The Archivio Storico della Pontificia Università Gregoriana contains the unpublished collection Epistolae Bellarmini Cardinalis, which is composed of about 2674 letters either sent to Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, or written by him, between March 1599 (when he was appointed as Cardinal) and October 1621. The letters in the collections are typewritten, and were collected by François Xavier Le Bachelet S.J. (1855-1925) and Sebastiaan Peter Cornelis Tromp S.J. (1889-1975). They are divided into nine volumes in chronological order: the first eight volumes contain the so-called Collectio Le Bachelet, while the last volume was added later by Tromp.
The Collectio Le Bachelet originally included the manuscript transcriptions of Bellarmine’s letter, which Le Bachelet, a French theologian who authored several works on Bellarmine, completed between the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. Le Bachelet had collected the letters and provided a critical apparatus in preparation for publication, but his death cut his project short. Thus this work, together with the rest of his possessions, was bequeathed to the Casa di Poiteirs in Rome. Father Tromp, who was also a scholar of Bellarmine, continued Le Bachelet’s project. First, he entrusted his confrere Father van den Hoeven S.J. to typewrite Le Bachelet’s manuscript transcriptions. At the same time, between 1939 and 1972 Father Tromp collected new letters with the assistance of numerous other Jesuits, including Michel Battlori, Jospeh Grisar, Vincenzo Monachino, and Gustavo Galeota. The letters collected by Le Bachelet were organized in eight volumes, while the ones collected by Tromp were gathered into a separate volume, entitled Supplementum, which was added to the rest of the work.
As a whole, the nine volumes maintain the structure that Le Bachelet had given to his own transcriptions: every letter is numbered, and at the beginning of each letter we can find the date and place of composition, followed by the sender and addressee. There follows Le Bachelet’s transcription of the letter without any critical apparatus (which nevertheless Le Bachelet had added to his own manuscript transcriptions). At the end of the letter we can also find the reference to the archive or library where the original letter can be found, as well as other information on the nature of the original document and the presence of annotations on it. As for their external format, the nine volumes are bound in a modern fashion: they have a red hardcover and a parchment spine, on which the title of the collections, the number of the volume (in Roman numerals), and the chronological span of the letters therein contained appear in golden characters. Each volume is accompanied by a chronological index of the letters with the names of sender and addressee, followed by the number which identifies the individual letter. In the first volume we can also find an index of the sources containing only their geographical location (Roma, Siena, Montepulciano, Forli, Firenze, L’Aquila, and Livorno). The eighth volume contains two appendixes: the first is entitled Appendix ad Collectionem Patris Le Bachelet S.J. – I Arch. Dom. Gen. Carm. Disc. – Roma, Corso d’Italia, 38, l; the second is entitled Appendix II Ex Arch. Episcopali in Montepulciano. The ninth volume contains a preface of the work written by Tromp, which gives an account of its progression from Le Bachelet’s death (1925) until 1972.
For reasons unknown, despite the fact that the work was virtually completed by Tromp, the nine volumes have remained unpublished and until today largely forgotten. The Archive aims at rescuing this collection from utter oblivion: it represents the result of years of labor and of intense research in archives and libraries throughout the world which Le Bachelet first, and Tromp later, have carried on with absolute devotion to their predecessor.
Maria Carmela De Marino
(trad. Stefania Tutino)