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Augustin de Backer

Jesuit bibliographer (1809-1873)

Backer, AUGUSTIN DE, bibliographer, b. at Antwerp, Belgium, July 18, 1809; d. at Liege, December 1, 1873. He was educated at the Jesuit Colleges of Saint-Nicholas, Beauregard, Saint-Acheul, and Fribourg. In 1835 he was received into the Society of Jesus by the General, Father Roothaan, who sent him to Nivelles, in Belgium, for his novitiate. He taught three years in the College of Namur, and in 1840 began in Louvain his studies for the priesthood. At an early age his vocation as a bibliographer began to manifest itself. While yet a student he made a collection of Elzevirs and planned a work that would give the history of the early printing presses in Europe. In order to acquire the necessary information for this compilation, he visited from 1831 to 1834 the principal libraries in Belgium and twice those of Paris, thus unwittingly preparing himself for his future labors. While at Louvain he came across the incomplete “Bibliotheca Scriptorum Societatis Jesu” published in 1676 by Father Nathaniel South-well (Bacon), and he resolved to undertake the work that will ever remain the monument of his laborious life, “La bibliotheque des ecrivains de la compagnie de Jesus”. This colossal work Father de Backer, with the assistance of his brother Aloysius, published in a series of seven quarto volumes in the years 1853-61, and followed this up in 1869-76 with a new edition in three large folios containing the names of 11,000 Jesuit authors. The changes and improvements of this edition are so marked as to make it practically a new work. Besides an introductory sketch of the author, there are recorded under each title the editions, translations, and critiques as well as the works which were published in refutation. Father de Backer died while engaged on the third volume of the new edition, but the work was completed by his brother. Another collaborator in the second edition was Charles Sommervogel, whose own magnificent “Bibliography of the Society of Jesus” in eleven folio volumes was made possible by the gigantic labors of the two de Backers.

EDWARD P. SPILLANE


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