Thick 8vo (193 x 116 mm). , 881 (recte 883),  pages. Black letter, roman and italic types. Engraved title and 32 numbered engraved plates by Boetius a Bolswert, woodcut initials and tailpiece ornaments. A modest copy: dust-soiling, first few leaves creased, old library markings on title, marginal dampstain in three or four quires. Contemporary parchment over boards, edges stained red (lacking ties, worn and soiled, upper cover detached). Old library stamp on upper edge, paper shelfmark label on spine.***
Second edition in Dutch of one of the most popular 17th-century Jesuit devotional books. Translated by Gerardus Zoes, it is enlarged from the 1620 edition, which was published the same year as the first edition in Latin. Neither a collection of religious meditations nor a doctrinal treatise of spiritual life, The way of eternal life by the Jesuit Sucquet, provincial of Flanders and Belgium from 1619-1623, is “a sort of practical guide for the use of young novices of the Society of Jesus. It is as if the spiritual director affirms his role of mediator by interposing himself between the meditator and the material meditated upon. This is reflected particularly in the engravings, which are constructed as veritable `directories’ of meditation” (Dekoninck, p. 305, transl.). The complex, hallucinatory, and varied engravings by the “great baroque engraver” Boëce van Bolswert literally provide “peeps into Hell and glimpses of Heaven” (Praz, p. 195). Most include an allegorical figure representing the soul, usually accompanied by his guardian angel and often shown from the back, contemplating episodes from the Passion or other emblematic Biblical scenes. This everyman figure is surrounded by embodiments of the divinity and the devil, or of his better and worse nature: angels, devils, and monstrous part-animal part-human demons, all letter-keyed to explanations on the facing pages. Most of the engravings include multiple scenes on different planes, from pits of hell in the foreground to idyllic distant landscapes, with the Trinity, the Godhead, etc., at the top. In plates 11 to 18 the soul is shown as a painter, illustrating literally the author’s comparison of spiritual meditation to the art of painting, which requires looking beyond appearances (cf. Deloninck, pp. 191-3).
The book struck a nerve and continued to be reprinted for decades; besides the several Latin editions, it was translated into French, German, Spanish, Polish, English and Hungarian. The vernacular editions have a lower survival rate than those in Latin. OCLC locates no copies of this edition in American libraries.
This copy does not have an extra inserted gathering of 4 leaves inserted between leaves 2Y4 and 2Y5, as described in the STVC (Landwehr describes these leaves as between Y4 and Y5), but the text is complete.
Landwehr 766; Praz, pp. 506-7; Funck p. 398 (1st ed.); de Backer-Sommervogel VIII:1515,5; Short Ttitle Catalogue Flanders (STCV) 3114487. Cf. Ralph Dekoninck, Ad imaginem: statuts, fonctions et usages de l'image dans la littérature spirituelle jésuite du XVIIe siècle (Droz, 2005), p. 191-196, 304-305. Item #2979