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GUEST POST: Jesuit books at the Rare Book & MS CRAI Library of the University of Barcelona

Hello all--this is a guest post by one of our partners. Many, many thanks to Neus Verger Arce at the Rare Book and Manuscript CRAI Library of the University of Barcelona. UB's contributions to the EJLPP are enormous!

Jesuit books in the collection of the Rare Book and Manuscript CRAI Library of the University of Barcelona in the portal "The European Jesuits Libraries Provenance project".

A visit in mid 2019 from Kathleen Comerford from Georgia Southern University to the Rare Book and Manuscript CRAI Library in her capacity as head of The European Jesuit Libraries Provenance project (EJLPP) led to conversations about including the University of Barcelona’s collection of Jesuit books in the project.

We are very pleased that we can finally share the outcomes of the agreement – which was signed in September last year – resulting in much of the data of our holdings being now available in Excel spreadsheet in the Data section: Census of printed bookscreated from modern library catalogues. Of the 6,242 total records in this file (July 2022) from more than a hundred different places from around the world, 530 copies have been incorporated from our collection. A significant proportion still needs to be completed with another 100 copies included in list sent with records which come from the online catalogue and which were worked on during the pandemic, although some copies were examined in situ.

In addition, our online catalogue of books is still incomplete but ongoing and the data available is increasing with the addition of new bibliographic records which can also be accessed via links to the Former owners database. On top of which, there is the possibility of other Jesuit institutions appearing from some book not yet catalogued. Therefore, our involvement with the EJLPP will remain active until all the data has been included.

We believe it is important to highlight the opportunities that the work on former owners and their marks offer us. Without this detailed work carried out in parallel to cataloguing, we would not be able to participate in the EJLPP, nor would we be able to provide the Former Owners database. This resource was created in 2009 and is based on the authority records of this category.

Initial page of the Former owners database

Both the number of Jesuit entities in the database and the number of bibliographic records linked to them is greater than those that appear in the EJLPP portal, since, as we have already said, there are still some remaining additions to be made from the records sent, as well as the new ones that have appeared subsequently as the cataloguing process has progressed. On the other hand, although in a lesser measure, in the EJLPP there are editions that were collected through the manual catalogue by Kathleen during her stay in our library and that do not yet appear in the database.

Before going into the details about the books from the Jesuit institutions in our collection, we would like to give a brief overview. More than 80% of the books held at the Rare Book and Manuscript CRAI Library of the University of Barcelona come from confiscated convents and monasteries of the province of Barcelona. In 1836, after various attempts, the Spanish Minister of Finance, Juan Álvarez Mendizábal, officially closed all the monasteries and convents and expropriated their assets, including their libraries. In 1881, after a long period of complex negotiations to decide who should manage and house the expropriated material, it arrived at the new building of the University of Barcelona, which had taken this role on in 1847. Initially, the collection was made up of material once held in 23 convents around the city; this gradually increased with additions from more than 30 institutions from various religious orders in Barcelona and other Catalan towns. Some 130,000 volumes were collected at the beginning, which grew despite the sale of duplicates and triplicates.

In all this panorama, the libraries of the Jesuit colleges that had suffered expulsion in 1767 and definitive closure in 1773 had a different outcome. The instruction at the time of the suppression dictated that their libraries should go to the libraries of the bishops, seminaries, and universities in the same location as the original Jesuit college. In Catalonia, there were 12 libraries of Jesuit colleges. In general, they were libraries with considerable and well-organised collections, of which inventories were ordered before being transferred to the new sites. Unfortunately, in the case of the Catalan institutions, hardly any traces remain of these inventories. Likewise, the Municipal Committees were asked to take the greatest care in the custody of the books in order to avoid their deterioration or loss.

Within this general framework, we will now look at the different Jesuit institutions on the basis of the property marks found in the books of our collection. In the Excel data of the EJLPP portal, nine property marks appear, five of which have very few books, which come from the colleges of Madrid, Zaragoza, Rome and Venice.

Let us focus on the Catalan scene. While many of the collections of the colleges of Barcelona, Lleida, Tarragona and Girona went to their respective seminaries and episcopal libraries, we can still find some exceptional testimonies from the colleges of Barcelona and Lleida in the collection of the University of Barcelona.

There were two colleges in Barcelona, the Jesuit College of Barcelona, also known as the College of Betlem, and the College of Cordelles, founded in 1545 and 1636 respectively. Most of the bibliographical holdings of the first Jesuit College of Barcelona ended up, as mentioned above, in the library of the Conciliar Seminary of Barcelona, which in 1775 was given the title of Episcopal Public Library. However, we found 16 bibliographic records with the mark of the University of Barcelona catalogue, and 4 in the EJLPP Excel spreasheet. For the second college in Barcelona, Cordelles, we found only 1 book in the library catalogue -also present in the EJLPP. Anyway, there is some disagreement as to where the rest of books are, since Alarcón y Campdepadrós assumes that they are in the same library of the Seminary of Barcelona, together with those of the College of Betlem, while Anton Pelayo suggest that their location is still unclear.

Wet stamp of the Jesuit College of Barcelona

Manuscript ex-libris of the College of Cordelles of Barcelona

Regarding the books with the property mark of the College of Sant Ignasi of Lleida, founded in 1597, they also have very little representation - specifically 5 bibliographic records–, since, in this case, the books went to the Diocesan Seminary of Lleida.

The libraries of the colleges of the cities of Manresa, in the province of Barcelona, and Cervera, in the province of Lleida, were finally housed in the Library of the University of Barcelona.

The library of the College of Sant Ignasi of Manresa, founded in 1616, is an exception to the rest of the libraries. "60 panniers with 4646 books" of the college is mentioned in the Manuscript 1522[1] of our library, which is a draft inventory of books collected from the convents of the province of Barcelona, after their suppression in 1835.

Last page of the Ms 1522 where the College of Sant Ignasi of Manresa is mentioned.

Unfortunately, we still do not know where these books were kept between the expulsion and the confiscation. Moreover, we have evidence of the dismemberment of this collection, since the Episcopal Library of Vic also conserves around a hundred books from this college. It is important to note the enormous number of volumes from this college, which reflects its high status among the Catalan colleges.

The EJLPP lists 380 books with this provenance, while the online catalogue of the University of Barcelona lists 973. In addition, there are some fifty volumes from the library of the doctor of sacred theology and priest of the neighbouring town of Manresa Sant Fruitós de Bages, Albert Madriguera, who donated them to the Jesuit college in the 18th century.

Manuscript ex-libris of the College of Sant Ignasi of Manresa

Manuscript ex-dono of Albert Madriguera

Finally, we have the collection of the College of Sant Bernat from Cervera, founded in 1697. This is one of the cases where the library went to the local university, in this case, the University of Cervera. Some details about that institution may be useful.

The University of Cervera was created by Philip V in 1717, following his victory in the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-14). The new king ordered the closure of all the Catalan universities existing at the time, and founded a new one in the town of Cervera, which had remained loyal to him during the war. This new institution, controlled directly by the Crown, was supported from the outset by the Jesuits. They had always played an important role in the country's education and wished to play a greater role in the Catalan universities, after the failures and difficulties experienced at the University of Barcelona, which was controlled by Dominican professors. In 1730 a papal bull was issued, granting it the title of pontifical university. It was active from 1717 until the 1830s, when the re-establishment of the University of Barcelona became effective and studies at the University of Cervera were gradually abandoned and transferred to Barcelona. The transfer obviously included its library, which contained some 1,600 books and was carried out in 1850. The Jesuit influence on the University of Cervera's collection was clear, taking into account the considerable influence of Jesuit professors and positions within the University, especially with regard to the chairs of philosophy and Suarist theology. In any case, it seems that the library of the College was separated from the previous library, as the printed catalogue of the library of the University Cervera in 1821[2] does not include the books of the library of the College of Sant Bernat de Cervera.

Front page of the general catalogue of the University of Cervera (1821)

In the excel data of the EJLPP portal there are 120 bibliographic records of the College of Sant Bernat of Cervera; kept separate are 4 from the Jesuit Francesc Ferrer, of whom we only know that he donated his library to the College of Sant Bernat de Cervera at some point in the 18th century. The link from the record of this college in the database to the online catalogue offers 210 records with their property mark and 76 with ex-dono or ex-libris of Francesc Ferrer.

Manuscript ex-libris of the College of Sant Bernat of Cervera

Manuscript ex-dono of Francesc Ferrer

Finally, we would like to emphasise that by participating in the EJLPP, the value of the Former Owners database takes on a new dimension, as it will provide the possibility of placing the libraries of the Catalan Jesuit colleges within an international framework and give us with the possibility of an in-depth comparative study of their libraries.

For this reason, we will continue to collaborate closely with the EJLPP, progressively adding information from our catalogue to the resource, which will enable us to recover the collections of Jesuit institutions and trace their journeys.


. Alarcón i Campdepadrós, Xavier. Història de la Biblioteca Pública Episcopal del Seminari de Barcelona. Barcelona: Biblioteca Pública Episcopal del Seminari de Barcelona, 2014.

. Antón Pelayo, Javier. “La desamortización de las bibliotecas conventuales en Cataluña durante la crisis del Antiguo Régimen.” Memoria y civilización. Anuario de Historia 21 (2018): 611-51.

. Benítez i Riera, Josep M. Jesuïtes i Catalunya: fets i figures. Barcelona: Abadia de Montserrat, 1996.

. Pladevall i Arumí, Antoni. La Il·lustració a Vic. Les aportacions de Francesc de Veyan i Mola i Llucià Gallissà i Costa. Cabrera de Mar: Galerada, 2000.

. Prats, Joaquim. “La Universitat de Cervera: un projecte reformista frustrat.” Scripta. Revista Internacional de Literatura i Cultura Medieval i Moderna 15 (2020): 241-54.

. Rubio y Borrás, Manuel. Historia de la Real y Pontificia Universidad de Cervera. Barcelona: Librería Verdaguer, 1915-1916. 2 v.

. Ruiz Fargas, Marina. “Dels convents a l’acadèmia. Els orígens de la biblioteca de la Universitat de Barcelona.” In Ramon Dilla Martí and Maria Torras Freixa. Elias Rogent i Barcelona: arquitectura, patrimoni i restauració. Barcelona: Universitat de Barcelona Edicions, 2019.

Neus Verger (July-August 2022)

[1] Universitat de Barcelona. Ms 1522. Borrador de inventario de los libros y demás, recogido de los conventos de la provincia de Barcelona, después de su supresión en 1835. [2] Generalis index librorum, qui in Bibliotheca Pont. ac Reg. Cervariensis Universitatis reperiuntur, Academici Senatus Consulto digestus anno MDCCCXXXI. Cervariae Lacetanorum: Typis Academicis excudebat Bernardus Pujol, 1821.


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