Breve directorium, ad confessarii, et confitentis munus rite ob eundum.Barcelona, Pao Malo & Jaume Cendrat, sold by Antonio Oliver,

POLANCO Juan Alfonso de SJ (1584)



Woodcut Jesuit 'IHS' device on title-page.

Sm 8vo (156 x 110mm). [2], 57, [3]ff. Contemporary limp vellum using a fragment of a choir book leaf (coming loose, small hole along spine, a little marked and soiled, remains of vellum ties).

Barcelona, Pao Malo & Jaume Cendrat, sold by Antonio Oliver,


Extremely rare; only the third copy known of this Barcelona printing of the Jesuit Juan Alfonso de Polanco's (1517-1576) influential handbook for confessors. The two other copies are both in Barcelona, located at the Biblioteca de Catalunya and Biblioteca Universitaria; the copy at the Biblioteca de Catalunya (shelf mark 15-II-22; digitised and open access) has a very similar binding, which suggests that both our copy and theirs were bound at the same time, and indeed, possibly from the same choir book leaf.

After entering the Society of Jesus in 1541, Polanco became secretary to its founder, Ignatius of Loyola, and would continue in this position after Loyola's death in 1556. The Breve Directorium, first published in 1554 (Rome: Antonio Blado) was intended to instruct those hearing confession, and the text itself is structured along various themes, including how to approach listening to and questioning those confessing; guiding the penitent towards contrition; an outline of different sins and vices, and what to advise in response; the backgrounds of those who come to confess, by profession; excommunication, and so on. Written on Loyola's order before he died, this is thought to be the first book on ministry to be published by the Society (Hendrickson, p.29).  This seems likely to have been a working copy; the inscription in Catalan on the front free endleaf, dated 23 July, 1602 names a Fra Blanc or Blanch (a Catalan name); 'Pere' has been corrected to 'Fra' in two places. 

Provenance: 1. Fra Blanc or Blanch, his (gift?) inscription in Catalan dated 23 July, 1602 on front free endleaf; another inscription dated 1618 on the rear free endleaf. 

Stain through lower limp vellum cover to final few leaves, minor worming ff.31-3 touching text, otherwise in excellent condition. 

M. Lamarca, La imprenta a Barcelona (1501-1600), (2015), p. 737, no. 700 (copies at the Biblioteca de Catalunya and Biblioteca Universitaria in Barcelona); USTC, no. 5045719 (Biblioteca de Catalunya). This edition not in De Backer & Sommervogel.

D. Scott Hendrickson S.J., 'Golden Age Jesuit: Juan Eusebio Nieremberg and the Rhetoric of Discernment in Seventeenth-Century Spain', (Unpub. DPhil Thesis, Oxford, 2012 [open access])..

Stock Code: 246038

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