The Society of Jesus is a religious order of priests and brothers commonly known as the Jesuits. It was founded by St Ignatius of Loyola in Paris in 1534. Its membership grew rapidly: by 1626 it had 15 544 members and colleges. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries it played a central role in reviving Catholicism spiritually and intellectually, and stemming the advance of Protestantism. From the outset, its principal work was in education and learning, and Jesuit writers have made immense contributions to theology, philosophy, history, mathematics, physics, geography, cartography, linguistics, natural history and other disciplines. It has also established many missions in Asia, Africa, South America, the United States, Canada and Australia. The Society was dissolved by Pope Clement XIV in 1773, but was restored in 1814.

The provenance of the Jesuit Collection in the Library is quite complex. Based on inscriptions in the books, it seems that many of the oldest works were originally held by the Jesuit college at Liège, in the Spanish (later Austrian) Netherlands, where English novices were trained from 1624 to 1794. The books were transferred to Stonyhurst, the college in Lancashire that the English Jesuits established after they returned to England in 1794. Other books in the collection were originally part of the Jesuit colleges at St Beuno’s in North Wales (founded 1848), Roehampton in London (founded 1861) and Beaumont in Berkshire (founded 1861), and the Sepulchrine Convents at Dean House in Wiltshire (1794–98) and New Hall in Essex (founded 1798). In 1923 a Collegium Maximum was established in Oxfordshire—Heythrop College—and at the outset its library acquired many books from Stonyhurst and St Beuno’s. Heythrop College later inherited collections from the other colleges, especially when Roehampton and Beaumont closed in the 1960s. It appears that Heythrop disposed of a large collection at the time of its move to London in 1970.


The Jesuit Collection was purchased in 1971 from the bookseller Richard Booth of Hay-on-Wye in Wales.


The Jesuit Collection consists of about 8000 volumes (5482 titles) published between 1564 and 1965 and written in Latin, Greek, English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. They cover a wide range of subjects including bibliography, the history of the Society of Jesus, spiritual exercises, sermons, meditations, doctrine, liturgical studies, the internal government of the order, Jesuit missions, ecclesiastical history, relations with Protestant churches, theology, philosophy, art, biography and general histories by Jesuit historians. There are also a number of works, mostly dating from the seventeenth century, on controversial subjects such as the Papacy and temporal power, the validity of Anglican orders, marriage and divorce.

The following are examples of some of the rare works in the collection:


Alegambe, P., ;Bibliotheca scriptorium Societatis Iesu, post excusum anno MDCVIII catolgum (1643)

Augustin et Alois de Backer, Bibliothèque des écrivains de Jesus, ou notices bibliographiqes de tous les ouvrages publiés par les membres de la compagnie de Jesus (7 vols, 1853–61)

Index generalis in omnes libros instituti Societati Iesu (1635)


Agricola, Ignatius, Historia provinciae Societati Iesu Germaniae superioris (5 vols in 4, 1727–54)

Bombina, Paulo, Vita et martyrium Edmundi Campioni martyris Angli et Societate Jesu (1620)

Bouhours, Dominique, La vie de Saint Ignace, fondateur de la Compagnie de Jesus (1679)

Cretineau-Joly, J., Histoire religieuse politique et littéraire de la Compagnie de Jesus (6 vols in 4, 1845–46)

Drews, J., Fasti Societatis Iesu, res et persona memorabiles... (1723)

Hamy, A., Galérie illustrée de la Compagnie de Jesus (8 vols in 4, 1858–71)

Maffei, Giovanni, Ioan. Petri Maffeii Bergomatis e Societate Iesu Historiarum indicarum libri XVI  (1589)

Maffei, Giovanni, Vita S. Ignati fundatoris Societatis Iesu (1669)

Orlandini, Nicolaus, Historia Societatis Iesu (1615)

Sacchino, F., Historiae Societatis Iesu (5 vols, 1614–61)


Bartoli, Daniello, De vita et gestis S. Francisci Xaverii (1666)

Bartoli, Daniello, Dell’historia della Compagnia de Gesu: Asia (1653–63)

Crasset, Jean, The History of the Church of Japan (2 vols, 1705–07)

Epistolae Indicae (1566)

Leite, S., Historia da companhia de Jesus no Brasil (10 vols, 1938–50)

Nouveaux mémoires des missions de la Compagnie de Jesus dans la Levant (9 vols, 1753–55)

Trigault, Nicolas, De Christianis apud Iapanis triumphis (1623)


The collection is very rich in the works of theologians and philosophers. It contains books from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries written by leading Catholic writers and often dealing with controversial subjects. Among the theologians represented are Francisco de Toledo (1532–1596), Francesco Suarez (1548–1617), St Francis de Sales (1567–1622), Denis Petau (1583–1652), Hermann Busenbaum (1600–1668), Jacques Nouet (1605–1680) and Franz Schmalzgrueber (1663–1735). The collection also contains editions of the Fathers of the Church, such as St Ambrose, St Athanasius, St Augustine of Hippo, St Jerome, St John Chrysostom and Tertullian.

General Works

Barruel, Abbé, Histoire du clergé pendant la Révolution françoise (1793)

Bossuet, Jacques, Histoire des variations des églises protestantes (2 vols, 1734)

Bougeant, G.H., Histoire du Traité de Westphalie (6 vols, 1744)

Burnet, Gilbert, The History of the Reformation of the Church of England (3 vols, 1681–1715)

Maimbourg, Louis, Histoire de l’Arianisme depuis sa naissance jusqu’à sa fin ;(1673)

Orleans, Pierre, Histoire des révolutions d’Angleterre depuis le commencement de la monarchie (3 vols, 1695)

A Short Account of the Declaration Given by the Chinese Emperour Kam Hi in the Year 1700 (1703)

Zaccaria, Francescantonio, Raccolta di dissertatzione di la storia ecclesiastica in Italiano o scritte (22 vols, 1792–97)


The early imprints in the Jesuit Collection (540 titles) are housed in the Rare Books Collection, while the remainder of the books are kept together as a formed collection within the general collection. The books have been catalogued individually; the call numbers have the prefix RB JES or JES.


Dent, Margaret, Religious Material in the Rare Books Collection of the National Library of Australia, Anglican Historical Society Journal, no. 13, April 1992, pp. 10–21.