FIRST EDITION of one of the most important and celebrated texts of the Jesuits; a seminal text in spreading the influence of the Jesuits during the Counter-Reformation. Complete with engraved title and 126 engraved emblems including two world maps and the famous "Leone Belgico". In beautiful contemporary binding.
"In 1640 the Jesuit order celebrated its 100th anniversary, for which a large number of festivities had been planned. One of the most prestigious events was undoubtedly the publication by the Antwerp Officina Plantiniana of the Imago Primi Saeculi Societatis Jesu. This impressive folio volume would become an icon of the Jesuit order at that time. Though the initiative was highly contested, the Jesuit order itself considered the volume to be a great success, and regarded it as a highly persuasive form of self-representation. A huge tome numbering more than a thousand pages, The Imago presents a chronological-thematic account of the history of the order, and contains a large number of rhetorical exercises, poems and emblems. These emblems were integral to the festivities of the Society's centennial, while simultaneously functioning as emblematic exhibitions ("affixiones") in the Antwerp Jesuit Church" (Marc van Vaeck, "Emblematic Versatility as a Strategy of Self-Representation").
On the importance of emblems to the Jesuits: "The Jesuits were the principal disseminators of the symbolic language that was developed in emblems and allegories beginning in the sixteenth century. In their influential educational system, the emblematic imagination was fundamental. The practical orientation of their pedagogy and their desire for intervention carried this creativity out to the plazas and streets, with a persuasive intent in the majority of instances. Their presence could be seen in both public and private spaces, but, in a deeper and more subtle manner, it could be appreciated in the mental habits of so many artists and writers who studied under the Jesuits. A disseminating nucleus of ideas and images was thus constituted, one that played with the mystery inherent in the symbolic image, in order to awaken attention and to achieve the maximum power of conviction within the sphere of the Counter-Reformation" (Rev. G. Richard Dimler, S. J., "Emblems and Symbols of the Society of Jesus").
Provenance: With stamps from the Institute of St. Ignatius, Antwerp (now the University of Antwerp) on half-title and title. (The book was published in Antwerp.) Also with stamp from H. Godts (2006) on front pastedown.
Antwerp: Ex Officina Plantiniana, Balthasaris Moreti,1640. Folio, contemporary blind-stamped calf rebacked with portions of original spine laid-down; metal clasps. With rare half-title (repaired at top corner). Some early marginal writing and an “x” through one of the cherubs on title. Early owner inscription and small stamp on title; minor dampstaining near the gutter of some early leaves (not affecting text). A excellent copy in very handsome contemporary binding.
Price: $5,000 .