The Roots and Routes of a Science Textbook

The Italian Peninsula in the eighteenth century was the staging ground for countless wars and revolutions.  The Empires of Spain, Austria, and France, not to mention countless Italian factions, spilled blood over one of the smallest strips of land in Europe.  The city of Rome, and all of its inhabitants, witnessed much of this slaughter. One of the books in the library of St. Ignatius was more than just a witness, it was a likely victim.

Andrea Caraffe's Elementa Physicae Mathematicae (1840) in the St. Ignatius College Collection

Andrea Caraffa’s Elementorum Physicae Mathematicae (1840) in the St. Ignatius College Collection


Caraffa’s Elementorum Physicae Mathematicaefound its way from the Eternal City to Chicago in the short 30 years between the book’s publication and when the Saint Ignatius College Library was founded. During that time, the city of Rome was subject to numerous uprisings and suppressions. The Roman Republic, a rebellion against the Papal Monarchy with connections to other rebel movements in Venice and Milan, was formed in 1848 under the guidance of Garibaldi and Mazzini, two Italian nationalists and republicans who would be instrumental in Italy’s later unification. The revolution was soon suppressed by French forces who retook the city of Rome and returned it to the fled Pope Pius IX. For the next twenty years the Pope would be under French protection until the retaking of the city by King Victor Emmanuel II during the unification of Italy.

Stamp of the Collegio Romano indicates its ownership before coming to St. Ignatius College.

Stamp of the Collegio Romano indicates its ownership before coming to St. Ignatius College.

Any of these events could have led to the loss of the book from its place in an important Jesuit Library in Rome. A stamp on the title-page indicates that the book belonged to the Collegio Romano (College of Rome/ Roman College – today’s Pontifical Georgian University).  The Collegio Romano was founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola in 1551 as a “School of Grammar, Humanity, and Christian Doctrine” at the base of the Capitoline Hill.  Three hundred years later, the Collegio Romano had an important library on a variety of subjects but had also witnessed its share of persecution, having been closed with the Suppression in 1773 and not restored to the Jesuits until 1824. During the revolution of the Roman Republic, the Jesuits were expelled from the city again by the new government.

How this book made its way to North America amidst the violence of mid-century uprisings is unclear. Perhaps French troops removed it and it was sold in Paris. Or maybe a fleeing priest took the book with him when the revolution was threatening the stability of the city.  Somehow it made its way either to London, Paris, or perhaps even one of the Italian port cities like Genoa where books were easily bought and sold.

Ownership mark of the Missouri Province, post 1863

Ownership mark of the Missouri Province, post 1863

Yet sometime during or after 1863, this book had made its way into the hands of the Jesuits at the Scholasticate of the Province of Missouri (Schol. Prov. which was located at Florissant.  How this book (and hundreds of others) made their way north to Chicago is also imperfectly understood, but will be a focus of research in the coming academic year.

From Rome to St Louis to Chicago — and to an unknown number of places in between — this copy of Caraffa’s Elementa Physicae Mathematicae has been a witness to violence and exile and now safely resides in Loyola’s Special Collections, waiting to tell its story!

Research by Evan Thompson, JLPP Intern, with valuable help from Doug Wayman and Stephen Schloesser, SJ.


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