Combining & Creating a Singular Vita of Ignatius of Loyola

  • Alison Fleming (Autor/in)


A book housed today in the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, appears on the surface to be a fairly traditional biography of St. Ignatius of Loyola from the seventeenth century, however, it is in fact an unusual volume. It was created by combining two different books in a purposeful and imaginative manner. An illustrated biography—the Vita Sancti Ignatii Loiola, Societatis Iesu Fundatoris (printed in Augsburg, 1622)—narrating the story of the Jesuit founder’s life in one hundred engraved plates, is woven into a textual biography—Hercule Rasiel de Selva’s Histoire de l’Admirable Dom Inigo de Guipuscoa, Chevalier de la Vierge, et Fondateur de la Monarchie des Inghistes; avec une Description abrégée de l’Establissement, & du Gouvernement, de cette formidable Monarchie (published in The Hague, 1736), fashioning a one-of-a-kind book. In many ways, the process employed recalls the creation, in previous centuries, of an illuminated manuscript. It was likely directed by a patron (unfortunately unknown today) who desired a personalized edition, a rarity in the age of printed texts. The result is a lavishly illustrated text that demonstrates a keen understanding of how word and image support, complement, and augment one another. This essay will examine the layout formed by the merger of the Vita Sancti illustrations and the text of the Histoire de l’Admirable Dom Inigo, the resulting relationships between word and image, and the positive and negative aspects of this unique book.