London: Printed [by Augustine Mathewes] for Iohn Marriott, and are to be sold by W. Sheares at the Harrow in Britains Bursse, 1634.
Duodecimo: 12.2 x 7.1 cm. , 135,  p. A-F12
THIRD EDITION in English, the first with Donne’s name on the title page. The book first appeared in Latin in 1611. The first English-language edition appeared the same year; the second in 1626. The English translation is Donne’s own.
Bound in contemporary vellum, lightly soiled. A few headlines shaved. A fine, complete copy of a very scarce book in its original binding. With contemporary 17th c. transcriptions from other works and some epitaphs on the front and rear flyleaves (for transcription, see the foot of this description, below.) With the bookplates of Harold Greenhill and H. Bradley Martin.
Donne’s ‘Ignatius his Conclave’, a damning, satirical exposé of the Jesuits and the order’s founder, Ignatius of Loyola, appeared one year after his ‘Pseudo-Martyr’, a work of deadly seriousness in which Donne argued that English recusants, rather than risking martyrdom in refusing the oath of allegiance, risked suicide instead. “Pseudo-Martyr” was a work of serious controversial literature; “Ignatius”, while still revealing its author’s erudition, is rich in comedic –if biting- episodes.
Donne begins by telling us that his “little wandring sportful Soule” went traveling through the universe while he lay in an “extasie,” until he “saw all the rooms of Hell open to my sight.” In Hell, he watched as the souls of six learned men contended for the title of Greatest Innovator, that is one “which had so attempted any innovation in this life, that they gave an affront to all antiquitie, and induced doubts, and anxieties, and scruples, and after, a libertie of beleeving what they would; at length established opinions, directly contrary to all established before.”
Each approached Lucifer to make his case, and in each instance Lucifer consulted Ignatius of Loyola, who had made his way up to the side of Lucifer’s throne. For Ignatius, seeing that his position of authority in Hell was at risk “opposed himselfe against all others. He was content they should bee damned, but not that they should governe.”
The six contestants are, in order of appearance, Copernicus, Paracelsus, Machiavelli, Columbus, Pietro Aretino, and Filippo Neri. Copernicus makes his case first, explaining that his heliocentric theory (which “lowers” the Sun and “raises” the Earth) has had the effect of raising poor Lucifer from the lowest position in the heavens to the highest. Lucifer, in a quandary, calls upon Ignatius for his opinion. Ignatius (who by that time had learned a great deal about astronomy from the Jesuit scientists who showed up almost daily in Hell) and, while admitting that Copernicus’ theory is correct, tells Lucifer that Clavius, the great Jesuit astronomer who staunchly denied heliocentrism in defense of the incorrect doctrine of geocentrism, deserves a spot before Copernicus.
Ignatius also rejects the physician-alchemist Paracelsus, telling Lucifer that the Jesuits, who practice medicine even though they are untrained, can kill off just as many people as Paracelsus can with his quackery. Paracelsus also transmutes metals found in Lucifer’s domain, metals that may be better used to fashion expensive gifts for Lucifer’s confrère, the pope. He therefore advises Lucifer to appoint Paracelsus as head of the “Legion of homicide-phisitians.”
The next contender, Machiavelli, addresses Ignatius (Lucifer’s “beloved son”) directly, in an effort to plant suspicion in Lucifer’s mind. Machiavelli praises the followers of Ignatius for bringing equivocation into the world, an art learned from “The secretest Records of Hell itselfe: that is out of the minds of Lucifer, the Pope, and Ignatius (persons truly equivocal).” Although Machiavelli admits that the Jesuits have wrought far greater death and confusion on Earth than he could ever have hoped to, he prides himself on having given the Jesuits an alphabet upon which to build, and having taught them “perfidiousness and dissembling of religion.” He excites such suspicion in Lucifer’s mind that the devil plans to keep Machiavelli on board as a to foil Ignatius, of whom the devil has grown suspicious.
But Ignatius, ever the more cunning disputant, reminds Lucifer that Machiavelli does not even believe in the Devil. Moreover, Machiavelli refused to give the popes due credit for their spectacular sins. Ignatius then launches into a long catalogue of the most notorious of those sins, a list so long that Donne, the narrator, remarks, “Truely, I thought this Oration of Ignatius overlong, and I began to thinke of my body which I had so long abandoned, lest it should putrefy, or grow mouldy, or bee buried.”
Ignatius also dispatches Columbus and Aretino yet the pope awards the title of Greatest Innovator to Saint Filippo Neri. Still, Lucifer realizes that he cannot leave out Ignatius all together. His plan to exalt Ignatius is as follows: He will write to the pope and have him order Galileo to lasso the moon, bringing it sufficiently close to Earth that the Jesuits will all be able to sail there together, with Ignatius as their ruler. For while Lucifer cannot die, and therefore Ignatius cannot inherit his throne, he reassures Ignatius that on the moon, he may “beget and propagate many Hells, and enlarge your empire, and so come nearer unto the high seat (i.e. Heaven) which I left at first.”
In the final scene, Pope Boniface appears on throne next to Lucifer’s own. Terrified that Ignatius will take his own place, Lucifer helps the Jesuit depose the pope and hurl him from his seat. Remarking on this final episode, Donne tells the reader, “after I had seene a Jesuit turne the Pope out of his Chaire in Hell, I suspected that that Order would attempt as much at Rome.”
The notes on the flyleaves:
Contemporary ownership inscription of David Urry.
Two funerary inscriptions from St. Paul’s Cathedral:
Upon the tomb of William Babham & his wife [Alice Button], anno 1577
Lo here the certaine end
of every mortall one,
Behold, today alive,
to morrow dead and gone.
Live well, so endlesse life
by death ye shall obtaine,
Nought lose the good by death,
syth life thereby they gaine.
Upon another, 1632
Here quiet I lie in darke and silent Tombe
Till Christ me call to life from earth's dead wombe
The annotations: unattributed passages from 1. Nehemiah Rogers ‘(1594-1660) “The True Convert” and 2. Sir George Mackenzie (1636/1638–1691).
1. “The poets feign, that when Plutus is sent from Jupiter, he limps and goes slowly; but when he is sent from Pluto, he runs and is swift of foot. – in like manner- Riches gotten by honest and good meanes are not soon obtained but when they come from the devil, either by unlawfull callings or the abuse of lawfull, they come with speed. Hee that will extort, oppress, sweare, and forswear, serve the time, swallow any wickedness, make his conscience poor to make himself rich, will soon obtein what he seekes for. Their Coyne is guilt and the guilt will with them, when the silver shall be left behind them. Rather put thou on Abraham’s Resolution that none but God shall make thee rich.” -Nehemiah Rogers (bap. 1594-1660), “The True Convert”
2.“For true honour is an innate elevation of the soul, and is independent; He is truly gallant, whose innocence fears not the jurisdiction of men; and who looks upon sceptres, and such gilded trifles as impertinent toys, when they are not swayed by the hand of virtue; and who would not value power for any other end, but to be a second to these inclinations, which are so reasonable, that they should not need power to make them to be obeyed!”.
Keynes, Donne 8; Grolier, Donne 8; Grolier, Wither to Prior 278; STC 1729; ESTC S109801