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date: 16 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter describes the role of letters and written communication in the first decades of the Society of Jesus. Particular attention is given to the work of Juan Alfonso de Polanco, the first permanent Jesuit secretary in Rome and the architect of the Jesuit communications system. The chapter first explores the structural role of the Roman hub, Jesuit record-keeping practices and the creation of the Roman archive, and the place of the college network in Jesuit communications. It then turns to explore the evolution of Jesuit administrative correspondence, edifying letters, and mission letters. Emphasis is placed on the materiality of Jesuit letters and the scale of scribal production in the early Society. Letters were important tools of identity formation and both regulated and mediated Jesuit social activity. In conclusion, the chapter considers how the Jesuit communications network intersected with broader Jesuit knowledge practices.

Keywords: Jesuit, letters, correspondence, record-keeping, Polanco, mission, colleges, Rome, archive, scribal production

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