A Misplaced Manuscript of the 16th Century of Fabio de Fabii S.J., Discovered. By Paul Rolphy Pinto

fabi2Fabio de Fabii, S.J. (1543-1615), is a little known early Jesuit. He was a co-novice of the better known Stanislaus Kostka and Claudio Aquaviva. He held such important positions as novice master and rector of the Roman College. In fact he succeeded Alessandro Valignano as novice master. This transition period corresponded to the years of novitiate of Matteo Ricci and thus Ricci was formed under two novice masters (1571-1572).
Few of the writings of de Fabii have come down to us. Two already known have found their due placement in the Monumenta. Two of his commentaries on the way of giving Spiritual Exercises are contained in the second volume of the Directoria (419-438, MHSI 76). Another work is a letter to Fr. General Everard Mecurian, with a report attached about the Seminario Romano. This work is placed in the fourth volume of Monumenta Paedogagica (826-839, MHSI 124).
The recent discovery concerns two units of manuscripts by de Fabii. Both are in the same hand, written in Italian. These units were found in a miscellaneous manuscript of the F.C. 1977 (Fondo Curia)

  • The first unit is a brochure of 8 unnumbered sheets (i.e., 16 pages; last 7 pages are blank). The title given is “Dell’essaminare la conscientia” (On the Examination of Conscience).
  • The second unit has two brochures within a single folder. The folder carries the Latin title “De cordis custodia contiene due fascicoli senza numerazione e segnatura” (De cordis custodia containing two brochures without numbering and marking).
  • Brochure 1 (4 sheets) has the title: “Della custodia del cuore” (On the care of the heart). On the header, on the left there is an indication of the date: “29 Aprili 605”*
  • Brochure 2 (4 sheets, i.e., 8 pages; last 3 pages are blank) has the title: “Alc.e [Alcune]…per dichiarare la nec.ta [necessità] et … della custodia delli sentimenti per consentire la santità del core. Suddivisa in 14 punti. (Some… for declaring the necessity and … on the care of the sentiments to allow the sanctity of the heart. Subdivided in 14 points). On the header, on the left there is an indication of the date: “In do. 4t.a ad … 25 Iunii 607”*

* Both 29 April 1605 and 25 June 1607 were Fridays.

Why did these units escape from the editors of the Monumenta? The above mentioned brochures were found inserted in a large bundle of miscellaneous brochures, the bundle containing 27 brochures and 28 loose letters. This bundle deals largely with material from late 1700s to early or mid 1800s. But it also contains some material from the XVI C.   An idea of what the bundle contains can only be acquired by examining the brochures individually. The primary criterion for grouping the brochures seems to have been conservation of manuscript materials.   The bundle contains writings on different themes, documents arbitrarily packed together into one bundle.
The bundle with the mixed documents carries the date 1886.   This arbitrary compilation might have been realized during the confiscation of the ecclesiastical goods following the Italian laws of Suppression of Orders and Religious Corporations (1866-1867). It is also likely that it was at that time that it was assigned the present code number 1977.   A prefix abbreviation F. C (fondo curia) was later added to the code probably at the time that the BncR (Biblioteca nazionale centrale di Roma) restored the goods to the Jesuit Curia in Rome. These goods were, in turn restored to the Gregorian University in the 1930s through the intercession of Fr. Tacchi Venturi.
The inventory card that indicates the location of said bundle carries a general summary information of its entire content, namely, “Appunti vari di teologia” (Various Theology notes). It is possible that the editors of the Monumenta did not consult the Achieves of the Gregorian University. Even if they did, they would have overlooked this bundle dated 1866 and carrying the title “Various Theology notes”.
Besides the confusion caused by the erroneous insertion of the manuscripts de Fabbi into a miscellaneous bundle, that the inventory card carries the mistaken name Fabri de Fabris (a similar name, but that of a different person, one who lived in the XIX C) has also been misleading. This offers further insight into why the Monumenta editors would have overlooked the manuscripts.
The recent discovery of de Fabii’s “Dell’essaminare la conscientia” and “De cordis custodia”, being early texts of the Society of Jesus’ spiritual literature may give us valuable information on how the candidates were formed in the Novitiate. The manuscripts are a little treasure, yet to be explored


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