Rome: In Collegio Societatis, 1583.
Octavo: 16.8 x 11 cm. 309,  p. Collation: A-T8, V4; *8, **8, ***8, ****10
THE DEFINITIVE EDITION.
Bound in early limp vellum (spine soiled and with small repairs, lacking ties.) A good copy, a number of gatherings browned or foxed, engraved t.p. slightly frayed at outer and lower edges. Early Jesuit inscription at the foot of engraved t.p. (See images).
The 1583 Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, confirmed by Pope Gregory XIII. Based on the text of the 1558 first edition, this edition was prepared under the direction of the third congregation. It was then subjected to a minute comparison with Ignatius’ Spanish original preserved in the Society's archives, during the fourth congregation (1581). This edition includes Ignatius’ commentary on the Constitutions, known as the "Declarations".
"[Ignatius] began his self-reform, and the enlistment of followers, entirely prepossessed with the idea of the imitation of Christ, and without any plan for a religious order or purpose of attending to the needs of the days. Unexpectedly prevented from carrying out this idea, he offered his services and those of his followers to the pope, ‘Christ upon Earth’, who at once employed him in such works as were most pressing at the moment. It was only after this and just before the first companions broke to go at the pope's command to various countries, that the resolution to found an order was taken, and that Ignatius was commissioned to draw up Constitutions. This he did slowly and methodically; first introducing rules and customs and seeing how they worked. He did not codify them for the first six years. Then three years were given to formulating laws, the wisdom of which had been proven by experiment. In the last six years of the Saint's life the Constitutions so composed were finally revised and put into practice everywhere. This sequence of events explains at once how the society, though devoted to the following of Christ, as though there were nothing else in the world to care for, is also excellently adapted to the needs of the day. It began to attend to them before it began to legislate; and its legislation was the codification of those measures which had been proved by experience to be apt to preserve its preliminary religious principle among men actually devoted to the requirements of the Church in days not unlike our own.
THE CONSTITUTIONS OF THE SOCIETY
Ignatius was commissioned in 1541 to draw them up, but he did not begin to do so until 1547, having occupied the mean space with introducing customs tentatively, which were destined in time to become laws. In 1547 Father Polanco became his secretary, and with his intelligent aid the first draft of the constitutions was made between 1547 and 1550, and simultaneously pontifical approbation was asked for a new edition of the "Formula". Julius III conceded this by the Bull "Exposcit debitum", 21 July, 1550. At the same time a large number of the older fathers assembled to peruse the first draft of the constitutions, and though none of them made any serious objections, Ignatius' next recension (1552) shows a fair amount of changes. This revised version was then published and put into force throughout the society, a few explanations being added here and there to meet difficulties as they arose. These final touches were being added by the saint up till the time of his death, after which the first general congregation of the society ordered them to be printed, and they have never been touched since.
"It is obvious that he must have acquired some knowledge of other religious constitutions, especially during the years of inquiry (1541-1547), when he was on terms of intimacy with religious of every class. But witnesses, who attended him, tell us that he wrote without any books before him except the Missal. Though his constitutions of course embody technical terms to be found in other rules, and also a few stock phrases like "the old man's staff", and "the corpse carried to any place", the thought is entirely original, and would seem to have been God-guided throughout. By a happy accident we still possess his journal of prayers for forty days, during which he was deliberating the single point of poverty in churches. It shows that in making up his mind he was marvelously aided by heavenly lights, intelligence, and visions. If, as we may surely infer, the whole work was equally assisted by grace, its heavenly inspiration will not be doubtful. The same conclusion is probable true of ‘The Spiritual Exercises’.
"The Constitutions are divided into ten parts: 1.admission; 2.dismissal; 3.novitiate; 4.scholastic training; 5.profession and other grades of membership; 6.religious vows and other obligations as observed by the Society; 7.missions and other ministries; 8.congregations, local and general assemblies as a means of union and uniformity; 9.the general and chief superiors; 10.the preservation of the spirit of the Society.
"The Constitutions as drafted by Ignatius and adopted finally by the first congregation of the Society, 1558, have never been altered. Ill-informed writers have stated that Lainez, the second General, made considerable changes in the saint's conception of the order; but Ignatius' own later recension of the ‘Constitutions’ agrees exactly with the text of the Constitutions now in force, and contains no word by Lainez, not even in the declarations, or glosses added to the text, which are all the work of Ignatius.”(Catholic Encyclopedia).
Sommervogel Vol V. p.78 (2nd work listed under Loyola's name); EDIT 16 CNCE 20779; Johnson, A.F. (Alfred Forbes). Catalogue of Italian engraved title-pages in the sixteenth century, 19, 20. BM Italian books 348; Graesse II, 255.