8vo (162 x 99 mm). , 234,  pp. Title woodcut of Saints Peter and Paul flanking papal arms, woodcut initials. Some minor marginal dust-soiling, final errata leaf slightly creased. Contemporary parchment over flexible pasteboards, traces of two fore-edge ties, manuscript spine title. Provenance: Rouen, Cathedral library, 18th-century printed label, Biblioth. Rothomag., on title.***
Only Edition of an important manifesto of missiology by a former Carmelite hermit turned proselytizer, “the most important Discalced Carmelite theologian of the seventeenth century” (Renaissance and Reformation). An overlooked European Americanum, it includes a brief reference to christopher columbus and activities of the franciscan missionaries in the americas.
Inspired by the autobiography of Teresa of Ávila, Tomás de Jésus, born Diaz Sanchez D’Ávila (there are several variants of this name), in Baeza, Andalucia, joined the Discalced Carmelites in Granada after his university studies, in 1586. The first part of his career was marked by his wholehearted embrace of the contemplative philosophy of the new order, for which he founded the first Carmelite deserts (houses of religious reclusion for monks) in Spain. But, having retired to the Desert of Las Batuecas in his late 30s, intending to spend the rest of his life in solitary meditation, Tomás underwent a change of heart, and became an ardent proponent of Catholic activism. His biographical details seem tenuous, and different motivations for this radical and permanent shift in his views have been proposed by religious historians, but it seems that external pressures contributed to this dramatic reversal in his attitude toward religious service. In 1607 Tomás was called to Rome by the Pope, and he spent the next few years founding monastic houses in northern Europe, for what was to be the short-lived Congregation of St. Paul, dedicated to missionary activity. Approved by Paul V in 1608, this precursor of the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide was suppressed five years later because of fierce opposition from within the Carmelite order. Tomás devoted his remaining years to promoting the growing fervor for spreading Christianity to the newly discovered lands outside Europe.
In this work, written in Rome, Tomás attempted to convince members of the Discalced Carmelites of the rationale for missionary activism. In four parts, the learned treatise provides a history of Catholic conversional activity within medieval Europe and theological justification for propaganda of the faith. In Chapter 2 of the third part, treating the missionary activities of other orders, he describes the Franciscans’ help in persuading Ferdinand to fund Columbus’s first voyage, and their participation in the second voyage of 1493 (p. 129). The voyages of Vasco da Gama are also cited in the context of the Franciscans’ missions in the West and East Indies. On p. 5 the extremely calamitous situation of (heathen) America, whch “makes up a fourth part of the globe,” is alluded to. Neither this nor Tomás’ 1613 De procuranda salute omnium gentium, an expanded version of the present not unsubstantial treatise, are in Alden & Landis.
Five examples of the Rouen Cathedrial Library book label are recorded in the Catalogues régionaux des incunables des bibliothèques publiques de France, vol. 17, Haute-Normandie. On the Rouen Cathedral Library, see Mellot, “Rouen au XVIe siècle,” Histoire des bibliothèques françaises II:458-469.
OCLC gives one US location (General Theological Seminary); NUC adds Columbia and Johns Hopkins Peabody Library, but this is not in their online catalogues. Palau 123590; ICCU BVEE52067. On the author, cf. Renaissance and Reformation, 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary, p. 351; and a multilingual website devoted to Tomás de Jésus, http://tomaszodjezusa.blogspot.com/p/thoma-de-jesus-en-fran.html. Item #2951