Between August and September 2018, I spent a period of three weeks at the Newberry Library of Chicago with a Warwick Transatlantic Fellowship, co-sponsored by the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance and the Humanities Research Centre of the University of Warwick.
The fellowship allowed me to study a corpus of cheap and occasional religious print from the rare books collections of the Newberry Library, the Saint-Sulpice Collection [Case folio BX4060.A1 S25 ser. 1 and 2], which provide remarkable case studies for my dissertation project. The collection was created around 1820 in the Seminary of St. Sulpice near Paris, founded by Jean-Jacques Olier (1608-1657) in 1641 for the education of priests, and later sold on the antiquarian market. It comprises a variety of cheap-print items, such as broadsides, devotional pamphlets and occasional (and more lavishly illustrated) booklets, varying widely in terms of place and year of publication. My project adopted the viewpoint of the late sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Italians editions in the Saint-Sulpice Collection to investigate how the specific reading and collecting practices of a religious community influenced the transmission of such items. In particular, I worked on the items documenting the devotion of Saint Carlo Borromeo (1538-1584), cardinal, mystic, and pivotal post-Tridentine figure, and how this was shaped, disseminated, and adapted from Italy to other European areas and into following centuries. While in some instances I could rely on copy-specific information, such as marginalia and ownership marks, the overall project also led me to employ the tools of bibliography and bookselling history.
During my time at the Newberry, I also had the chance to meet Suzanne Karr Schmidt, currently George Amos Poole III Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts and whose research lies at the core of my dissertation with respect to her research on the adaptable nature of cheaper printed items. To discuss with her both my dissertation and the work on the Saint-Sulpice Collection was enriching and deeply stimulating, and helped me draft ideas and project for future avenues of research based on printed items at the Newberry Library.
Saint-Sulpice Collection, Case folio BX4060.A1 S25 ser. 1-2, Newberry Library, with a detail of the BX4060.A1 S25 ser. 2, vol. 7, no. 25.