Vita Beati P. Ignatii Loiolae Societatis Iesu Fundatoris.
Rome: [no printer], 1622.
Quarto: 26.6 x 19.2 cm. 82 leaves comprising an engraved title page, engraved portrait, and 80 numbered engraved plates.
SECOND EDITION, printed to celebrate Ignatius's canonization. The first edition (1609) was printed in celebration of Ignatius's beatification.
Bound in 18th c. mottled sheep with gilt spine, corners bumped and worn, small defects to head of spine and the boards, extremities rubbed. A very large copy with variable marginal foxing, entering the plate area in only a few instances, and occasional marginal blemishes. Title page lightly soiled, small ink stain at the lower outer corner of the last 20 plates, far from the engravings (see images).
This justly famous engraved cycle of Ignatius’s life was undertaken in 1605-06, and includes plates depicting his miracles – a requirement for canonization. The book was first published in 1609, the year of Ignatius' beatification. In honor of Ignatius’ canonization in 1622, the plates were reprinted, with an additional plate added showing Pope Gregory XV officially canonizing Ignatius on March 12th and a new portrait of Ignatius. The text captions are attributed to the Jesuits Nicholas Lancicius (Mikolaj Leczycki), Filippo Rinaldi, and Péter Pazmány. Nineteen of the images have been identified as the work of Rubens. The engravings were executed either by the Belgian engraver Cornelis Galle or Jean Baptiste Barbé.
The elevation of Ignatius of Loyola to sainthood, a goal for which The Society of Jesus had launched a campaign in the mid-1590s, was a triumph for the Order and was celebrated in a manner befitting the significance of the achievement.
On July 27th, 1609 Pope Paul V had promulgated a bull that officially decreed the beatification of Ignatius, the penultimate step in the process towards sainthood. The Jesuits made their final case for canonization in a private consistory before Pope Gregory XV in January 1622. Gregory elevated Ignatius, together with Francis Xavier, Teresa of Avila and Filippo Neri, on 12 March 1622.
“The 1609 engraved “Life of Blessed Ignatius of Loyola” was an international venture. Two prominent Jesuits in Rome, Nicholas Lancicius and Filippo Rinaldi, coordinated the project. Lancicius most likely composed the text, perhaps with the help of Péter Pázmány, a Hungarian Jesuit and later a cardinal and the archbishop of Esztergom. The Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens, in one of his first services for the Society of Jesus, made the drawings that the highly talented engraver Jean Baptiste Barbé etched onto copper plates.
“The prototype, prepared in 1605-06, was prompted by Pope Paul V's recent decision to open a long-delayed investigation into Ignatius's life, a necessary step towards his canonization. The Jesuits first published the Rubens-Barbé volume in 1609, the year of Ignatius's beatification, and then again in 1622, the year of his canonization.
“The Rubens-Barbé volume had two related purposes: to promote the general interests of the Jesuit order and the canonization of Ignatius in particular. The challenge in composing the volume was to strike the right balance between the expectations of the reader about Christian holiness and the aims of the Jesuits to inspire popular devotion to Ignatius and increase the status of the entire order. As propaganda, the Life is important today not so much for what we learn from it about Ignatius but for the fascinating window it offers us onto the religious culture of the early Jesuits and the people whom they were serving and trying to influence.
“The Rubens-Barbé volume, comprising seventy-nine biographical plates, a title page, and a frontispiece is the second-largest such picture book about Ignatius from this period and--given the artistic genius behind it, the large number of copies printed, its distribution from Rome throughout the Jesuit provinces, and its imitation by later artists--the most famous.”(“Saint Making”, Fr. David Collins, S.J.).
De Backer-Sommervogel, Vol. 6, column 409 and Vol. 11, column 1485; Cicognara 2139 (1609 ed.); Olschki 2516 (160 ed.); See also: The Rubens Engravings of The Life of St. Ignatius (St. Omers Press, 2005), p. 107-108