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The 1623 Jesuit Books

As part of the celebrations to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the founding of the British (formerly English) Jesuit Province, the archivists at the British Jesuit Archive have created this display of the books in their care which were printed in 1623.  

Please scroll through to see all thirteen works in the Antiquarian Book Collection from 1623.  We estimate this should take about 12-15 minutes to read

Patrick Anderson SJ (1575-1624)

The grovnd of the Catholike and Roman religion in the word of God : with the antiquity and continuance therof, throughout all kingdomes and ages. Collected out of diuers conferences, discourses, and disputes, which M. Patricke Anderson of the Society of Iesvs, had at seuerall tymes, with sundry Bishops and Ministers of Scotland, at his last imprisonment in Edenburgh, for the Catholike faith, in the yeares of our Lord 1620 and 1621 ; sent vnto honourable personage by the compyler and prisoner himselfe ; The third part & second century.

Saint Omers : English College Press

RefNo: A/37 and A/38  


Patrick Anderson was a Scottish Jesuit.  He was educated in Scotland and joined the Jesuits in Rome, then went back to Scotland as a Missioner between 1609 and 1611, narrowly escaping capture on several occasions. In 1615 he became the first Jesuit rector of the Scots College in Rome.  Returning to Scotland again, he was captured and imprisoned in the Old Tolbooth in Edinburgh in 1620-1621, where he held debates with protestants.  This book is his account of these disputes.


The book is divided into three parts, the first of which is introductory about the Faith and the second and third contain transcripts of the debates.  Each section has separate page numbers, but was always intended to be one work. 

The British Jesuit Archives hold two copies of this book. Both are in a fairly battered condition, and both lack their title pages to the first section.  


A/37 has a hand-written title page supplied by Fr Charles Newdigate SJ, a Jesuit who cared for the Antiquarian books in the first few decades of the twentieth century.  Both copies have contemporary bindings of brown leather over boards.  A/37 was probably stored on its side with the fore-edge pointing out – the title was written on the fore-edge to help identify the book. 

A/38 has fly leaves at the back which are taken from a psalter.  We have not been able to definitively identify which edition of the psalter these came from, but the translation is very closely allied to the 1562 edition of Thomas Sternhold and John Hopkins, The whole book of psalms, collected into English Meter. This was later known as the Old Version and was widely used by Calvinists, and was often bound in with the  Geneva bible.  It may have given some pleasure to a binder or early reader of this Catholic book to have sections of a Protestant work used upside down as flyleaves. 

Brousse, Jacques (c.1590-1673)

The miraculous, life, conversion, and conversation of the Reverend Father Bennett of Ca[n]field an Englishman, and Preacher of the order of Capuchins, Of his Country, birth, and education

At Douay : Printed by M Wyon, and by C. Boscard at Saint-Omer for John Heigham.  With permission of superiors

RefNo: A/147  


The authorship of this work is not straightforward.  It is customarily attributed to Jacques Brousse, but it may instead be an autobiography, by Bennet Canfield himself – also known as Benoit Canfeild or Canfilde, with an original birth name of William Fitch. 

Canfield was born in Essex, trained as a lawyer in the Middle Temple, and converted to Catholicism on reading works by Robert Persons SJ.  He went to study at Douai and became a Capuchin Friar.  He returned to England in 1599 but was almost immediately imprisoned. On release from prison he returned to France where he died in Paris in 1610.  His great work was the Rule of Perfection, on contemplative prayer, which was widely disseminated, but later fell out of favour when it incurred the disapproval of the church and was placed on the Index of banned books in 1689.

This work is a part of a larger book, which consisted of the Lives of three different Capuchin monks, Father Angel of Joyeuse, Father Bennet and Father Archangel.  The different parts of the book had separate pagination, so must have lent itself to being divided up into parts, although we have not found any other instances of Father Bennet’s Life as a stand-alone book. 

There is no title page, perhaps because it is part of a larger book. The translator has been identified as Robert Rookwood, the son of Ambrose Rookwood who was executed in 1606 for his part in the Gunpowder plot.  The Rookwoods lived at Coldhams Hall in Stanningfield in Suffolk, which for successive generations in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was a centre of Catholic and Jesuit activity in the area. 

This work was printed at two places, Douay, a centre for Catholic intellectual activity and St Omer, the town where the English College was located.  The printer at Douay was Mark Wyon, and the St Omers printer was Charles Boscard.  Both were commercial printers who printed a number of books for the English Catholic market, and in both cases after they died their businesses were continued by their wives – the British Jesuit Archives hold a number of books printed by each man and also some printed by both of their wives.  It was printed for John Heigham, who was a Catholic responsible for the printing of a large number of Catholic books, and for their distribution, including smuggling them into England, an activity that his wife, Marie Boniface, was arrested for in 1609.

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William Bishop (c.1553-1624)

The second question, of traditions


RefNo: A/192d  


William Bishop was the first Roman Catholic bishop in England after the reformation.  He served as Vicar Apostolic of England and titular Bishop of Chalcedon. He had been part of the English mission in 1583, was arrested by Francis Walsingham and imprisoned in Marshalsea Prison with other Catholic priests.  On his release he went to Paris and studied at the Sorbonne, becoming a Doctor of Divinity. Bishop was drawn into the Archpriest controversy and was one of the two priests sent to Rome to appeal against the behaviour of George Blackwell, the Archpriest.  He was appointed Bishop in 1622 and was consecrated in 1623, aged 70.  He landed at Dover in June 1623 and walked 12 miles to the house of William Roper, near Canterbury.  He died the following year in London.

The second question, of traditions is a self-contained text, but the title makes it clear that it was intended as part of a larger work.  Its content is a reworking of other works by Bishop, and forms part of a controversy Bishop was involved in with the Protestants William Perkins, Anthony Wotton and Robert Abbot.  This is the only known copy of this work and is bound in a volume with other Controversial texts, but is not directly related to them.  The binding of limp vellum is contemporary, so these were collected together in the first half of the 17th century.  The binding has the stubs of former vellum ties, and extended fore edges which protect the fore edge of the text block.  These have suffered rodent damage.  Because the binding is coming away at the spine, small scraps of printed waste are visible, which were used during the binding process.  

Thomas Goad (1576-1638)

The dolefull Euen-Song, or  a Trve, particv-lar and impartiall narration of that fearefull and sudden  calamity, which befell the Preacher Mr Drvry a Iesuite, and the greater part of his Auditory, by the downefall of the floore at an assembly in the Black-Friers on Sunday the 26 of Octob. last, in the after noone. Together with the rehearsall of Master Drvrie his text, and the diuision there-of, as also an exact Catalogue of the names of such as perished by this lamentable accident: And a briefe application thereupon.

London : Printed by John Hauiland, for William Barret, and Richard Whitaker, and are to be sold at the signe of the Kings head.

RefNo: A/232  


Thomas Goad was an Anglican priest and a Fellow of Kings College Cambridge.  In 1611 he became Chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Abbot.  In 1618 he was made precentor of St Paul’s Cathedral and in the same year became rector of Hadleigh in Suffolk and of two other livings.  In 1623 he was engaged with Daniel Featley and  Francis White in their disputations with the Jesuits John Percy alias Fisher and John Sweet.  [See A/891a below]

This is an account of a tragedy that took place in October 1623.  A floor collapsed under a large crowd that had gathered at the French Ambassador’s residence at Blackfriars to hear a Jesuit, Robert Drury, preach.  Over 90 people were killed, including Drury and another priest.  The spectacular and horrific accident led to a spate of lurid and opportunistic publishing, of which the ‘Dolefull even-song’ is one,  and another was titled the ‘Fatall vesper’.  As well as books like this, broadsheets with woodblock illustrations were made and widely distributed.  These Protestant accounts were keen to link the accident with God’s disapproval of the Catholic faith, or stated that the weight of sin had broken the floor.  John Gee, an Anglican priest, was a survivor of the accident at Blackfriars, and in 1624 published a virulently anti-Catholic work, Foot out of the Snare, of which the British Jesuit Archive has two copies.

Three printers are named on the title page.  John Haviland (1589-1638) was a protestant printer.  Apprenticed in 1606 to his uncle, also John Haviland, he later set up a printing business of his own, and is known to have printed at least 352 titles.  In 1634 he acquired, with 2 others, the lucrative right to print bibles, and made a fortune.   Richard Whitaker (d. 1648) is known as a bookseller, based at the Kings Arms in St Paul’s Churchyard 1619-1649.  There was no clear demarcation at this time between book seller, printer and publisher and one individual often did all these roles.  Of the third named printer, William Barret, we can find little information.


Pierre D'Oultreman SJ (1591-1657)

Tableaux des personnages signalés de la de Iesvs, exposés en la solemnité de la canonization des ss. pp. Ignace & Franc. Xavier celebrée par le college de la comp. de Iesvs.

Douai : Baltazar Bellere

RefNo: A/234 


Pierre D’Oultreman SJ was a Jesuit from the Habsburg Low Countries.  He was born in Valenciennes and was admitted to the Society in 1611 in Tournai.  He wrote and translated several religious works.  His brother Philippe was also a Jesuit.

This work is series of short biographies of notable Jesuits.  It was occasioned by the canonisation of St Ignatius and St Franics Xavier by Pope Gregory XV in 1622.  The first entries are about these two saints, and are accompanied by verses about their lives and deeds.  These are followed by biographies of other eminent Jesuits.  At the back is a separate section on Jesuit martyrs, including Edmund Campion and Alexander Briant. 

The title page is a copper plate engraving of Jesuit saints and martyrs, set against an architectural background above which is heaven, represented by the Trinity, populated with Jesuits.

The printer of the book is named as Baltazar Bellere at Douai.  In fact, internal evidence suggests that it was at least partly printed by the Kellam family press, who were English Catholic printers who had settled in Douai and had produced the Old Testament of the Douai-Reims Bible in 1609-1610.  

There are two bookplates on the front pastedown, one obscuring the other.  The uppermost one locates this book at 114 Mount Street, and was probably affixed in the late nineteenth or first half of the twentieth centuries.  The older bookplate is almost certainly from the Jesuit College of St Ignatius at 9 Hill Street, Mayfair, London, where the Jesuits were based  before moving to Mount Street in the 1850s.  

Marcus Antonius de Dominis (1560-1624)

Marcus Antonius de Dominis Archiep. Spalaten. Sui reditus ex Anglia Consilium exponit

Rome : Ex typographis Reu Camerae Apostolicae.  Archiepiscopales. Superiorum permissum

RefNo: A/251 


Marco Antonio de Dominis was a serial apostate.   Born on the island of Rab in what is now Croatia and educated by the Jesuits, he never joined the Society. De Dominis became Bishop of Senj in 1596 and Archbishop of Split in 1602.  He soon came into conflict with the Pope over interference with his rights as archbishop.  In a long-running quarrel between the papacy and Venice, he sided with the republic and eventually had to resign his office.  He moved to Venice, where he got to know the English Ambassador, Sir Henry Wotton, and through him moved to England in 1616.  As he travelled there across Europe he fired off invectives against Papal practices, and was welcomed with some pomp in England where he was given a pension and positions as Dean of Windsor and Master of the Savoy.  While in London he wrote several anti-Catholic works, including Papatus Romanus in 1617, of which the British Jesuit Archives has a copy.

De Dominis soon fell out with his hosts in England, both for theological reasons and personal – he was described by a contemporary as fat, irascible, pretentious and very avaricious, but he was certainly erudite and able. He returned to Rome physically and religiously in 1622, and set about writing and publishing attacks on the English church as hostile in tone as his previous works had been against the Roman Catholic church, of which this work is one. However, the warm welcome that de Dominis had anticipated in Rome did not last long and he died in 1624 in the Castel Sant’ Angelo, the prison in Rome. 

Sui Reditus Ex Anglia Consilium is the work de Dominis wrote on his return to Rome, and in it he recanted all he had formerly stated on joining the English church in 1616.

Our copy of Sui reditus is in the original Latin and was printed in Rome, but Edward Coffin SJ immediately translated it into English and his translation was printed at the English College Press at St Omer in 1623 as: M. Antonius De Dominis, Archbishop of Spalato, Declares the Cause of his Returne out of England.

De Dominis also published scientific works, with his work on refraction being praised by Newton, and posthumously, an important work on the theory of tides.

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James Gordon SJ (1553-1641)

De Catholica veritate diatriba. Pro epithalamio. Ad serenissimum valliorum principem, magnum Britanniarum haeredem

Bordeaux : Apud Petrum de la Courm [i.e. Corum]

RefNo: A/608  

James Gordon SJ was born in Scotland and joined the Society of Jesus in Paris in 1573.  He was appointed Rector of the Jesuit College at Toulouse and subsequently Rector of the Jesuit College at Bordeaux.  Late in life he was confessor to Louis XIII.  He died at Paris 1641.  He should not be confused with with James Gordon SJ 1541-1620 (sometimes called ‘of Huntley’), who was also a Scottish Jesuit writer.

The work was intended as a gift, a celebration of the impending marriage of Prince Charles (later Charles I) to the Spanish Infanta and was dedicated to Prince Charles. It was printed early in 1623.  Later that year the Spanish Match fell apart, and in January 1624 the Privy Council definitively rejected its terms, making this book redundant almost from first printing. 

The binding on this copy is unusual in the Jesuit collection as it is decorative rather than purely functional.  It is vellum with gold tooling to the front and back, and a gold Jesuit IHS insignia.  It has a bookplate for the Jesuit Scriptorum in London, which dates to the late nineteenth or first part of the 20th centuries.  There are booksellers’ marks in pencil, with 2 prices at 10/6 and 15/6, suggesting that it may have been sold twice before coming into the British Jesuit Archives collection.  A former owner may have put this binding on the book, using the Jesuit insignia to highlight its Jesuit authorship.  This would explain the fancier binding than is usual in Jesuit-owned books.

Silvester Norris SJ (1570 or 1571 – 1630)

The pseudo-scripturist. Or A treatise wherein is proued, that the wrytten word of God ... is not the sole iudge of controuersies, in fayth and religion. Agaynst the prime sectaries of these tymes, who contend to maintayne the contrary.

St. Omer : English College Press

RefNo: A/739 

Silvester Norris was born in Somerset in 1570 or 1571.  He studied in Reims then went to the English College in Rome in about 1590, where he completed his studies and was ordained priest.  Sent on the English Mission, Norris became caught up in the repercussions of the Gunpowder Plot.  He was imprisoned in the Bridewell in 1605, then released  and banished the next year along with 46 other priests.  Norris went to Rome and joined the Jesuits there.  In 1611 he returned to England and in 1621 was made superior of the Hampshire district, where he died in 1630.

From 1615-1622 Norris published a number of controversies titled An antidote or soveraigne Remedie against the pestiferous writings of all English sectaries.  The first part came out in 1615 and subsequent parts in 1619, 1621 and 1622.  This volume, the Pseudo-Scripturist, was the final part of the series, ‘…agaynst the prime Sectaries of these Tymes …’

This book, like all Norris’ known works, was published by the English College Press at the Jesuit College in St Omer.

On the title page is the inscription ‘C. Ap’, and some purple stamps.  These are evidence of the ownership of this book by the Jesuit College of the Holy Apostles, a regional administrative district which included Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire and had bases at Bury St Edmunds, Norwich, Great Yarmouth and Kings Lynn, and the Jesuit College of St Ignatius, which was centred in London.  These provenance marks suggest Jesuit ownership of this copy since the eighteenth century.  


It has been rebound with leather spine and corners (‘half-bound’) and marble paper on the covers.

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Percy, John SJ alias Fisher (1569-1641)

An answer to a pamphlet, intituled: the fisher catched in his owne net. In vvhich, by the vvay, is shevved, that the Protestant Church was not so visible, in al ages, as the true Church ought to be: and consequently, is not the true Church.  Of which, men may learne infallible faith, necessarie to saluation.

St Omers : English College Press and London : Peter Smith

RefNo: A/891a  


This work has been variously identified to a number of authors.  It is now attributed to John Percy SJ, also known as John Fisher SJ.  Previously it has been thought to be by John Sweet, John Floyd and Anthony Champney, all Jesuits.

It has a complicated publication history.  Gatherings A-E were printed by Peter Smith in London, at a Secret Press at Bunhill Fields (Identified by Allison and Rogers as Secret Press 19), the remainder at the English College Press in St Omers.  The difference is noticeable in the print, but the paper in the two parts is very similar, and there are no watermarks to identify different paper suppliers.

The work is a result of Protestant-Catholic debates, especially of the conference held on 27 June 1623 between Featley and Francis White and the Jesuits John Fisher and John Sweet. This was one of a series of such debates – including one the previous year in which King James had taken a leading role.  The debate in June 1623 was held in the home of the protestant Sir Humphrey Linde in Sheer Lane, London, and was supposed to be a private affair but somehow a large crowd of Protestants were present, who greatly outnumbered the 20 or so recusants there.  In the end the level of debate was not profound, with both sides refusing to engage with the other’s arguments.   Some of the spectators took notes and a scribe wrote down the dialogue.  The combatants decided to meet again in a few days when each had had time to gather the evidence they needed, specifically that Featley had to produce a list of those individuals before Luther who were consistent in all points with the Thirty-nine articles – this had been the main point of Fisher’s argument against Protestantism.  This second meeting never happened because the King got to hear of it and in the interest of furthering his plans for his son’s Spanish Marriage, he called a halt to any further such debates.

This work answers the Protestant Daniel Featley’s account of the same conference titled The Fisher caught in his owne net, also published in 1623.  It was itself answered by Featley in The Romish Fisher caught and held in 1624, which was answered from the Catholic side by A reply to D. White and D. Featly.  The British Jesuit Archive holds copies of most of these publications, Protestant as well as Catholic.

Richard Verstegan (c. 1550-1640)

A toung-combat lately happening, between two English soldiers; in the Tilt-boat of Gravesend.  The one go-ing to serve the King of Spayn, the other to serve the States of Holland

Mechelen : Henry Jaye

RefNo: A/916  


Richard Verstegan was born in London of Dutch ancestry. It is unclear if he was a Catholic from birth or if he was a convert. He briefly worked as a goldsmith before engaging in the clandestine printing of Catholic books in London. In 1582, to escape arrest he fled to Paris and then went on to Rome. In 1585, he settled in Antwerp, and for the next two decades worked as an intelligencer for English Catholics, despatched books between England and the continent, supervised printing for the English mission as well as writing and publishing books himself, with a special interest in political and religious controversies. He wrote in multiple genres including poetry, journalism and satire.

Between 1621 and 1623 Verstegan published 6 tracts relating to the contemporary political situation in Europe, all anonymously and in English, with A toung-combat being the last in the series.  All six tracts take the form of letters or dialogues, with the writers/characters recounting their experiences and discussing and commenting on current affairs.  In the toung-combat, the dialogues are between two English soldiers who are boarding a boat at Gravesend, one on his way to serve the King of Spain, the other the Dutch Protestants opposing him. The two men are identified by the coloured scarves they wear  -- Red scarf is pro-Spanish and Tawny scarf (orange) is pro-Dutch protestants.

The printer, Henry Jaye, was also an English Catholic exile. He started working with the renowned Plantin-Moretus printing company but by 1612 had set up his own press at Mechelen, outside Antwerp.

Our copy is missing a couple of pages (p.37-38), perhaps torn off.  This section touches on Queen Mary’s imprisonment and the Dutch protestants and Queen Elizabeth sharing one same gospel.

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The office of the Blessed Virgin Marie in Latin with the rubriques in English, for the co[m]nioditie of those that doe not understand the Latin tongue.

Douai : Printed for John Heigham

RefNo: A/917 


The office of the Blessed virgin Mary is a liturgical devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, usually said in addition to the Divine Office of the Catholic Church.  It is a cycle of hymns, psalms and liturgical readings. Its origins lie in the monastic tradition, and was in use from around the early eighth century.  It has been associated with the scholar Alcuin at Charlemagne’s court and was revised by St Peter Damian in the 11th century.  In the late Middle Ages, it was a particularly popular form of lay devotion, and many lavish copies survive, often associated with women. After the reformation it was standardised following the council of Trent, with a revised text mandated by Pius V in 1585.  Women’s congregations and third orders often made it mandatory for their members to pray using the Office of the Virgin.

The text in this copy is clearly intended to be used by English Catholics.  The prayers and readings are in Latin.  But surrounding the Latin text, which is printed in black, all the rubrics, instructions, comments and suggestions are printed in English, and in red.  This allowed people (presumably laypeople) to navigate the text even if they had no or very little Latin. There were also English translations of the text available, including one made by Richard Verstegan in 1599, but for this edition Latin was chosen for the text. There are small copper plate engravings throughout.  It is small book, in 16mo (sextodecimo) format.  Given that is was intended for the English market, and Catholic books were forbidden in England, its small size made it easy to conceal. 

This work was printed for John Heigham at Douay, probably by Pierre Auroi.  John Heigham was a Catholic publisher and bookseller and occasionally printer and author too.  In the 1590s he worked in London and was gaoled in 1597.  In 1603 he left England and settled in Douai.  Here he directed his energies to furthering Catholic faith in England, preparing English texts for publication, employing foreign printers to print the works, and organising the dangerous trade of smuggling them into England.  He was married to Marie Boniface by 1609, when his wife went to England with 6 copies of a book named A Catholike Confutation by the Irish Jesuit Henry FitzSimon SJ hidden about her person.  She was captured and held for 16 days. In 1613 they moved to St Omers, and Heigham had a close relationship with the English College Press there.

Only other known complete copy is at Ushaw.  There is an incomplete copy of Stonyhurst.

Silvester Norris SJ (1570 or 1571 – 1630)

The pseudo-scripturist. Or A treatise wherein is proued, that the wrytten word of God ... is not the sole iudge of controuersies, in fayth and religion. Agaynst the prime sectaries of these tymes, who contend to maintayne the contrary.

St. Omer : English College Press

RefNo: A/918e   


Silvester Norris was born in Somerset in 1570 or 1571.  He studied in Reims then went to the English College in Rome in about 1590, where he completed his studies and was ordained priest.  Sent on the English Mission, Norris became caught up in the repercussions of the Gunpowder Plot.  He was imprisoned in the Bridewell in 1605, then released  and banished the next year along with 46 other priests.  Norris went to Rome and joined the Jesuits there.  In 1611 he returned to England and in 1621 was made superior of the Hampshire district, where he died in 1630.

From 1615-1622 Norris published a number of controversies titled An antidote or soveraigne Remedie against the pestiferous writings of all English sectaries.  The first part came out in 1615 and subsequent parts in 1619, 1621 and 1622.  This volume, the Pseudo-Scripturist, was the final part of the series, ‘…agaynst the prime Sectaries of these Tymes …’

This book, like all Norris’ known works, was published by the English College Press at the Jesuit College in St Omer.

Our copy was bound together with four other short works in the 17th century, and remains so today, though in a very broken state. It is the latest in date, the others being 1608-1617. The binding is a brown leather (probably calf) over boards, decorated with a rolled pattern.  The spine is almost entirely missing. 

We are reasonably sure that this book has been in Jesuit hands since the middle of the seventeenth century, and possibly since the early 1620s.  On the flyleaf is a library shelf mark ‘G.5.61’ written in a distinctive hand.  We own at least one other book with a shelfmark written in the same hand, and there are similar ones at Stonyhurst and at the municipal library in St-Omer.  We strongly suspect that a librarian at the English College in St Omers in the seventeenth century wrote the shelf numbers in the books.  A further inscription on the title page of this work (and all the other 4 bound together with it) locate it to the Jesuit College at Liege.  The English College had to leave St Omer in 1762, fleeing to Bruges before moving again in 1773 to Liege where it remained until 1793, when due to the approaching armies of the French Revolution, they went to Stonyhurst.  All the books with the St Omers shelfmark at Stonyhurst and in the Jesuit Archives also have a Liege inscription, suggesting these books were packed up and sent on together as part of the exodus.  This book also has two Jesuit bookplates.  The earlier one is obscured by the later, but its marginal decoration is very similar to others found in our collection from 9 Hill Street, the Jesuit base in London before the move to Mount Street in the 1850s.  There is also the trace of a shelfmark which locates this book in Mount Street soon after the move.  These marks show that the book was in the possession of Jesuits in the mid 17th, mid 18th and since the mid 19th century.  Book provenance like this does not prove absolutely that this book has always been in Jesuit hands, (there are still large gaps) but is strongly suggestive. 

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