Rebuilding the Market: The Jesuits and the Mississippi Book Trade

Loyola Master’s in History student Dan Snow is working this semester on sales of Catholic books in the Midwest through the unique lens of a ledger documenting the book trade run by the Jesuits in St. Louis between 1842 and 1849. Dan has been awarded a competitive Research Experience for Master’s Programs (REM) Fellowship to support his work by the Graduate School at Loyola University Chicago. Dan will be blogging throughout the semester about his work.

For the last few semesters, I have been exploring an 1840s Jesuit book trade ledger from St. Louis. Prof. Roberts and I believe that this ledger offers valuable insight into the state of Catholic publishing and the advance of Catholic institutions westward during the mid-nineteenth century, and we have spent much time analyzing it. Over the course of the coming year, I will be working on the Jesuit Libraries Provenance Project in greater detail than I have before and during this time I hope to build on what I have done over past months to better understand this microcosm of the American Catholic world.

Last semester, I primarily worked on transcribing the Jesuits’ sales between May and September 1849, the very last segment in the book trade ledger. The ledger can be a difficult document to navigate, filled with inconsistencies, shorthand descriptions, and other issues. Avoiding these, one can begin to understand what the Jesuits’ market looked like at mid-century. There were a total of 118 sales in this period. As of this writing, I have identified 47 unique purchasers for this period and 23 others who I have yet to identify. The majority of these purchases came from the Archdiocese of St. Louis, with many being from the city proper or from surrounding communities.

A map of 47 of the 1849 purchases showing their relative locations, largely centered around St. Louis.

A map of 47 of the 1849 purchases showing their relative locations,
largely centered around St. Louis.

Rock Building at Saint Stanislaus Seminary in Florissant, MO (Saint Louis University Libraries Special Collections)

Rock Building at Saint Stanislaus Seminary in Florissant, MO
(Saint Louis University Libraries Special Collections)

The 1849 orders can be segmented into a number of categories: religious orders (male); priests affiliated with the Archdiocese; parish priests in St. Louis; parish priests outside St. Louis; religious orders (female), and the laity. The two male religious orders were the Congregation of the Mission (St. Vincent de Paul’s group, known as the Vincentians) and the Society of Jesus (St. Ignatius Loyola’s Jesuits).  Both the Jesuits and the Vincentians had a major presence west of the Mississippi at mid-century: in 1829 the Jesuits took over running St. Louis University (founded in 1818) and maintained a sizeable seminary at Florissant, while the Vincentians ran a seminary at Perryville and a second seminary further south in Cape Girardeau. Additionally, priests of the two orders ran a number of parishes throughout the St. Louis area.

The Diocese of St. Louis was established in 1826 by Pope Leo XII and promoted to an Archdiocese in 1847 under Pius IX. It oversaw a vast area on the American frontier. Though it was established on French roots and had a proud history in the city of St. Louis itself, the Archdiocese was also responsible for a number of frontier missions and churches along the Missouri River into modern Kansas. The Archdiocese is worth separating from the churches under its control because its mission was very distinct from the respective parishes it oversaw. It would not be fair to compare the orders of St. Louis Cathedral (where books may have been distributed from to various institutions in the Archdiocese) to a parish church in Old Mines, Missouri which bought books solely for its own benefit. The purchases of the city’s archbishop, Peter Richard Kenrick, and his subordinates at the cathedral are frequent throughout the ledger. However, in 1849 Bishop Kenrick does not appear.

The parish priests of the city of St. Louis are given their own category to separate them from the parish priests outside the city. While St. Louis was not a major population center on par with New York or Philadelphia, it could have seemed as such when compared to the frontier settlements many priests found themselves in. in 1850, St. Louis had around 77,000 citizens and was the largest city for hundreds of miles, serving as a hive of economic, cultural, and political activity. Compared to the recently incorporated city of Chicago, St. Louis was a metropolis. The Mississippi brought goods to the city from New Orleans and the city buzzed with new people and products. Immigrants settled in great numbers in the city, although many – especially Germans – were passing through on their way to frontier settlements. On the whole, the conditions of a priest in the city were incomparable to the conditions of a priest outside. While the location of churches “outside St. Louis” varied greatly and life at each one could involve varying degrees of difficulty, some separation from the city is necessary.

The priests who lived outside of St. Louis occupied a unique place in the American frontier. Building their churches to serve a growing number of Catholic settlers, their parishes becoming the cornerstones of new towns. Most were centered near St. Louis, in communities like Old Mines or Potosi. Some lived in establishments so new that they lacked names, like the “German Settlement” in St. Genevieve County served by Rev. Joseph Blaarer. From their seminary at Florissant, the Jesuits sent missionaries into the West. Men like Father John Schoenmakers, who ran a mission in Osage County, Kansas, found themselves on the very forefront of the push across the plains. These priests, their experiences, and their needs were substantially different than their counterparts in the city.

Priests were not the only ones buying books in 1849. Women religious were essential providers of education, healthcare, and welfare in many American cities during the nineteenth century and St. Louis was no different. In 1849, four individual nuns placed orders with the Jesuits, as did a number of religious orders including the Ursuline Sisters and the Sisters of the Visitation. Women religious operated very differently than their male counterparts. While priests were involved in many social programs, the limited clerical capabilities of Catholic nuns often saw them deploy their skills and talents more frequently in such programs such as education and healthcare.  As a result, the works that they ordered varied greatly from their counterparts in groups like the Society of Jesus.

The last segment of the 1849 order list is the hardest to identify. Laity – the non-clerical, ordinary Catholics who filled the pews of a Sunday Mass – were and still are crucial in the Church. Of the 23 or so purchasers who remain unknown in the 1849 ledger, at least twelve are laity. Their lack of a clear institutional affiliation makes identification difficult. One can have little hope of finding a “Mrs. Jones” who placed an order in September 1849, and yet the presence of non-religious individuals is an important part of this story. Their orders show how Catholicism was being transmitted outside the hierarchy of the Church, and how the laity were playing a part in the move of both Christianity and these specific books westward. With luck, some of these individuals can be identified at some point, but even examining their purchases offers some insight into their involvement in the larger movement.

It may be hard to track down the Mrs. Jones who placed this order.

It may be hard to track down the Mrs. Jones who placed this order.

So who were the most active purchasers during this period?  Between May and September 1849, the top three purchasers were neither Vincentians nor Jesuits despite their large presence in the market. Rev. Simon Siegrist, a parish priest from St. Louis, had the most orders (six), followed by Rev. Simon Paris, the rector of St. Louis Cathedral (five) and Sr. Olympia (four). The presence of Father Siegrist at the top of the list is surprising as he was not seemingly high in the Archdiocese’s hierarchy nor was he a member of any order. Siegrist did order several German works, and it is likely that he served the city’s growing immigrant German population. Hopefully over the course of the coming semester I can uncover more about what he was purchasing and what his role in St. Louis might have been.

Father Paris’s presence as the second most prolific purchaser is not surprising, however. As the rector of the Archdiocesan seat, he occupied a high position within St. Louis Catholic life and likely administered over a number of programs.

Rounding out the top three was a woman, a nun named Sister Olympia who placed four orders in 1849. Her high number of orders reflects the work of a woman in education (in May 1849, for example, she ordered fifty catechisms).  As a member of the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph, Sister Olympia worked at St. Vincent’s Free School in St. Louis where she could put her catechisms to use teaching the city’s growing Catholic youth.

In all, 1849 is a great year for analysis, one that has been well-identified in terms of purchasers (relative to the other years studied, it has a much small percentage of unidentified purchasers). With a good understanding of who the individuals making purchases were and where they were located, we can begin to look at what they were buying. Bianca has done amazing work analyzing the works purchased in 1846, noting that nearly 350 unique items were purchased in that year. 1849 has fewer purchases than 1846, but I anticipate that it has as much variation in the titles sold.

A typical page from the ledger, showing orders in June 1849 from Father Siegrist, Father Dahmen, and Sister Genevieve.

A typical page from the ledger, showing orders in June 1849 from Father Siegrist, Father Dahmen, and Sister Genevieve.

Over the next few weeks, I will begin marking each item ordered in 1849, organizing them by order number to keep track of who was buying what. By the end, I should be left with a list that shows each respective book ordered, the number of transactions that included a specific book, the number of copies sold in each transaction, and the price charged per copy in each order. Creating this list will open a number of different paths for further analysis, including comparing the prices the Jesuits charged their respective customers and which books were most widely bought. However, I am most excited to use the list of titles to begin investigating what these books said about mid-century Catholicism. I hope to conduct research on the titles, producing at a minimum a few sentences on each work in order to understand what these pioneer priests and Catholics were reading. My work for the last few months has been building towards this study and I am excited to begin working on it.

Roman Law in a Jesuit College Library

This week, Erik Berner posts the first in his series of studies of the books in the Secular Legislation section of the c.1878 St. Ignatius College Library catalog. Here he explores two works that long predate the late nineteenth-century school.  

Justinian, Corpus Juris Civilis  2 vol. (Geneva: Jacob Stoer, 1624) 

Images in Flickr Archive

Justinian, Corpus Juris Civilis (Altenburg/Liepzig: J.L. Richterum & H. Lanckisianos, 1721)

Images in Flickr Archive

Title page of the first volume of the 1624 edition still held by Loyola.

Title page of the first volume of the 1624 edition still in the collections of Loyola’s libraries.

The ancient Corpus Juris Civilis or “Body of Civil Law” of Justinian (483-565) is a fine starting point for a collection of legal works at a Jesuit college. Two editions of Justinian’s Civil Law are listed in the c.1878 St. Ignatius College library catalog: one from 1624 and another from 1721. Both still exist and are held in University Special Collections in Cudahy Library. The 1624 edition, printed in Geneva, is a reprinting of a 1583 edition recognized by scholars as one of the most influential. The 1583 edition was first printed by the French jurist and law professor at University of Geneva, Dionysus Godefroy, after the text’s rediscovery. Like most Latin learning, Justinian’s Code had been to lost to European thinkers since it’s 6th century compilation, but was reintroduced through translations during the Renaissance Period (despite Europe’s concurrent Dark Age, the period from the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of European Empires is considered a Golden Age of Islamic culture and learning, during which Muslim scholars studied and circulated Ancient Western texts and ideas, translated into Arabic).

Initially taught at the University in Bologna and circulated among Italian merchants, Godefroy’s Geneva edition is recognized as the first proper Western European edition, and was, in fact, the first to print these laws under the title Corpus Juris Civilis. Reading the Preface, written by Godefroy himself (or at least claiming to be), was a true challenge of my very intermediate French skills from high school, but I was able to glean the scholarly intent of the edition. It was intended “pour cours de droit civil” (for classes in civil law), presumably, and not surprisingly, at the University in Geneva where Godefroy taught. The title page left me with a few questions about publication and previous ownership, claiming to be “ex typographia Iacobi Stoer”. Searches on Google, World Cat, and Open Library turn up publications under Stoer’s name, all from the 17th century, such as a French dictionary and a “General Inventory of the History of France”, but no peripheral information.

Jesuits in at least two different provinces - one in Europe, the other in North America - have owned the 1624 Corpus.

Jesuits in at least two different provinces – one in Europe, the other in North America – have owned the 1624 Corpus.

Title page of the 1721 Corpus still in the collections of Loyola's libraries today.

Title page of the 1721 Corpus also in the collections of Loyola’s libraries today.

The second copy was printed in 1721 in Altenburg, a town in Saxony (now Germany) by “Joh. Ludov. Richterum et Heredes Lanckisianos” (about whom, the only links a google search turned up were about this very edition of the Corpus Juris Civilis). They were not the original printers of this edition. Instead, they were reprinting one that originated a year earlier in Liepzig. This edition is specifically intended for scholarly use; it’s full title is Corpus Juris Civilis Academicum: in suas partes distributum, usuique moderno ita accommodatum, ut nunc studiosorum quivis, etiam tyro, uno quasi intuitu, omnes leges digestorum et codicis, omnesque titulos institutionum invenire possit. From the Latin, this roughly means that it is adapted for modern usage so that all students may learn from it. This would have been used in an inns of court type legal education. The “inns of court” refers to the practice, prevalent before the development of formal law schools, of prospective barristers sitting in on actual court proceedings to learn in an unstructured manner about the law. It is annotated for these purposes, though the Latin and Old French are hard to understand for me. In this particular copy is the handwritten name “Christophorro Henrico,” a google search of which turns up nothing. It is likely the name of a previous owner.

On a scale from poor to expert, my Latin skills could be labeled…nonexistent.   Therefore my only knowledge of the contents of these books comes from internet research; the Corpus Juris Civilis was Justinian’s attempt to compile all the previous law he found useful, by previous emperors and himself, and any further laws that he wished to enact, covering in minutiae every detail of Roman life, into one place and make it the one and only law book that anybody in the Empire would ever need to reference for anything; in fact, referral to any other was forbidden by imperial decree. It is obvious why this set of laws, then, would have such a lasting impact, perhaps being the most influential set of laws until the Napoleonic Code, a body of laws also found on the library’s shelves which I will discuss in a few weeks.

Some great marginalia in Loyola's copy of the 1721 Corpus.

Some great marginalia in Loyola’s copy of the 1721 Corpus.

New this semester: What law books are on the original library shelves?

Welcome back to the Spring 2017 semester! Recent graduate Erik Berner will be sharing the outcome of his investigation of the titles in the Secular Legislation section of the Legislation division of the original library catalog over the coming weeks. His introductory post follows. Check back regularly in the coming weeks for posts on the specific titles in this division.

Listing of the Legislation Division from the index of the original St. Ignatius College library catalog.

Listing of the Legislation Division from the index of the original St. Ignatius College library catalog.

Last spring I explored whether the Jesuits at St. Ignatius College (precursor to Loyola University Chicago) might have been trying to found a law school at the end of the nineteenth century. Nearly forty years elapsed between the founding of the St Ignatius College and the founding of its law school. The college’s original library catalog provided potential evidence of whether the Jesuits intended to educate students for the law earlier, as I explored in my posts here and here.

In the end, I concluded it was unlikely that the Jesuit founders of St. Ignatius gathered the books in the secular law section of their library with the express intent of founding a law school. Nevertheless, they managed to assemble an impressive collection, whether by seeking out books with a specific intent or taking what was available to them. The Harvard method of institutionalized, formal, legal education at the university level had only just been begun by Joseph Story the year this catalog was compiled. Up to this point, most legal education was undertaken through apprenticeships with established lawyers. The St. Ignatius collection contained many of the essential texts for a legal education at the time, but its lack of certain seminal texts, such as Blackstone’s Commentaries, led me to conclude the collection was for the reference of the Jesuits more than for a comprehensive legal education of their students.

In the original c.1878 catalog, the Legislation Division contained 68 titles: 30 in Secular Legislation and 38 in Ecclesiastical Legislation. I focused on the Secular Legislation collection. The books can be divided into seven distinct segments: Ancient Law, British Law, Continental European Law, US Law (subdivided into Colonial and Post-Colonial), General Laws and Statutes (text of the law), Personal Reference/Commentary (texts about the law, intended for general readership), and Academic (texts about the law, expressly intended for scholarly/academic use). Though some of these books have disappeared, many are still in circulation, or held in the Special Collections, of Loyola university libraries today. I have created an annotated bibliography of each section by researching extant texts (and using digital surrogates of lost texts), as well as looking at the the authors, publishers, background information, and influence of the works themselves on the country and legal education. I will be publishing the segments over the coming weeks, giving readers of the JLPP blog some idea of the nature of these books, both as texts and as physical objects, and their potential purpose within the St. Ignatius Collection.

What is the future of CatholicDH?

The following comments were offered by Kyle Roberts, Director of the Jesuit Libraries Provenance Project, and faculty member at Loyola University Chicago on the Presidential Roundtable, “The Future of Catholic History: What Do Graduate Students Want to Know?” at the American Catholic Historical Association Annual Meeting on Saturday, January 7th, at 10:30 am in Denver.  

The Future of Catholic Digital Humanities

I’ve been asked to speak today for a few minutes about the future of Catholic Digital Humanities (#CatholicDH), a topic that I’ve had the chance to watch develop over the last few years from my position as a digital humanist and historian of religion at Loyola University Chicago. As the Director of Loyola’s Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities (CTSDH) for the past six months, I’ve become even more acutely aware of the opportunities – and challenges – that come with doing CatholicDH.

What do I mean by “Catholic Digital Humanities”?

At the CTSDH we tend to think of the digital humanities in terms of the way popularized by Kathleen Fitzpatrick: that the digital humanities represent the application of computational methods to longstanding questions of humanistic interest, as well as the application of humanistic approaches to thinking about how the digital is changing society. Put simply: digital approaches/methodologies for understanding the humanities / humanistic approaches to understanding the digital age.

Catholic historians can lay claim to one of, if not the, first important humanities computing projects: Father Roberto Busa’s Index Thomisticus. Busa was an Italian Jesuit priest who convinced Thomas Watson at IBM to partner with him in the creation of a massive computerized concordance of the works of Aquinas. My former colleague at Loyola, Steve Jones, came out with a new book on Busa just last year: Roberto Busa, S.J., and the Emergence of Humanities Computing: The Priest and the Punched Cards (Routledge). It is well worth a read, not only for the vision of Busa but also his acknowledgement of the work of dozens of women who punched the cards for his analysis. (The invisible labor of DH is nothing new!)

Fifty years later, the digital humanities have proliferated into many different approaches. Under the broad DH umbrella, we find digital archives, databases, digitization, fabrication (3-D printing), knowledge sites, electronic literature, gaming, mapping and GIS, mobile applications and augmented reality, network analysis, scholarly communication, social media, textual analysis, text encoding, and more. (There is a good new textbook by Crompton, Lane, and Siemens URL) if you need an introduction to many of these approaches.) This diversity reflects the reality that the digital humanities isn’t so much a field or a discipline but a set of methodologies that can be used by practitioners in a range of different fields and disciplines. DH nicely lends itself to multidisciplinary work.

What are scholars of Catholicism doing in the digital humanities?

Not surprisingly, their work is broad. The greatest amount of CatholicDH work has taken place in the archives in Catholic colleges, universities, dioceses, religious orders, and institutions. There was a great panel at ACHA on Friday afternoon, January 6, entitled “Digitization of Archives and Its Impact on Scholarly Research” which nicely revealed not only the extent of this work, but also many of the issues facing different types of Catholic organizations in digitizing their materials. A list of different sites prepared by Fernanda Perrone of Rutgers for that panel is at the end of this post.

There are a smaller number of CatholicDH projects that use different applications, methodologies, and platforms to tackle research questions in American and European Catholic history. Some interesting projects (by no means exhaustive) include:

Catholic material is also incorporated into sites that focus on the larger American religious experience. Interesting projects here include (again, not a comprehensive list):

What is important with this second list is that it encourages us to think about Catholics in comparative historical perspective. As we know, few Catholics in North America had the privilege of living in isolation from folks of other faiths – Native American, Protestant, folk. Studying them in isolation misses the reality of their experience.

Some have made the argument that scholars of religious history in general have lagged behind their colleagues in embracing the digital humanities (Reed, 2016). I don’t think this is an unfair assessment. I’d push it further and argue that within this group, scholars of Catholicism have lagged behind scholars of other religious groups. Looking at the extensive list of DH sites in religion in Chris Cantwell and Hussain Rashid’s 2015 report to the Social Science Research Council reveals that only 10 out of 160 (6%) are explicitly on Catholic topics. This is surprising given that 30/160 are on Jewish topics and 25/160 are on topics related to Islam. Why is this?

Those of us interested in #CatholicDH need to reflect on why it is that the work in our field has taken the shape it has. Is it a reflection of interest? expertise? infrastructure? resources? (or the lack thereof?) I don’t think the current lack of more interpretive projects in Catholic DH is necessarily a bad thing. It gives scholars interested in taking on DH projects the opportunity to learn valuable lessons from other types of projects that have come before. What might #CatholicDH potentially have to learn from #JewishDH or #MuslimDH? Furthermore, the applications and platforms for doing this kind of work are much more powerful and generally easier to use. Our students are becoming increasingly valuable collaborative partners in this work, themselves the products of a generation of makers and social media users.

So, should graduate students be involving themselves in the digital humanities?

Yes. There are many ways to be involved. If you have the chance, take a class on DH. Most people I know in DH taught themselves. We didn’t have the luxury of classes on the topic. More graduate students now do. Take one. Learn the basic principles. Play around with different applications. You don’t realize it now, but you have more time in graduate school than you will ever again to play around. Enjoy it.

Resign yourself to the fact that you will not be able to learn every DH application. Pick one or a few that are most interesting to you and relevant to your scholarship. Your curiosity will make you want to know about lots of different approaches, but you’ll eventually settle into one or a few to specialize in.

If you have a chance to participate in someone else’s project, do. We’re all collaborators now. Write a blog post, transcribe some documents, help build a database, try to break a beta version. DHers tend to always be looking for partners. I know I am. This is a great way to build skills, but also to become better familiar with the emerging standards for doing DH work.

Incorporate digital skills into your teaching. Start now. Your undergraduate students want these skills and you’ll be doing yourself a favor on the job market to be able to talk about how you can teach with DH. Remember that while online teaching is valuable, it isn’t the same as digital humanities (although many people who know nothing about DH conflate the two).

A question that comes up frequently: should I do a DH dissertation? Think about what you need to explore the question that you are researching. Does a certain form of computational analysis have the potential to open up your source material in new ways? Think more about how you can use the digital methodology to help you write the traditional dissertation – you get the best of both worlds. Digital mapping, database building, textual analysis can all be very helpful. The thing to remember is that creating a data set can take a really long time. Too often people spend all their energy on the data and run out of time to do the full analysis. Don’t be that person. You have the rest of your life to make the archive of all that you found – and it might take you that long to create it

The hardest part can be getting started. It’s time consuming. There aren’t always accessible people at our institutions willing to help us. The terminology alone can be daunting. What is the cloud? Why do I need to care about a server? To that end I’d like to end by sharing a new consortium that is just now coming into being. It is the brainchild of Sally O’Driscoll, professor of English at Fairfield University, and her colleagues. The consortium is called Jesuit Digital: Access, Scholarship and the Humanities (with the acronym J-DASH). In Sally’s words:

This project proposes to create a digital humanities consortium of faculty, library, and staff at small comprehensive universities and colleges in the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU). The project has two primary components: (1) a portal (a resource-sharing website) to advance digital humanities collaborations across our campuses; (2) a three-day workshop, bringing together AJCU stakeholders to jointly produce a vision statement and goals for the consortium, and a template for strategic planning on individual campuses. The consortium will foster a collaborative network of colleagues interested in exploring ways to promote and make visible digital humanities on and among campuses, and to spark innovation.

This is exactly what I hope the future of Catholic Digital Humanities will be: faculty, archivists, and students coming together to share their expertise and resources, to work collaboratively on exciting new projects, and to increase access to primary source material about Catholic History and scholarship about it.

Some helpful overview articles on religion and the Digital Humanities:

Cantwell, Christopher, and Hussain Rashid. “Religion, Media, and the Digital Turn.” Social Science Research Council, 2015.

Reed, Ashley. “Digital Humanities and the Study and Teaching of North American Religions.” Religion Compass 10, no. 12 (December 1, 2016): 307–16.

Roberts, Kyle. “Digital Future of Jesuit Studies.” Catholic Library World 85, no. 4 (June 2015).

Pasquier, Michael. “American Religion and Digital Humanities.” Religion in American History, (2010).

Getting started:

Crompton, Constance, Richard J Lane, and Raymond George Siemens. Doing Digital Humanities: Practice, Training, Research, 2016.

From the Friday afternoon panel, “Digitization of Archives and Its Impact on Scholarly Research”

Fernanda Perrone, Archivist at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey had three helpful handouts from her presentation on digitized materials on women religious from the . They are reproduced below:

Digital Collections on Women Religious

Women’s Religious Community-Based Digital Projects

Other Digital Projects

Join us at ACHA in Denver this Weekend!

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The Jesuit Libraries Provenance Project is on the road this weekend in Denver at the annual meeting of the American Catholic Historical Association. The pull program of the conference can be found here.

Come join us on Saturday, January 7th from 3:30 to 5 pm in Sheraton Denver Downtown, Room: Governor’s Square 11, for the panel:

Books and Boundaries: Catholic Textual Encounters in Nineteenth-Century America

Scholars have long focused on Protestants, especially in the nineteenth-century American Midwest, as the people of the printed word, from their founding of Bible and tract societies to the catalyzing power of Beecher’s A Plea for the West (1835). Catholics, however, equally availed themselves of print. This panel explores not only the crucial importance of print to growing American Catholic communities but also some of the complications that the larger marketplace of print created for them.

The distribution of Catholic books through gift and sale reinforced the scattered members of Catholics, both clerical and lay. The specific texts distributed complicate any simple understanding of political/cultural/social identity in this period. They remind us of the transnational, hybrid identities of Atlantic World Catholics, balancing allegiances to the state, homeland, and the global Catholic Church. This panel emerges, in part, from the work of the Jesuit Libraries Provenance Project and seeks to reframe our understanding of religious community building through the mobility of texts. It does so by looking at such topics at the spread of ultramontane texts, the transnational distribution of mass-produced Catholic books and devotional images, and heterodox and obscene literature in a Jesuit college library.

Pio Nono on Paper: Transnational Connections in American Catholic Publishing, 1846-1878 Michael Albani, Michigan State University

Between 1846 and 1878, Pius IX reigned as the longest serving elected pope in the history of the Catholic Church. A defining element of his papacy was his embrace of ultramontanism, the ideology that the global church should be centered in Rome with the pope commanding both infallibility and spiritual supremacy. Much has been written about the effects of ultramontanism on nineteenth-century European Catholics, but comparatively less work has been done to assess the impact the intellectual and spiritual principles of Pius IX may have had on American Catholics, particularly on their print culture and parochial education.

My paper will explore emerging transnational connections in nineteenth-century American Catholic publishing when printers across the United States reacted to more reactionary religious ideals crossing the Atlantic from Rome. I will, furthermore, determine how writings inspired by Pius IX may have influenced Catholic education by using a single Midwestern institution, St. Ignatius College (precursor of Loyola University Chicago), as a case study. In approximately 1878, St. Ignatius College’s librarian compiled a catalogue of all the books on the library’s shelves, over 2,500 of which were published during Pius IX’s papacy. Even though only a fraction of those books survive, utilizing the surviving catalogue and digital resources developed by the Jesuits Libraries Provenance Project will help determine what texts originated from American Catholic publishers and how many of them fell in line with or deviated from ultramontane thought.

Wares for a Catholic Market: The Expansion of the Swiss Publishing House Benziger from Europe to the United States in the Nineteenth Century – Heinz Nauer (University of Lucerne, Switzerland)

Over the course of the nineteenth century, a multitude of Catholic publishing houses emerged in Europe. The role of these companies in the history of modern Catholicism is widely forgotten. This is rather astonishing, since from the 1830s onwards, Catholic publishers participated in the process of “Catholic mobilization” in many ways. Some of these publishing companies even became economically successful multinational enterprises with branches not only in several European countries, but also in North and South America. Especially in the United States, they served a growing market for religious wares such as prayer books, popular magazines, and devotional statues and pictures.

Based on the example of the Swiss publishing house of the Benziger Brothers, my paper examines the expansion of the Catholic publishing sector from Europe to the United States during the nineteenth century. The Benziger Company had its roots in Einsiedeln, a village and popular pilgrimage site situated in a pre-alpine region of central Switzerland. At the height of its production in the 1880s, Benziger produced more than one million prayer books and several million devotional pictures per year in its factories in Einsiedeln. A considerable percentage of these wares were exported to the US. The Benziger Brothers made their first commercial contacts with the American market in the 1830s. The first branch in New York, however, was not established before 1853. Other branches in Cincinnati (1860), St. Louis (1875), Chicago (1886) and San Francisco (1929) followed it.

This paper asks: along which networks did this remarkable expansion over the Atlantic take place? Which strategies did the publishers pursue in order to adjust their products to the needs of Catholic American society? Based on the extensive historical sources in the Benziger Brothers’ corporate archive, I will begin to answer these important questions.

The Heresy Saga: Heterodox Theology and Obscene Literature in the 1870s St. Ignatius College Library Collection – Gustav Roman and Roman Krasnitsky, Loyola University Chicago

Our topic explores the restricted section of late nineteenth-century library history: the literature and theological works of papal-proclaimed obscenity and heresy, and how those works were treated inside the library of the Jesuit-run St. Ignatius College in Chicago. Looking at first the broader historical context of papal censorship in the nineteenth century, our research cross-examines the works of alleged mind-poisoning heresy and vulgarity from their the point of the famous “Index” of banned literature, to the ways in which the banned titles were actually treated within the library. Based on the extreme reactions toward any literature of questionable descent, our work tracks a series of titles and the questions their inclusion—or various circulating peculiarities—present in the context of a Catholic-run, American institution. We question aspects of possible Jesuit resistance toward censorship, the library and university history of the era, the functions of papal encyclical distribution, and the many mysteries that come with the archival research and textual analysis.

Other panels of interest:

  • Digitization of Archives and Its Impact on Scholarly Research. Friday, 1:30-3:00 pm, Sheraton Downtown, Room: Governor’s Square 17
  • Catechism, Missals, and Papal Pronouncements. Friday, 3:30-5 pm, Sheraton Downtown, Room: Governor’s Square 17
  • Frontier Catholicism Across Three Centuries. Saturday, 8:30-10 am, Sheraton Downtown, Room: Governor’s Square 16
  • Presidential Roundtable: The Future of Catholic History: What do Graduate Students Want to Know? Saturday, 10:30-12 pm, Sheraton Downtown, Room: Governor’s Square 16.
  • Catholicism and Americanism in the 19th Century: New Perspectives on an Old Debate. Saturday, 3:30 – 5 pm, Sheraton Downtown, Room: Governor’s Square 16.

See you in Denver!

UPDATE: The panel went great. Here are our fine presenters before it began:

From left to right: Heinz Nauer (Lucerne), Gustav Roman (Loyola), Roman Krasnitsky (Loyola), and Michael Albani (Michigan State University).

From left to right: Heinz Nauer (Lucerne), Gustav Roman (Loyola), Roman Krasnitsky (Loyola), and Michael Albani (Michigan State University).

Unlocking the Secrets of a Book Trade Ledger: Fall Semester Recap

This post reflects on the JLPP team’s work on the 1840s book trade ledger from the Missouri Province this semester. It pulls liberally from intern Bianca Barcenas’s reflections on the process in her internship blog Mapping Catholics with the Jesuit Libraries Provenance Project.

This past fall semester, three members of the JLPP team – junior Bianca Barcenas, Master’s student Dan Snow, and Prof. Kyle Roberts – turned their attention to an in-depth study of the purchases in the book trade ledger maintained by the Jesuits in St. Louis between 1842 and 1849. The original ledger is in the collections of the archives of St. Louis University, but the JLPP team was able to work with a high-quality scan of the rich document.

Dan Snow and Brendan Courtois (and fellow Ramonat Scholar Andrew Kelly) in front of the poster on their work analyzing the book trade ledger.

Dan Snow and Brendan Courtois (and fellow Ramonat Scholar Andrew Kelly) in front of the poster on their work analyzing the book trade ledger.

Both Dan and Bianca had worked on the JLPP before. Dan researched some of the more interesting vendors recorded in the ledger’s “Bill Book” section last academic year and worked with Brendan Courtois on a big picture analysis of the ledger as a financial document. Bianca spent the summer detecting the contours of Mississippi and Missouri Valley Catholicism over time through a comparative study of statistical data in the 1841 and 1851 issues of the Metropolitan Catholic Almanac (MCA). As her post from August revealed, the center of Midwestern Catholicism began to shift over the 1840s from St. Louis to Chicago and Milwaukee, as the number of parishes rapidly expanded and three new dioceses came into being. Bianca’s summer research set the stage for a formal internship in the fall semester while Dan contributed the free time he had between graduate seminars.

The semester began with each team member rolling up her or his sleeves and transcribing several months or one year of purchases from the ledger. There are over 375 pages of transactions, so it would have been impossible for the three to try to do them all in a semester’s time. Bianca had the largest data set with January to December 1846, Dan worked on May to September 1849 (the last transactions in the ledger) and Prof. Roberts explored May 1842 to April 1843 (the first transactions). In order to understand the information recorded, it first had to be transcribed and organized. This meant making an Excel spreadsheet that recorded aspects of each transaction related to the consumer: the page on which it is listed; the day, month, and year of the purchase; the prefix and last name of the purchaser; and finally any notes about the transaction. (Later in the semester the team began to add information about what each person or institution purchased.)

Bianca's Excel spreadsheet of purchasers.

Bianca’s Excel spreadsheet of purchasers.

As her spreadsheet eventually grew to 380 transactions, Bianca found that her summertime work on the 1841 MCA offered a handy resource for making sense of nineteenth-century handwriting. Even as this early stage, names familiar from the MCA five years earlier appeared. Common names, however, made it difficult to discern whether the listed was Fr. Martins of St. Louis, Vincennes, or New Orleans.

With a preliminary spreadsheet of transactions in hand, the third, fourth, and fifth weeks of the semester were spent determining how many unique purchasers were represented. For example, 124 different clergy and laity made Bianca’s 380 transactions. Variant spellings and abbreviations of names added another layer of complexity. Was Sister Olympia the same as Sister Olimpia? Was Mr. Coppes also Mr. Copes?

A very helpful source available digitally!

A very helpful source available online!

Identifying clergy was made easier by the rich listings in the MCA and, for Jesuits, the Archivum Romanum Societatis Iesu, both available digitally. (There are some gaps in the online holdings of the MCA, but Loyola’s Special Collections has a complete run for the decade.) The laity, however, proved a greater challenge. Most were difficult to identify with any degree of certainty. By the end of this phase of the project, team members decided to swap their spreadsheets to see if they could identify people that the others had missed. Each also selected a certain segment of consumers across the period – Bianca looking at institutions and women religious, Dan at parish priests, and Prof. Roberts at the laity – to analyze.

While the rest of the team played catch-up cleaning their data and analyzing their purchasers, Bianca began to explore what institutions and women religious were purchasing across this period. What quickly became clear is that more than just books were being sold. Medals, beads, pictures, and crucifixes turned out to be popular sellers, a reminder of the importance of material culture to Catholicism. Curious about some of the titles that she repeatedly came across, Bianca looked at the history of three works in particular: Historical Sketches of O’Connell and his Friends, about the great nineteenth-century Irish proponent of Catholic emancipation; An Exposition of the Doctrine of the Catholic Church in Matters of Controversyby the popular seventeenth-century French orator and polemicist Jacques-Benigne Bossuet; and The Poor Man’s Catechism by John Mannock.

One of Bishop Peter Richard Kenrick's many transactions with the Jesuit booksellers.

One of Bishop Peter Richard Kenrick’s many transactions with the Jesuit booksellers.

By the mid-point of the semester, the team was ready to start aggregating and visualizing their transcribed and cleaned-up data. A new set of spreadsheets was created listing the names of unique purchasers, their locations at different points in time, and the frequency of their purchases. Most purchasers are only listed in one or two transactions a year. But a handful were very active patrons. Bishop Peter Richard Kenrick (1806-1896), for example, had 34 different transactions in May 1842-April 1843 and another 19 in 1846. Using the functionality of Google Fusion Tables, team members were able to create charts and maps to begin to identify patterns. One seemed to suggest a shift from clergy serving large swaths of scattered rural Catholics across a broad circuit at the start of the decade to their settlement in single parishes by the end. Bianca became particularly interested in thinking about movement and change over the first half of this period. After isolating a list of unique purchasers from 1846 whose location could be ascertained in 1841, she mapped both to see their geographic spread. Even with this limited dataset, her maps reveal the broad expanse of the trade, centered in St. Louis, but stretching east to Kentucky, west to Kansas, north to Chicago and south to New Orleans.

1841 Distribution Map

1841 Distribution Map

1846map

1846 Distribution Map

Throughout, the team sought to identify multiple variables about the unique purchasers. This included not only whether they were clergy or laity and their locations at the time of their purchase. The team also researched the order (if any) to which the clergy and women religious belonged. With the exception of the occasional (but inconsistent) “S.J.” after a Jesuit’s listing in the ledger, this information was very rarely recorded. But the Metropolitan Catholic Almanac often does reveal this, so Bianca went to work gathering this information.

By the end of the semester, all of the team members had a good handle on their purchasers and could begin thinking about the books they bought. Bianca made the greatest progress in the latter inquiry. She resumed the work she had been doing at mid-semester. She used the history of one person’s purchases to craft a preliminary narrative about that consumer in 1846. () Then, in her final post, she undertook an aggregate analysis of sales over the first four months of 1846. Two things jump out from her work. First, the broad range of works being sold. She identified over 348 unique titles, a number that astounded the entire team. Second, she discovered that the best sellers were, less surprisingly, devotional works like Gother’s Sincere Christian’s Guide (22 purchases), The Key of Heaven (23), and the Ursuline Manual (23), but also, more surprising, beads (31) and pictures (39). Charting their purchase over time suggested some seasonal patterns to boot.

Detecting seasonal pattens in the bestsellers of early 1846.

Detecting seasonal pattens in the bestsellers of early 1846.

In the spring 2017 semester, Bianca is off to study at Loyola’s John Felice Rome Center and is passing the baton to Dan, who will expand his study of the sales of particular books and what their significance might be to Catholics in the antebellum Midwest in a directed study. Stay tuned for more discoveries!

Visit Bianca's blog to learn more about her other passion: the theater!

Visit Bianca’s blog to learn more about her other passion: the theater!

The Multilingual Nature of the Catalogus Librorum and the Florissant Seminary

The following is the second installment in Maria Palacio’s exploration of the 1836 catalog from the Florissant Seminary. Here she tackles what we make of the multiplicity of languages found and used throughout its pages.

One of the most interesting characteristics of the Catalogus Librorum Alphabeticus Domus Probationis St. Stanislai is its multilingual character. The categories which structure the catalog are written in Latin, marginal notes in English and French, and the titles of the holdings are in these three languages as well as German, Greek, and Flemish (Fig. 1). A close study of the languages used in the Catalogus Librorum can help us better understand the intellectual and spiritual life of the Florissant Seminary, the people who lived there, and the books they read. Each of the segments of the Catalogus Librorum, from the two catalogs of the collection to the lists that served to record borrowing, can help us study this topic from different perspectives. This blog post will explore several questions (and suggest some answers) raised by the multilingual nature of the complex manuscript.

Fig 1. An example of the multilingual nature the Alphabetical Catalog: titles in Latin and notes in English. Collection of Jesuit Archives, Central United States

Fig 1. An example of the multilingual nature the “Alphabetical Catalog”:
titles in Latin and notes in English.
Collection of Jesuit Archives, Central United States

To begin, it is important to draw a distinction between the different types of language employed in this document: the one in which the two catalogs were structured, the ones in which the listed books were written, and the ones used for marginal comments. As was already mentioned, the Catalogus Librorum is primarily written in Latin, English, and French, but other languages appear in the document as well. I would not consider the Catalogus Librorum a multilingual document if it was just organized in one language (Latin) but also listed titles of books in the languages in which they were written. This happens in most modern catalogs. Instead, in this catalog the marginal notes, or the parts that let us understand the catalog, were written in multiple languages. It reminds us that Latin, French, and English were used in different capacities at Florissant; Latin being the “official” written language, French one of the main languages of daily interaction (let us remember that the Seminary was initially established by seven Belgian novices), and English the language members of the Florissant community were encouraged to learn to reach American audiences.

The fact that Latin was employed to organize the Catalogus Librorum should not be surprising, since it was, and still is in some particular cases, the official language of Catholicism. Official documents of the Seminary would have been written in Latin. However, the use of English to make clarifications, such as the “Note for the Librarian” at the start of the volume or the location and number of copies of certain titles, and French to make small annotations about the content of the titles within the “Alphabetical Catalog,” supports the idea that English and French were commonly spoken at the Seminary (Fig. 2). Although English was properly used throughout the “Alphabetical Catalog,” there are a few exceptions that suggest it was not the native language of the catalog’s author (Fig. 3). For instance, in at least eleven cases, the author wrote “on the garret” instead of “in the garret” in reference to the location of some of the titles, a mistake a native English speaker is not likely to make. Moreover, most of the annotations that explain the content of the titles are either written in Latin (when the title was in Latin) or in French, sometimes even if the title was not written in French. This might suggest that the author of this catalog felt more comfortable writing in Latin and French than in other languages.

Fig 2. Comments in English and French in the “Alphabetical Catalog” Collection of Jesuit Archives, Central United States

Fig 2. Comments in English and French in the “Alphabetical Catalog”
Collection of Jesuit Archives, Central United States

Fig 3. Example of a grammatical mistake in the “Alphabetical Catalog” Collection of Jesuit Archives, Central United States

Fig 3. Example of a grammatical mistake in the “Alphabetical Catalog”
Collection of Jesuit Archives, Central United States

The languages in which the listed titles were written reflected the community gathered at Florissant. For instance, in the first three pages of the “Alphabetical Catalog,” which correspond to the letters A and B, there are 16 titles in English, 26 in French, and 34 in Latin. The great number of titles in Latin should not be surprising due to the fact that, at that time, many Catholic ecclesiastical texts were written in that language. What is really interesting is the fact that the number of texts in French is significantly more than the number of titles in English. This reflects the fact that the Florissant community was initially established by seven Belgian novices and supports the notion that, even if the Seminary was in the United States, most of its members had French, and not English, as their main language, or even mother tongue. However, through the course of time, members of other nationalities joined. Thanks to the Archivum Romanum Societatis Iesu, I had access to lists of Jesuits in the Missouri Vice Province over the nineteenth century. The lists from 1835 and 1837 helpfully give an idea of the possible nationalities of the members of the Florissant community. Names of the missionaries indicate that for many their country of origin was probably Belgium. Yet we also see those who were perhaps more comfortable with English, men with lasts names like Fitzgerald and O’Connor (on the membership lists) and O’Connel, O’Brien, O’Neill, and Smith (on the borrowing lists, Fig. 4), many perhaps who were Irish or of Irish descent.

Fig. 4: Names on the Borrowing List. Collection of Jesuit Archives, Central United States

Fig. 4: Names on the Borrowing List.
Collection of Jesuit Archives, Central United States

Another proof of the multilingual nature of the community is the number and diversity of dictionaries in the library’s collection (Fig. 5). There are a total of 21 dictionaries listed in the “Alphabetical Catalog”: 4 English, 5 French-English, 1 English-Latin, 1 Greek-English, 1 French-Dutch, 2 French-Latin, 1 French-Flemish, 1 Greek-French, and 2 Latin-Greek dictionaries, as well as a tetralingual dictionary. Moreover, there are 20 grammar books listed in the “Alphabetical Catalog”: 6 Latin, 5 French, 8 English, and 1 Greek. If we cross reference the catalog with the borrowing ledger lists, which have around 180 entries, we can find that at least 10% of the books lent by the library correspond to language books such as dictionaries and grammars. This shows that language books were important circulation items in Florissant’s library collection.

Fig. 5: Dictionaries listed in the “Alphabetical Catalog” Collection of Jesuit Archives, Central United States

Fig. 5: Dictionaries listed in the “Alphabetical Catalog”
Collection of Jesuit Archives, Central United States

By studying the books listed in the Catalogus Librorum we can also establish that Florissant’s library collection favored the learning of the English language over other languages. Apart from the grammars and dictionaries, there are other kinds of language-learning books listed that are only available in English. The presence in the catalog of books such as the English Reader, Modern English Conversation, and Webster’s English Spelling book, show that there was a special interest in helping members of the Florissant community improve their English. It is also worth mentioning that many of the English grammars in the Catalogus Librorum were written in German or French. Given that most Seminary members did not come from English-speaking territories but needed to preach to English-speaking communities, it is not surprising that the library’s collection placed such an emphasis on the learning of English.

Finally, examining the different languages that appear in the Catalogus Librorum reveals an intriguing absence of books written in Spanish. The original Belgian novices at Florissant probably did not speak Spanish, although Belgium was under control of the Spanish crown from 1581 to 1714. However, it rapidly grew to be an important center for the Society of Jesus in North America. Yet the lack of Spanish-speaking members (or books for them) in the Florissant community is perhaps surprising given that by the beginning of the nineteenth century Spanish was already the official language of most Latin American countries. The expulsion of the Society of Jesus from Spain and other Latin American countries during the third decade of the nineteenth century could plausibly brought asylum seekers to Florissant.

Moreover, the Catalogus Librorum lists titles written by at least three important Spanish saints and priests: St. Ignatius, St. Therese, and Alphonse Rodriguez. They all lived in Spain during the sixteenth century, or the Spanish Golden Age, which was a time in with the Spanish language was at its cultural peak. Therefore, they all spoke Spanish and wrote some of their works in that language. For instance, St. Therese wrote Exclamaciones del alma a Dios in Spanish, but the Catalogus Librorum only held a French translation for this work. While Alphonse Rodriguez’s Exertitiam Perfectionem and St. Ignatius’ Exercitia Spiritualia were both originally written in Latin, this works were very rapidly translated to Spanish and widely circulated in the Spanish territories and colonies. However, the Catalogus Librorum only holds copies of these books in Latin, English, and French. In the nineteenth century, Spanish speakers in the Midwest appear not to have been as numerous as nowadays.

In 1836, the Florissant Seminary was a diverse multilingual community that privileged the knowledge of French, Latin, Dutch, German, and Flemish as well as English. Not surprisingly, its catalog was written in more than one language, proof that various languages were spoken in the Seminary at the same time. Latin, the official language of the Catholic Church, was used to write official documents, like the structure of the catalog, and was the language in a majority of the ecclesiastical texts on the library’s shelves. French was used by many in their the daily interactions as evidenced by their Belgian origins, presence of a large number of books, and some marginal annotations to the catalog in that language. English was the third most common language within the catalog, the language used to write explanatory comments, and the one whose learning was encouraged by the Seminary, probably because its members had to address to English-speaking communities in their preaching and pastoral work. Other languages appear in the catalog with less frequency. The presence of titles in Dutch, German, and Flemish is equally valuable to establish the linguistic and cultural diversity of the Florissant community. This presence in rural Missouri mirrored the diversity of the cosmopolitan Belgian territories from which they hailed. Both offered favorable conditions for a multilingual environment.

In the end, the questions that we cannot answer with the information offered by the catalog offer an interesting starting point for further research: How fluent were the members of the community in English and French? Were they equally facile with their writing and speaking? Did small dialects appeared due to the interaction between bilingual, and often trilingual, members of this community? And finally, how long after 1836 did this community retain its multilingual character and what were the forces that shaped its subsequent development?

Tracing the Expansion of Catholicism in the Mid-Nineteenth Century Midwest

This summer and fall, intern Bianca Barcenas is helping analyze and map the rich data on Catholic readers in the 1840s book trade ledger maintained by the Jesuits at St. Louis. In this first post she turns to Catholic almanacs in order to get a sense of the parameters of Midwestern Catholicism during the period covered by the ledger.

Over the summer, I have been digging through copies of the Metropolitan Catholic Almanac (MCA) published in 1841 and 1851 seeking to trace the growth of Catholicism in the Midwest. The MCA was published annually from 1838 to 1861 in Baltimore by Fielding Lucas (and by other publishers after that). It includes information such as feast days, a list of clergymen, and information about each diocese in the United States. Searching the MCA offers not only a look at the expansion of Catholicism through the eyes of Catholics, but also provides insight into the context in which Jesuits of the Missouri Province maintained their trade in books between 1842 and 1850. In this research, I have uncovered where Catholic authorities chose to focus their expansion within each diocese, as well as where across the Midwest as a whole.

List of Catholic Dioceses in the United States in order of founding from the Metropolitan Catholic Almanac (1845)

List of Catholic Dioceses in the United States in order of founding from the Metropolitan Catholic Almanac (1845). Collection of American Antiquarian Society in Sabin Americana.

Mid-nineteenth century Catholic dioceses were named after cities but encompassed whole states. For example, in 1841, the Diocese of Detroit comprised of not just the city of Detroit, but also the entire states of Michigan and Wisconsin. A “Diocesan Map of the United States” (below) prepared for the 1845 MCA visually demonstrates how far Catholicism had spread by that point and also provides a valuable key (above) listing each diocese, when it was incorporated, the territory it covered, and its bishops.

"Diocesan Map of the United States. Prepared for the Catholic Almanac for 1845."

“Diocesan Map of the United States. Prepared for the Catholic Almanac for 1845.” Collection of the American Antiquarian Society in Sabin Americana.

The most striking boundaries in the 1845 map, however, are not state lines but rivers. Transportation by river was key before the introduction of the railroad at mid-century. Each of the dioceses in the Mississippi River Valley is centered along the Mississippi River, or a branch of it. In 1841, nine dioceses were established either on or near the Mississippi River. At its southernmost point, the Diocese of New Orleans sits at the mouth of the river. Going north, the dioceses of Mobile and Natchez contribute to the Catholic scene in the Southern US. The dioceses of Nashville, Bardstown, and St. Louis lie at the center of the Mississippi River’s trail. Finally, the dioceses of Vincennes, Dubuque, and Detroit make up the Catholic population in the northern part of the Midwest, with not just the Mississippi nearby, but also Lake Michigan. The Jesuits enjoyed such a wide market for their book trade because they were centered at St. Louis, and had access to these waterways that led them to other Midwestern dioceses.

Page from the 1841 Metropolitan Catholic Almanac. Image from Hathitrust.

Page from the 1841 Metropolitan Catholic Almanac.

The MCA includes short summaries or snapshots of each diocese. In the diocese lists, the publisher included established churches, the priests that attended them, and all major institutions in the diocese with descriptions. What I have uncovered so far by analyzing the summaries of each Midwestern diocese is that Midwestern Catholicism in 1841 focused much on the expansion of faith and education through the creation of churches, stations, and institutions.

The MCA divides its recapitulation data into the number of churches and stations separately. Churches are gathered congregations with physical buildings dedicated to the practice of the Catholic faith, sometimes with a resident priest attending that parish. Stations, on the other hand, can be thought of as missions, where priests and other clergy members traveled to towns without established parishes in an attempt to teach, administer the sacraments, and lead worship for a period of time before moving on to the next station. Priests in each diocese also played a significant role in expanding Catholic influence. Out of the eight dioceses established in the Mississippi Valley area, only Dubuque had priests visiting less than twenty other stations, as only four stations existed in that diocese. In most dioceses, not only were clergy members attending established churches, but they were also traveling in order to convert those in more rural areas and attend to those who could not travel into towns. Priests physically expanded Catholicism through these stations. Half of the dioceses had an equal number or more of outside stations compared to churches established in the diocese, as shown in the chart below. Reverend Raho of St. Louis, for example, not only attended six churches in the Diocese of St. Louis, but also saw to at least six other stations. This section of the data shows how every diocese values the influence of the Catholic Church even in areas without established parishes. The goal for the Church was growth and conversion in this time.

Chart of churches vs. stations for each Midwestern diocese in 1841. Source: Metropolitan Catholic Almanac.

The number of churches (blue) and stations (orange) for each Midwestern diocese in 1841. (Date of incorporation next to name of each diocese.) Source: Metropolitan Catholic Almanac.

Catholic education was both religious (related to vocations) and literary (related to lay schooling), as many dioceses supported seminaries and convents alongside primary schools, academies, and colleges. These terms come from the almanacs, as they have numbers dedicated to “Religious Communities,” “Literary Institutions,” “Religious Institutions,” and so forth. Theological seminaries and Female Convents were common in many of these dioceses. Colleges, schools, and female academies were popular literary establishments. Female academies, such as the Convent and Academy of the Ladies of the Sacred Heart in St. Louis, were often run by women religious in that particular community. While there are a number of Catholic men’s colleges in 1841, more of the educational influence focused on younger children. More day schools, literary schools for boys, and female academies worked to spread Catholic education than at the college level.

From the data in the 1841 MCA, St. Louis was the clear center of Midwestern Catholicism. Established in 1826, the Diocese of St. Louis started out as the largest diocese in the United States, encompassing all territories west of the Mississippi River, until other dioceses were created from within its borders (Dubuque, Chicago, Little Rock). Catholics established sixty-five churches there, along with sixty stations visited. (This number is only ten less than Bardstown, which had the largest number of stations scattered across the Kentucky countryside). Over seventy total clergymen resided in the diocese, overseeing the two ecclesiastical seminaries, two colleges, ten female academies, eight charitable institutions, four primary schools, and ten convents. With such a spread in terms of institutions and inclusion of rural areas of Missouri and Southern Illinois, the diocese of St. Louis was definitely the center of Midwestern Catholicism at this time. Expansion of the faith seems to have preoccupied newer dioceses more than education, leaving the latter an outlier until the diocese becomes much better established.

After a decade, Catholicism in the Midwest was still growing. Three new dioceses were established in the Mississippi River Valley in 1843 at Milwaukee, Chicago, and Little Rock. These dioceses comprised the states of Wisconsin, Illinois, and Arkansas, respectively. Instead of being parts of the dioceses of Detroit, Vincennes, and St. Louis, the Catholic population in each of these areas grew enough to warrant an independent diocese. Also, the diocese of Bardstown from the 1841 almanac changed that very year to be the diocese of Louisville, possibly because of larger population growth or even because Louisville is situated along the Ohio River, which branches from the Mississippi.

The number of churches and stations in midwestern dioceses in 1851. Source: Metropolitan Catholic Almanac.

The number of churches (blue) and stations (orange) for each Midwestern dioceses in 1851. Source: Metropolitan Catholic Almanac.

In 1851, stations continue to be key in the expansion of Catholicism in the Midwest. In newer dioceses (those with fewer established churches), stations often outnumber churches. For example, the Diocese of Nashville only had eight churches, but twenty stations. Similarly, the Diocese of Little Rock also maintained eight churches, but clergymen oversaw twelve stations as well. From the 1851 almanac, it appears that the ratio of churches to stations remained similar to that of 1841 (see chart above), however the data is a bit skewed because the dioceses of Vincennes, New Orleans, and Mobile did not include the numbers of stations in the 1851 almanac. Priests still remained key to the expansion of Catholicism in the Midwest, however this growth did not occur evenly across the Mississippi River Valley. The Diocese of Nashville, established in 1837, built one church and saw to twenty stations by 1841. After a decade, the diocese had only built seven new churches and maintained the same number of stations. This is surprising compared to dioceses such as New Orleans or Vincennes, where the number of new churches built over the decade was twenty-six and forty. Unfortunately, the 1841 almanac does not include estimated Catholic populations, so it is hard to say whether or not the growth rates reflected population or other factors.

Schools for various audiences were still being opened and run in significant numbers into 1851. The dioceses of St. Louis and Louisville recorded more educational institutions than any other. There was also an increase in the number of charitable institutions, where Louisville recorded fifteen at the highest amount, compared to St. Louis’ eight in 1841. Numbers are few for religious institutions in most dioceses, however, because much of this data was not included in the 1851 almanac. Only Chicago included numbers for female convents, and Dubuque and St. Louis recorded the number of general religious institutions for 1851.

By 1851, the new dioceses of Chicago and Milwaukee were poised to surpass St. Louis and New Orleans in the number of churches established. With seventy-four and seventy-two churches, respectively, they had grown quickly, while in St. Louis the number of churches decreased from sixty-five to fifty-six. (This was probably caused by the creation of the dioceses of Chicago and Little Rock, as St. Louis used to maintain all of Missouri, as well as Arkansas, and Western Illinois.) However, St. Louis still maintained many schools, academies, and other religious institutions. Other dioceses surpassed St. Louis in numbers of specific types of schools and academies, but St. Louis still ran more institutions overall compared to the other dioceses in the Mississippi Valley. While the diocese of Vincennes documented the most churches (numbering seventy-seven), and New Orleans the largest Catholic population (about 170,000), the dioceses of Milwaukee and Chicago were the centers of Catholic growth in the mid-nineteenth century. Each diocese created a handful of academies, institutions, and communities. The number of churches in the process of building (twenty-nine for Milwaukee, and fifteen for Chicago) was a testament to their commitment to growth and access to faith.

Not only does this data from the MCA reveal the growth of dioceses across the Midwest, it also reveals the diversification of Catholic initiatives. In 1841, the Catholic Church in the United States recorded its growth by the number of churches, stations, and institutions, so the reader could see the end result each year. Ten years later, those numbers were still recorded but contributors also noted the number of churches being built, missions in Native American Territories, and an estimate of the Catholic population in each diocese. In the end, these numbers reveal not only the competition between Catholics and Protestants (who regularly recorded and published their own growth numbers) but also competition within dioceses to prove their development over the years. In all, the Jesuits of the Missouri Province certainly had a rapidly expanding market for their book trade.

Exploring the Catalogus Librorum Alphabeticus Domus Probationis St. Stanislai (1836)

This summer intern María Palacio, a candidate in Loyola’s Master’s in Digital Humanities Program has been studying the earliest surviving library catalog from the Jesuit Seminary in Florissant, Missouri.  This catalog has recently been conserved and made accessible to researchers. Here Maria shares some important insights gained from transcribing the catalog.

Catalog front cover. Collection of Jesuit Archives, Central United States

Catalog front cover.
Collection of Jesuit Archives, Central United States

Last year, thanks to a grant from Loyola’s Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage, the fragile Catalogus Librorum Alphabeticus Domus Probationis St. Stanislai (Alphabetical Catalog of the Library at the St. Stanislaus House of Studies), was conserved and made accessible to researchers. This 65-page manuscript, begun in 1836, contains the catalog, or more precisely a series of catalogs, for the library of the Jesuit Seminary at Florissant, Missouri. When it was first established in 1823, St. Stanislaus was populated by seven Belgian novices, but it rapidly grew into one of the main centers of the Society of Jesus in the Midwestern United States over the 19th century. By 1870, the Missouri Province Jesuits, who had their origins in the once small Florissant Seminary, founded St. Ignatius College in Chicago. By 1878, St. Ignatius College’s library held approximately 5100 titles, around 6 times more titles than Florissant’s library forty years earlier. Although the Catalogus Librorum is considerably smaller than the original catalog of St. Ignatius, it is hoped that, by studying this earlier catalog, and looking for overlaps in both collections, we can better understand the history of Loyola University’s original library.

However, before we could start comparing both collections, I needed to transcribe the Florissant catalog. Given the fact that the catalog appears to have been written by more than one person, and that some of the pages are written with different ink types or even faded by humidity, this document cannot be read and transcribed by only looking at it once. Therefore, I decided to divide the transcribing process into three stages. In the first stage, which I recently finished, I tried to read and transcribe as much as I could without stopping to think a lot about the fragments that I could not read or that confused me. Instead, I marked all those cases to revisit in a second stage when I have a greater understanding of the documents and more familiarity with the different handwriting styles. Finally, in the third stage, in which I expect to have an almost definitive transcription, I will encode the text in an XML format. This encoding will allow for the better digital preservation of the transcription, and to markup different characteristics of the text: the deletions, the changes in handwriting, the type of ink, the languages, etc.

While it is too soon to compare this catalog with Loyola’s first catalog, I have been able to study this document itself, analyzing its fragments and particularities, and ask a series of questions about book circulation and organization in this Jesuit library in Missouri. By transcribing the catalog I realized that this document is actually composed of several fragments: a “Note for the librarian”, a small Index, a map of the library, a rudimentary borrowing ledger, the Alphabetical Catalog, and a second catalog (the Subject Catalog) created in a different time and by a different person.

“Note for the Librarian,” Collection of Jesuit Archives, Central United States

“Note for the Librarian.”
Collection of Jesuit Archives, Central United States

The “Note for the Librarian” is a short text to help the librarian understand some confusing aspects of the Alphabetical Catalog. We can establish that the “Note” is related to the Alphabetical catalog for two main reasons. First, both are written with the same handwriting and ink type, which could mean that the note was written by the same person. Second, the Alphabetical Catalog employs 7 categories to catalog the books, including Provincia, which classifies the titles by topic, and Locus which designates where the titles must be located in the library. These two categories only exist in the Alphabetical Catalog and are indirectly mentioned in the “Note.” For instance, the “Note” explains how the Locus category works: “Some books being placed behind the others, their place is marked in this catalog thus: 1b, 2b etc to indicate that they are to be found on the 1[s]t or 2[n]d board behind the visible…” By reading this note we can establish that the number in Locus determines the board in which a book was placed. Sometimes, probably for space reasons, a book had to be placed behind other books and it was not visible to the librarian. To solve this problem, the books placed behind are marked with a “b” next to their Locus number in the Alphabetical Catalog. That way, the librarian could find a book in a respective board even if it was not visible. Moreover, in the present, this piece of information can help us to partially understand Florissant’s library organization and limitations. For instance, in the Alphabetical Catalog there is a total of 46 items with this kind of Locus: 23 of books belonging to the Theology Provincia, 19 to the Scholastica, 2 to the History and 2 to Piety. More interestingly, the Provincia and Locus of almost half of these items was modified over the course of time, resulting in the need of the “b” designation to be able to fit them in a different board. This fact could lead to the conclusion that organization of the library was parallel to the creation of the Alphabetical Catalog, and it gave enough space for most of the books in each Locus and Provincia to fit well in their designated boards. However, when the classification of some items changed some space problems appeared resulting in the need to use the “b” designation more often.

Alphabetical Catalog illustrating items marked with a “b” next to their Locus number. Collection of Jesuit Archives, Central United States

Alphabetical Catalog illustrating items marked with a “b” next to their Locus number.
Collection of Jesuit Archives, Central United States

I expected that the Index and the map would help me to better picture this library. However, apart from the fact that they appear to be written with the same handwriting, there is not a clear relationship between the Alphabetical Catalog and these segments of the document. We can be certain that the Index and the map are directly related because the categories listed in the first are then explicitly mentioned in the second. Yet, most of the categories mentioned in the Index and the map are not mentioned in the Alphabetical Catalog. While in the map, books appear to be organized in sections named as letters from A to M, in the Alphabetical Catalog books appear to be organized in the library by its Locus number. All these facts make it hard to draw a relationship between the first segments of the document, and the Alphabetical Catalog. Perhaps, since they are both written in pencil, the map and the Index belonged to an earlier or later cataloguing project.

Map of the St. Stanislaus Library. Collection of Jesuit Archives, Central United States

Map of the St. Stanislaus Library.
Collection of Jesuit Archives, Central United States

Once I transcribed the Alphabetical Catalog, I realized that it was an intriguing document. The fact that is written in cursive and organized into tables, points out it was conceived to be an official catalog, and not just a temporary list of books and where to find them. There is an effort of classifying the books alphabetically by author (or barring that, title) and by topic (using the Provincia category), as well as an attempt to keep record of the location, format, physical condition, and price of the books held by the library.

However, in this document we can also find traces of usage like annotations, marks, and deletions, made with different ink types and sometimes with a different handwriting. For instance, the category Provincia, in which books and documents are classified by its topic (theology, piety, history, etc.), appears to be a continuous source of hesitation, especially when dealing with titles directly related with the Society of Jesus. Apparently, when the catalog was created all of the books related with the Society of Jesus, or written by one of its members, were listed under the Provincia IHS, the christogram used as the symbol for the Society of Jesus. However, at some point, someone, maybe a different librarian, decided to eliminate IHS as a classificatory topic and reorganize all the titles that appeared under that Provincia under other classifications. There were 47 entries of the catalog classified as IHS and, since the classification in Provincia affects the one in Locus, its elimination must have had implied a big change on the library’s organization.

Changes in Provincia in the Alphabetical Catalog. Collection of Jesuit Archives, Central United States

Changes in Provincia in the Alphabetical Catalog.
Collection of Jesuit Archives, Central United States

Another trace of usage, that shows how this collection and the library’s organization changed over the course of time are the series of deletions and annotations that appear on the catalog. Often items are crossed out. This implies that those items stopped being part of the collection of the library. Since there is not a date accompanying the deletion, we cannot know when items stopped being part of the collection. However, sometimes, the crossed out items have a note next to them specifying that they were given away and to whom. This fact reveals to us that this collection circulated outside the Seminary. Is it possible then that some of the books of the collection ended up being part of Loyola’s first library? At this point, we cannot answer many of these questions. However, we can be certain that the library and its catalog were not static entities, and that they were constantly modified by human interactions.

Subject Catalog. Collection of Jesuit Archives, Central United States

Subject Catalog.
Collection of Jesuit Archives, Central United States

Around ten percent of the Alphabetical Catalog is currently crossed out. That made me think that, at some point, there appeared the need to rewrite and actualize the catalog. That could answer why the segment of the Alphabetical Catalog is followed by another catalog clearly written by another person and in a different time. The second catalog, or Subject Catalog, is considerably shorter and has a very different cataloguing approach, but it is very likely that it addressed the same collection than the Alphabetical Catalog, because there is an overlap of more than ninety percent of the titles between the catalogs. The main difference between the catalogs is that the Subject Catalog is not organized alphabetically, but in chapters by subject: the Sacred Scriptures (Bibles and the books or texts that analyze them) and Ecclesiastical history (texts about the expansion of Christianity, Catholic history, Jesuit history, etc).

This catalog seems to leave out all the titles that are not directly related with the Christian faith, and that were part of the collection of the Library in Florissant like dictionaries, grammar books, books about history and medicine, literature classics, etc. One possible explanation for the missing items in this catalogue is that it was never completed. However, this hypothesis seems unlikely if we take into account that the Subject Catalog has numerous traces of usage like deletions and posterior annotations. A more plausible explanation could be that some pages of this Subject Catalog are lost. We already know that the manuscript we have our hands is not complete because the section of the titles starting with the letter “C” is missing from the Alphabetical Catalog. Therefore it is not unlikely that some pages from the Subject Catalog are missing too. Furthermore, the Index and the map of the library could actually be related to the Subject Catalog and support the idea that some pages of this catalog are lost. The Index is not divided in chapters, but it is clearly divided in sections that could represent chapters. The first section lists topics like Scripture, Canon, Philosophy and Controversy which are also the topics of the books listed in the first chapter of the Subject Catalog. Moreover, the second and third sections of the Index, which lists topics such as Sermons, and Lives of the Saints also correspond with the titles listed in Chapters 2 and 3 of the Subject Catalog. The Index has four more sections that list topics like Literature, Classics, and Languages, but, since the Subject Catalog we have ends in Chapter 3, we cannot confirm if there were parallels between the rest of the Index and the possible missing pages of the Subject Catalog.

Since the Index seemed to be related to the Subject Catalog, and the map of the library is certainly related to the Index, I tried to find a relationship between the map and the Subject Catalog. However, apart from the fact that in both documents books seem to be organized in the library by letters, I could not find a clear relationship between them. While in the map books are organized in sections from A to M, in the Subject Catalog we can find books with Littteras like “O” and “S”, which are not included in the map. Moreover, in the map, letter sections are organized by topics (for instance, the books placed in the “G” section are related to English, French, and German languages), but this topics do not correspond with the topics of the books under the Littera “G” in the Subject Catalog , where we can find titles like Concordantia Bibliorum and Notitia ecclesiastica per Cabassutium. Therefore, we cannot establish a clear relationship between the Index and map and the Subject Catalog and we can not use the information in these pages to confirm the incompleteness of the Subject Catalog.

Even if the Subject Catalog is incomplete, it can still be an useful complement to the study of the Florissant’s collection, because it gives information that the Alphabetical Catalog omits. Since it is already organized by topics, the Subject Catalog eliminates the Provincia category. It also replaces the Locus category for a category called Littera (which uses letters instead of numbers to determine the placement or a book within the library) and records the year of publication, place of origin, format, and number of volumes. This latter information is very useful from a History of the Book perspective, because it allows us to better understand the origin of the items. Moreover, the introduction of the year category allows us to determine the probable date of creation of the Subject Catalog. For instance, we can establish that it must have been written at least ten years after the Alphabetical Catalog, because it contains items from years after 1836. With the information on the catalog we can also estimate that it was created around the year 1846, because there are no books from any year after 1846.

This fact could lead us to conclude that, after 10 years of usage, the Alphabetical Catalog was replaced by the Subject Catalog. But why? I already mentioned that around 10% of the Alphabetical Catalog is crossed out, and that in the Subject Catalog we can find titles that do not appear in the Alphabetical Catalog. However, are this changes enough to create a new catalog with a very different approach to the collection? Why did they did not create a new copy of the Alphabetical Catalog instead of a brand new type catalog that implied a whole reorganization of the collection? And, moreover, can we be certain that the Alphabetical Catalog was completely replaced by the Subject Catalog?

Borrowing list from 1852. Collection of Jesuit Archives, Central United States

Borrowing list from 1852.
Collection of Jesuit Archives, Central United States

Previously I mentioned there is a segment of the Catalogus Librorum composed by a series of informal lists of books lent from the library. This pages could be considered a rudimentary borrowing ledger. I say rudimentary because the 11 pages that contain lists of books lent from the library do not have the same organization system or contain the same kind of information: some of them just contain a segment of the title that was borrowed followed by a name, while others are more organized tables that also contain the date in which the title was lent. However, most of this pages appear to be written by the same person who wrote the Alphabetical Catalog, which is odd if we take into account that the date of February 1852 appears in one of them. Moreover, in that same list we can find books that do not appear in the pages we have of the Subject Catalog like a Latin Grammar and a book by Virgil. Could this list help us prove that some pages of the Subject Catalog are lost? Or, could this mean that the Alphabetical Catalog, which appears to be written by the same person that the lists of the borrowing ledger, was still used by 1852? Was the author of the Alphabetical Catalog the librarian of the Florissant collection and, for that reason, his handwriting appears in documents from 1852 when the Alphabetical Catalog had been replaced? We can not answer any of these questions with total certainty, but at least we can be sure that the Catalogus Librorum Alphabeticus Domus Probationis St. Stanislai is an intriguing document that will not only allow us to compare the collections of the library in Florissant with Loyola’s first library, but also to study issues of cataloguing practices and book circulation in other Jesuit libraries.

Building an Interpretation of the World: Mary Louise Pratt and the Dangers of Travel Writing

Sophomore Mark Neuhengen returns with another post about his project to study travel literature in the original St. Ignatius College Library catalog. Here he reflects on how the work of a leading scholar of travel literature, Mary Louise Pratt, helps him think about the issues around his own research topic.

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One of Bayard Taylor’s many titles in the original library collection of St. Ignatius College.

When I first starting looking at the St. Ignatius College’s collection of travel literature, I felt that I proved J.R.R. Tolkien’s iconic words, “Not all those who wander are lost,” wrong. Wandering through titles ranging from Washington Irving’s The Adventures of Capt. Bonneville, U.S.A. in the Rocky Mountains and the Far West to Bayard Taylor’s Egypt and Iceland in 1874, I felt that I was very much lost. Travel literature seemed such a diverse and expansive genre to the point where any book with a character on a journey could qualify! This overwhelming feeling was quickly allayed after reading the brilliantly written Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation by Mary Louise Pratt.

Throughout her book, Pratt explores how the writings of European explorers created an image of foreign lands that shaped the popular imagination. Pratt’s book is divided by era into three parts. She begins by analyzing scientists who worked between 1750 and 1800. Where previous generations had focused on oceanic exploration in their efforts at circumnavigation of the earth, this new group shifted their attention to interior exploration and laid the foundation for the modern travel literature movement. In the second part, Pratt discusses explorers in the first half of the 19th century who increasingly popularized a new planetary consciousness that reinvented whole regions of the globe, but typically on European terms. She concludes her book by investigating 20th century travel literature and the tropes they utilized. Since the books contained in the St. Ignatius College library were published prior to the 20th century, the first two parts of Pratt’s book were the most useful.

The work of Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) inspired generations of scientists to explore the world.

The work of Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) inspired generations of scientists to explore the world. Source: Wikimedia.

Pratt begins with Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), who the reader might remember from biology class as the scientist who developed an expansive classification system for all living organisms (Homo Sapiens, Bradypus variegatus, Solanum tuberosum). His system, laid out in Systema Naturae (1735), inspired many scientists to set out to categorize the world. These scientists traveled the globe and wrote about the places and things they saw albeit in a scientific context. In other words, the work of these scientists contained descriptions of locations and people, but these descriptions were told in a highly scientific manner. This work, however, created lasting problems. Linnaeus’ students categorized not only beavers and pine trees, but also decided to “categorize” different groups of humans! The categorization charts of these scientists reveal their Eurocentric prejudice: they proclaim the White European governed by laws as the pinnacle of the human species. Encountering and observing people of other races and ethnicities, they assumed them to be driven by emotions or customs instead of law, placing them below the European ideal. While it is easy for people today to look back upon these scientists and condemn them for their bigotry, I believe it is important to take note of their historical context. Being trained in the sciences, these explorers were taught to look at their environments as categories. One should also their note the cultural context in which they were taught. In their post-Enlightenment world, these scientists saw their society as governed by laws, but the people they encountered in other parts of the world had not experienced the same burst of philosophical thought, and subsequently were not seen as governed by the same laws. These writers were not able to move away from their historical context, and subsequently created a hierarchy of humanity.

It would make sense for a scientific endeavor to kick off the age of travel literature. The scientific drive to understand and explain the natural world would be the perfect catalyst to set off this new “Age of Exploration.” Due to the Scientific Revolution, science was becoming a force of change. The racial problems created by Linnaeus’ work bring up an important point that has implications in many fields of study. It is disturbing that the “objective” system of science pushed individuals to create something, in hindsight, as subjective as a racial hierarchy. I find it important to consider that science is another tool of fallible humans that subsequently makes science vulnerable to grievous error. This error subsequently affected the travel literature of later time periods by creating the racial hierarchies mentioned earlier. With the supposedly objective system of science backing them up, future explorers would travel to new places with the idea of superiority already engrained into their thinking. I believe that this potentially created a vicious cycle in which new explorers reiterated the racial hierarchies to their audiences.

An example of the "objective" classification systems designed by scientists inspired by Linnaeus. Source:

An example of the “objective” classification systems designed by scientists inspired by Linnaeus. Source: William & Mary University, Institute for Historical Biology

Alexander von Humboldt was one of the 19th century's most popular travel writers. Source: Wikimedia.

Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was one of the 19th century’s most popular travel writers. Source: Wikimedia.

I find the phenomena of the travel literature creating the image of foreign lands in the minds of native-born Europeans to be fascinating. In a world without extensive media, it is almost mind blowing to consider that these travel books would be the only exposure to these lands that Europeans would experience. In the contemporary period, if one wanted to learn about the Great Pyramids of Giza one could easily find thousands of online articles and photographs. This is not a privilege shared by those in the 19th century who would have to wait for a travel writer to write a book on the pyramids. Pratt explores the very real consequences of explorers’ framing lands in specific ways. For example, the Prussian explorer Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) traveled extensively throughout Latin America and subsequently wrote about his journeys. It is important to note that Humboldt was working within the Romantic era, which emphasized the emotional aspects of existence. This and other reasons influenced his decision to describe Latin America as “primal.” While Humboldt extensively described the minerals, plants, and trees, he barely mentioned the inhabitants of the land. As a result, he opened the door for two general categories of explorers. One was the romantic explorer who traveled there for more or less sentimental reasons to experience the destinations in all of their “primal” glory and majesty. The other was the capitalist who saw every tree and mineral as product to extract and sell. Thus, these images of the world could be disastrous in the hands of tourists and capitalists who knew Latin America only as a land of valuable minerals instead of a land of diverse and beautiful cultures.

Everyone believes that his or her interpretation of the world is the correct one. European explorers ended up creating an image of the world, while true in their eyes, which did not reflect the actual reality of the lands they visited for the people who lived there. It is also fascinating that the images constructed by the explorers, many of which revolved around racial stereotypes, end up contradicting themselves. Pratt explores how Mary Kingsley portrayed the Congo as a place of wonder and excitement. “Kingsley depicts herself discovering her swamps not by looking down at them or even walking around them, but by sloshing zestfully through them in a boat or up to her neck in water and slime, swathed in thick skirts and wearing her boots continuously for weeks on end,” Pratt writes (p.209). But such an image of the Congo does not mesh well with Joseph Conrad’s description of the Congo as a dangerous and harsh environment in The Heart of Darkness.

A final point to notice in Pratt’s work is that there were female explorers in this time period. When one thinks of historic explorers he or she probably is reminded of famous names such as Christopher Columbus and Francisco Pizzaro. These explorers are typically male. One can also look at popular fictional explorers, such as Indiana Jones, and again see the archetype of the male explorer. While this image still is powerful in the popular imagination, it is important to note that there were also female explorers. English traveller Maria Graham (1785-1842) wrote extensively about her travels through South America and the Indian subcontinent, and the half-Peruvian Flora Tristan (1803-1844) wrote about Peru and poor areas of Europe. Pratt explains how the viewpoints of female travellers differed from their male counterparts, but does not believe that there was generally a single “feminine” perspective in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century travel literature. Through learning about these female explorers, my original hypothesis, that women were not traveling, was proved false. I had based this upon my first examination of the library’s catalog. While the St. Ignatius College library did not feature travel books written by female authors, there were women writing about their travels during the same time period. So why are female travel writers not to be found in this Jesuit college library? This question requires further research.

Following my reading of this book, I will now be going through the titles book by book so that I can categorize them by the period in which they were written, their date of publishing, and the motivation of the author for travelling (such as going on a pilgrimage, scientific exploration, or commercial mission). Finding the motivation of the author may be the most daunting aspect because nearly a third of the titles are in French, a language in which I am not fluent. While the language barrier may be difficult, I never let anything get in the way of learning something new.

It seems that I am not wandering and lost any more! Through reading Pratt’s book, I have learned much about the nature of modern travel literature and its historical roots. By exploring how the predominantly white, male Europeans ended up developing the image of foreign lands in the minds of their fellow Europeans, I believe that I have come to appreciate the real consequences books can have. What might this have meant for the Jesuits of St. Ignatius College who were educating their students in a rapidly growing city full of immigrants. It would be important for them to create a strong identity for the students in relationship to other groups in the world. What effect did the travel literature in the St. Ignatius College library have on this process of identity formation? Moving forward I am excited to look at each book and learn why the author decided put his pen to paper – and what the repercussions of that might be for his audience on the west side of Chicago in the late nineteenth century.