Nearly 1800 titles in over 3,000 volumes comprise the The Gonzaga Collection: Rare Books from the Jesuit Oregon Province. This page provides cursory information on the collection. For further details, see the online Introduction to the Finding Aid to this collection.
"Treasures from the Vault" is the debut exhibition of this collection. It was displayed in the Cowles Rare Book Library from February 4 - June 6, 2008, and remains online.
Notable are incunabula, books printed in the earliest years of printing, before 1500. The Roman Missal of 1484 records the pre-Tridentine Latin liturgy, and Gonzaga owns one of only two known copies outside the Vatican. Fifteenth-century printers often recycled old manuscripts by using them in lieu of end-papers: The 1490 Summa Theologica by Antoninus is all the more valuable, for instance, because it has manuscript leaves from 1290 as its "paste downs."
A wealth of valuable sixteenth-century volumes is also in the collection, including the 1518 edition of Thomas Aquinas’ commentary on Aristotle’s De anima; it appears to be the only copy in the world. Not only does Gonzaga own the full set of Luther’s Opera Omnia (1556-1558): Philip Melancthon and Paul Eber, Luther’s colleagues, personally handwrote in it their own commentaries on specific verses.
The Dominican Missal of 1521, in elegantly marbled slipcase and with abundant woodcuts, sheds valuable light on the Christian tradition of respect for women: The woodcut used for All Saints and also for the liturgy for One or More Apostles shows several saints, male and female, on a hillside, and above them in the sky is a scroll with the words "Hii sunt mei filii delecti," the words that God spoke of Jesus at the Transfiguration, here made plural, indicating that the saints have become Christlike. Manifestly women are included equally with men.
The earliest volumes of the landmark Douai-Rheims edition of the Bible in English are owned by Gonzaga, as are valuable facsimile editions of major ancient manuscripts of the Bible at Mount Sinai, the Vatican, St. Petersburg, and elsewhere.
Two unique seventeenth-century manuscripts with commentaries on Aristotle’s Physics written by Jesuits are within the collection.
Education and the intellectual foundation of the faith are of basic importance in the Jesuit tradition, and this has held true in the Pacific Northwest, as is vividly attested through the book stamps in these rare books. Even the Jesuit missionaries to the territory of Alaska took with them works on theology published in 1621 and 1710. Even the Juniorate library in Sheridan, Oregon, had a scholarly facsimile edition of the celebrated Book of Armagh (begun 807-08), with the earliest documents pertaining to St. Patrick.
As of May 30, 2009 electronic records for 75% of The Gonzaga Collection are in the online catalog. For the other titles, a five-volume Finding Aid is available in the Rare Book Reading Room and also at the Reference Desk on the first floor of the library, and an online Inventory can be consulted for basic information. If you are outside the Spokane area and would like further information on a volume identified through the online Inventory, please contact Special Collections.