Join us at ACHA in Denver this Weekend!


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).


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