help again from Pope Clement, and Unigenitus was promulgated. The ensuing ecclesio-political crisis shows that once again, both Louis XIV and Pope Clement had miscalculated.
Some sample volumes of the Miscellanea.
Many of the primary sources for this tumultuous period are represented here in the Clementine Collection of CUA's Rare Books department. Housed in several dozen volumes,  are more than 1,000 pamphlets, manuscripts and broadsides, including papal decrees and royal mandates written in response to Unigenitus and documenting the intense controversy it aroused. The pamphlets were produced by zealots on all sides and in great numbers; according to historian B. Robert Kreiser, over 200 pamphlets were issued on Unigenitus in the year 1714 alone. These works testify to the turbulent decades following the bull’s publication, and to divers factions and competing agenda: the Pope reiterating orthodox teaching; the monarch intent on keeping order; his Jesuit allies determined to crush Jansenism; the theologians of the Sorbonne resisting both papal and regal power; the ambivalent bishops and upper clergy; the increasingly restive lower clergy, (usually impecunious parish priests); the Parlements or magistrates, hostile to papal control of the Gallican church and objecting vehemently to the condemnation of proposition 91 (see above). A majority of prelates (the constitutionnaires) accepted the Bull, but others like Cardinal Noailles, (Archbishop of Paris, and leader of the anti-constitutionnaires) sought modifications from Clement before they would sign. And long after the deaths of Quesnel, Louis, Clement and Noailles, others had taken their places, continuing the pamphlet war with anonymous works, fictitious imprints, and fulminations on complex issues which challenge modern interpretation and hamper cataloging efforts. Despite such challenges and a seriously under-staffed department,  these pamphlets and associated manuscripts are RBSC’s current cataloging priority. The books have been here since 1928, but have received only sporadic attention. In the 1960s several volumes were the subject of library students' master's theses, and they received scholarly treatment from Rev. Prof. Jacques Gres-Gayer, an expert in 18th-century French Catholicism. But outside CUA, these works remain a well-kept secret, chiefly owing to their absence from any online catalog. We hope to remedy this by ensuring that these works are cataloged and available in WorldCat before September 2013, the tri-centennial of the promulgation of Unigenitus.  To meet this deadline may require curtailment of other departmental activities and users are reminded to contact us in advance for an appointment.

Binding of Miscellanea, Vol.1

Aside from the looming anniversary, other factors make these materials an obvious cataloging priority. Most of the printed works, collected in some 40 volumes known collectively as Miscellanea relativa alla bolla Unigenitus, are unique, with no examples reported even in European libraries. Additionally, the provenance of our volumes adds to their scholarly value, for the Miscellanea are pamphlets and manuscripts collected by the family of Pope Clement XI, and the volumes were assembled in and for the Albani library. As such, they offer a unique window into the mind of Clement and his circle, and testify to his family’s organizational methods. They are veritable filing cabinets in book form (often with 40 or more titles bound together), still in their original bindings of vellum and block-printed paper. Many pamphlets bear the pen marks of careful reading, while others show folds, perhaps from being carelessly shoved into the pocket of an eighteenth-century cassock. A number are presentation copies, dedicated to Pope Clement or to members of his family. All the containing volumes were bound to order, with letterpress spine labels and manuscript title pages. As the books are cataloged, more information will be made available on the contents, the bibliographic features, and the organizational principles inherent in these volumes.

The first of more than 1,000 18th-century works related to Unigenitus, this pamphlet contains the text of Clement's Pastoralis officii, a condemnation of the French bishops who appealed against Unigenitus to a general council.

This water-color drawing of Clement XI's
coat of arms serves as the cover to a special presentation copy for the pope of a 1717 doctoral thesis by a theological student of Coimbra, Portugal.



The French government's 1722 condemnation of the bishops' appeal against Unigenitus, printed by the famed Imprimerie Royale.

               One of numerous broadsides, folded into a volume of the Miscellanea,
               this Lisbon imprint of 1717 contains a condemnation by the Roman    
               Inquisition of various French books hostile to Unigenitus.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Irish literature (and Irish tourism) would probably be better off without the encumbrance of a script which, though most decorative on postage stamps, raises an additional bar to its understanding...
                                                    S.H. Steinberg. Five Hundred Years of Printing

"Short Directions for Reading Irish" - from The Life of Saint Patrick, Apostle of Ireland. Dublin: H. Fitzpatrick, 1810.

The three pages of instruction reproduced here appeared in several editions of this life of St. Patrick. Similar abbreviated Irish language tutorials may be found in other religious works, Bibles, etc. from the early 19th century. They are interesting for the use of Irish type, which, as Steinberg observed, was an exception amidst the predominating Roman typefaces of western Europe.

A good overview of the history of Irish typefaces may be found in Mathew Staunton's work Trojan Horses and Friendly Faces: Irish Gaelic Typography as Propaganda in which the earliest Irish type is revealed to be the work of Queen Elizabeth I. The Irish themselves wasted no time in appropriating the idea, and a number of native Irish typefaces were developed which were far less Roman in appearance and more related to medieval letter forms.

By the 1830s the rise of Irish nationalism and interest in Irish history spurred the development of Irish types such as the semi-uncial produced by George Petrie for use in the first bilingual edition of one of Ireland's key historical sources, known as the Annals of the Four Masters.
Opening words of the Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland. Dublin: Hodges, Smith, 1856 

Petrie later designed a typeface modeled on early Irish minuscule hands. Known as Newman, this font was created for use by the Catholic University of Ireland, being named after that University's first rector, John Henry Newman. Despite the Irish government's adoption in the 1960s of Roman letter forms for printing Irish language texts, Irish typefaces are still being produced and their beauty is appreciated by practitioners of fine printing in Ireland and elsewhere.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Cor ad cor loquitur ("Heart speaks to heart") -- motto of Cardinal Newman

In celebration of Valentine’s Day and Cardinal Newman’s birthday (February 21) we pay homage this month to Newman and his love of books by featuring three volumes in our collection which once belonged to the famed theologian, novelist, priest, poet, cardinal, saint, and bibliophile. Newman was a well-known book enthusiast, and these volumes must have had a particular place in his affection, although they bear evidence that he gave them away in an act of generosity and friendship.

These massive volumes were already more than a century old when Newman acquired them. They contain the 1698 Paris printing, in Greek and Latin, of the works of Saint Athanasius, edited by Bernard de Montfaucon (1655-1741) a member of the Benedictine congregation of St. Maur. In the 17th century the Maurists were a center of intense scholarly and literary activity. Montfaucon was a prolific scholar best remembered for editions of the Church Fathers such as this one, and for his ground-breaking work in the field of Greek paleography.

Newman, of course, would have known all that, as his own scholarship often focused on Saint Athanasius, the 4th-century bishop of Alexandria, generally regarded as the most important of the Greek Fathers. Newman published translations of Athanasius’ writings in 1843 and again in the 1880s. But beyond his scholarly interest, Newman felt a more personal connection to the Egyptian bishop, and mentions him many times in his letters and publications. The controversies of Athanasius’ day mirrored to some extent those of Newman’s. As the outspoken opponent of Arianism, and the author of important theological treatises on the nature of Christ, Athanasius endured false accusations from his own clergy and lengthy periods of exile from his diocese. Newman also suffered for his convictions; after his conversion he was shunned by many of his Anglican friends and family, and was scarcely treated better by Catholics who too often viewed his conversion with suspicion or merely exploited his celebrity status.

The writings of Athanasius and other Church Fathers were to prove the greatest inducement to Newman’s conversion. His decision to become a Catholic was formed, over many years, from careful study of the Church Fathers and reading of church history, and hardly at all from the influence of contemporary Roman Catholics. As an Anglican clergyman, Newman had minimal contact with Catholics prior to his conversion, but books provided the vehicle for his intellectual journey towards the Roman Church, and books were central to his life thereafter. Concerned about the Anglican bishops’ hostility to his published tracts, he joked about a possible eviction from Littlemore: “Where am I to stow all my books?” he asks in a letter to J. R. Hope (Dec. 23, 1841). Judging by his room in the Birmingham Oratory, this would have been a perennial worry.

Later in life he wrote to Pusey of the renewed kinship he felt for the books of the Fathers, once he had become a Catholic:

I recollect well what an outcast I seemed to myself, when I took down from the shelves of my library the volumes of St. Athanasius or St. Basil, and set myself to study them; and how, on the contrary, when at length I was brought into Catholic communion, I kissed them with delight, with a feeling that in them I had more than all that I had lost; and, as though I were directly addressing the glorious saints, who bequeathed them to the Church, how I said to the inanimate pages, ‘You are now mine, and I am now yours, beyond any mistake.’ (A Letter to the Rev. E. B. Pusey, D.D. on his recent Eirenicon)

The volumes of Athanasius in our collection were given away by Newman seven years before his conversion, and thus may have escaped their owner’s osculatory exuberance. Whether Newman spoke to these pages, we cannot tell, nor have we found any annotations on them, so it is likely that he had access to other copies of the work, which he cites in his 1842 publication Select Treatises of St Athanasius in Controversy with the Arians. But it is inspiring to think of Newman “taking down” these hefty volumes from his shelves; the set weighs some 27 pounds and would have provided him ample exercise.

Their original 17th-century French bindings are now quite worn, but internally the set is in fine condition and the front pastedown of Volume I bears Newman’s note presenting the books to his friend:

My dear Cornish,
If you have not the works of St A. will
you accept them from me, in memory of your kind offices,
and in pledge for your kind thoughts & feelings towards Littlemore.
Ever yrs most sincerely
John H Newman
Oriel College
Jan 21. 1838

In January of 1838, Newman was at the height of his career, with a punishing schedule to match; he was fellow of Oriel College, editor of the British Critic, and the principal author of Tracts for the Times. He was soon to publish his Lectures on the Doctrine of Justification. He had built a chapel at Littlemore and was vicar of St. Mary’s, in Oxford, where he was regarded as a spellbinding preacher, and a magnetic influence on undergraduates.

Charles Lewis Cornish (1809-1870), the recipient of these volumes, was then a fellow of Exeter College, Oxford and frequently assisted Newman in Anglican services at St Mary’s and Littlemore. The church at Littlemore is just under three miles from Newman’s residence in Oriel College, and we know from his diaries that he often walked there in company with Cornish and others in the circle of young Anglican Oxonians who were grappling with questions of the modern church and their place in it. Cornish, who co-authored a translation of some of Augustine’s writings, was associated with the Oxford Movement, becoming curate of Littlemore in 1846. Like many of Newman’s young University friends, Cornish, though he remained an Anglican, never forgot his mentor, and on his deathbed asked to have read to him one of Newman’s sermons. A year later Newman acknowledged Cornish in the dedication to the 1871 re-issue of his Oxford University Sermons.

By the time he was middle-aged, Newman had lost many of his friends to death, a fact which made him feel prematurely old. Additionally, most of the portraits of Newman, produced after he had achieved some fame, date from late in his life. All this reinforces the modern tendency, perhaps more pronounced in Catholic circles, to think of Newman as frail and elderly. It is well to balance that picture with the evidence of extraordinary energy, tenacity, and youthful resilience which is reflected in his writing, a prose as vigorous, unaffected, direct and stylistically masterful as any in the English language.

A Book Worth Kissing - Now in Paperback!

William Charles Ross’ 1845 portrait of Newman, painted in the year of his conversion, is one of a handful of images which counter the octogenarian stereotype. A detail from this youthful portrait appears on the cover of Sheridan Gilley’s Newman and his Age, published by Darton, Longman and Todd, Ltd. (1990, Paperback 2003) This acclaimed biography is perhaps the most readable life of Newman, a moving and balanced portrait, full of humor and written in a lucid prose befitting its subject. The book is somewhat difficult to obtain in the U.S. but the effort of doing so is amply repaid.

Image sources:
Photographs of Montfaucon's Athanasii .. Opera Omnia, (Rare Books Folio BR65.A44 1698)

Newman's Room in the Birmingham Oratory (Wikipedia)

Cover from Newman and his Age with detail from Watercolor Portrait of John Henry Newman by William Charles Ross. The original is in Keble College, Oxford.