google-site-verification: googlea104e0a620441e8c.html The Data | European Jesuit Libraries Provenance Project

The EJLPP: Data, Photos, etc.

--Kathleen M. Comerford

The EJLPP began with the attempt to identify the full bibliographical information for library lists found in Florentine and Roman archives.  I was writing a book (Jesuit Foundations and Medici Power, 1532-1621 (Boston and Leiden: Brill, 2017), and hoped to use the inventories to say something about the teaching practices in these institutions.  I found some documents dating from 1565 (Florence and Siena) and 1578 (Florence), and began to puzzle out the titles and authors.  The notaries who recorded that information intended them to be used by the Collegio di San Giovannino in Florence and the Collegio di Siena (later called the Collegio di San Vigilio).  They simply wrote basic identifying information, along the lines of "Io: Gersonis opusculum" and "Revelationes S. Brigida," probably assuming that whomever read the list would have enough knowledge to understand, and never imagining that someone in the twenty-first century would stumble across the inventory.


The European Jesuit Libraries Provenance Project has to date proceeded along the following steps:

  1. seeking out relevant archival documents, including library inventories, to convert into bibliographies (using word processing and spreadsheets)

  2. expanding the bibliographical information to provide brief biographical information on authors (using word processing and spreadsheets).  Combined inventory of multiple European Jesuit institutions' pre-suppression libraries here: ones I have seen in person (Siena, Florence, Bologna, Livorno, Bagnacavallo, Antwerp, and Leuven) and ones I have transcribed from printed sources (St Omer, Delft, and Maastricht [partial]).  I have included both the manuscript identification and the bibliography information I was able to construct.  As I find new inventories, I will add them to this file.

  3. seeking out physical copies of books found in those inventories, and books by authors found in the inventories, to collect provenance information (using word processing, spreadsheets, and digital photography)Inventory here, frequently updated. Most recent update: March 2, 2020.

  4. seeking out digital copies of books found in those inventories, and books by authors found in the inventories, to collect provenance information (using word processing, spreadsheets, digital collections of libraries, and online repositories like Google Books, Hathitrust, and the Internet Archive)This is part of the printed books inventory mentioned in #3.

The Department of History at Georgia Southern University is one of our most important sponsors, and has provided both graduate and undergraduate students of history with credit hours for their work on the EJLPP. The first non-thesis Public History on the EJLPP was by Rudy Bond, who graduated in May 2019.  Lauren Della Piazza-Hartke will begin her non-thesis PH project this academic year, working toward a May 2020 graduation date.  Our undergraduate interns have included Jasmine Webb (BA, May 2019), Samantha Sanchez, Michael Sullivan, and Nesha Wright.  You can read their bios at the "About Us" page.

Independent of that, I am continuing to work on the data I have gathered from Belgium, Italy, and the US, and to seek out new data for the census.  Over the long haul, I hope that this particular window into the Republic of Letters, one of those foreign countries from the past, can provide us with insight into what our early modern counterparts read, what they learned, and what they did with that learning.  Among the questions which interest me are: what was Jesuit about these books, or these libraries?  Were the members of the Society of Jesus really "the first globalists," as some have claimed?  What was it like to be a teacher in the Jesuit colleges?

I thank the following for their support of this project over the years and for allowing on-site access to their collections:

Yale University, Beinecke Library (short-term grant, 2016)

Princeton University Library Friends of the Library (short-term grant, 2018)

Emory University Pitts Theological and Rose Libraries

Georgia Southern University (Educational Leave, Fall 2016, travel support, and student interns)

Folger Shakespeare Library

Georgetown University Library

Library of Congress

Brown University Library

Florence, Archivio di Stato and Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale

Rome, Archivum Historicum Societatis Iesu

Antwerp, Rijksarchief Antwerpen and Hendrik Conscience Library

Bologna, Archivio Arcivescovile di Bologna and Archiginnasio

Leuven, Rijksarchief Leuven and university libraries

Ferrara, Archivio Comunale

I was bitten by the provenance bug as a graduate student in the MA program at Fordham University, when I worked with Dr. Elaine Forman Crane on one very specific angle of a Revolutionary War diary (The Diary of Elizabeth Drinker: The Life Cycle of an Eighteenth-century Woman [Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1991, 1994, 2010]).  Sandwith Drinker read widely, and sprinkled references to what she was reading throughout her diary.  My task was to take these references and track down bibliographical information.  I became very familiar with the National Union Catalogue, the Catalogue of the British Museum and Library, and other bibliographical sources for the US.  In graduate school, I used the skills I had learned for a brief part of my dissertation (later published as Ordaining the Catholic Reformation: Priests and Seminary Education in Fiesole, 1575-1675 [Florence: Olschki, 2001]), where I reconstructed the library of a small diocesan seminary from inventories taken in 1646, 1703-21, and 1721.  By that time, WorldCat and other digital resources were beginning to supplant print catalogues.  I kept returning to the question of what early modern priests read, so I decided to indulge in a broader investigation, and beginning in 2016, with trips to Belgium, Italy, and several research libraries in the US, began the EJLPP.  I am in contact with Kyle Roberts at the Jesuit Libraries Provenance Project at Loyola University of Chicago, whose work on the library of that institution has been instrumental in the design of this website and the Flickr photostream.

© 2018 by Kathleen Comerford. Proudly created with

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