Acta Conventus Neo-Latini, 15. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2015. Pp. 632. Hb, 199 euros.
The International Congress for Neo-Latin Studies, organized every three years since 1971 by the International Association for Neo-Latin Studies (ianls) and held in various cities in Europe and North America, is the world’s most important forum for neo-Latin studies. This interdisciplinary field of study, traditionally a subset of Latin philology, has in the last few decades been discovered by scholars of a range of subjects, e.g. history, literature, art history, and religion. The proceedings of the 2012 conference present a selection of papers under the motto "Litterae neolatinae, sedes et quasi domicilia rerum religiosarum et politicarum—Religion and Politics in Neo-Latin Literature." The volume represents a welcome change in editorial policy from the previous issue of the association's proceedings: instead of a hefty two-volume edition of almost every paper presented at the conferences, requiring an enormous effort in editing and proofreading, the present editors have opted for a more focused selection of forty-five individual and five plenary papers.
For scholars of the similarly-interdisciplinary field of Jesuit studies, this volume contains a wealth of relevant material on Latin sources from the early modern period. The field of neo-Latin studies in and of itself, by now evolving into a more mature area of study (although new tools are still being applied and an increased interest in what has been termed meta-neo-Latin can be perceived), may also offer interesting considerations for scholars of Jesuit studies. For example, it has even been questioned whether neo-Latin is an independent field at all, as scholars of neo-Latin must borrow methods developed in other fields of study, such as history, philosophy, literature and linguistics, as Minna Skaften-Jensen discusses in her presidential address (xxxi–xxxvi). Such methodological considerations could also be usefully applied to the younger field of Jesuit studies, which is faced with similar issues of interdisciplinarity.
The plenary papers of the conference, delivered by authoritative scholars in the field, in five of the main languages of the association, do not directly address “Jesuit topics” as such, but offer significant contextual contemplations of the diffusion of printing and the birth of philology, humanist demonstrations of friendship, neo-Latin “liminal poetry” (such as dedicatory poems or other verses preceding a work) and Juan José de Eguiara y Eguren’s Bibliotheca Mexicana (Mexico: Ex Nova Typographia in Aedibus Autoris, 1755). The forty-five “communications” contain many articles of interest to scholars of Jesuit studies, the most relevant of which I list here: Nathalie de Brézé's article (134–149) on the political implications of Otto Vaenius in the Low Countries; Jean-François Cottier's study (166–180) of Latin lexicography and autochthonous religion in New France, focusing on Jean-Baptiste de la Brosse S.J.'s Radicum montanarum silva (consisting of two manuscript works, dating 1766 and 1772 held at the Archives Dechâtelets, Scolasticat Saint-Joseph, Ottawa [Ontario]); Jacqueline Glomski's contribution (227–236) on religion, the cosmos, and Counter-Reformation Latin in the context of Athanasius Kircher's Itenterarium exstaticum (Rome, 1656); Angelika Kemper's article (316–325) on two Jesuit plays about Emperor Constantine, Giulio Solimani's Constantinus victor (Prague, 1627) and Niccolò Avancini's Pietas victrix (Vienna, 1659), as Habsburg celebratory dramas; Mariano Madrid Castro's brief study (371–390) of early modern Latinity in Spain; Sonja M. Schreiner's piece (474–484) on scholarship, religion, literature, and politics in Joseph du Baudory's De novis systematum inventoribus quid sentiendum oratio (Paris, 1750); Matthieu Somon's contribution (516–530) on Sebastian Barradas, S.J. (1542–1615) and biblical painting in the seventeenth century; and, finally, Svorad Zvarasky's article (614–625) on the fascinating transformation of an early eighteenth-century polemical opuscule by the Slovak Jesuit Martinus Szent-Ivany (1633–1705) into a standard Catholic book in America (Quinquaginta rationes et motiva cur in tanta varietate religionum sola Romano-catholica sit eligenda) (Trnava, 1702). As can be seen from this list, the thematic focus on religion and politics in neo-Latin literature has been applied in different ways by the authors, resulting in a somewhat artificial thematic selection. However, this is understandable in the context of the impressive weeklong conference of which this publication is the result, which featured, on average, six concurrent panels on a wide range of neo-Latin topics. All contributions have been carefully edited and proofread.
Overall, the book offers a valuable collection of articles for students and scholars of neo-Latin studies, as well as Jesuit studies, and should be part of the library of any self-respecting humanities university.