Luke Wadding Papers

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This project draws from a digital facsimile of UCD-OFM, MSS. D.01 <https://digital.ucd.ie/view/ivrla:18726>. It represents selections from the first five volumes of Luke Wadding’s Papers. This amounts to 1,080 pages which have been disbound, cleaned and strengthened by professional conservator Susan Corr and then databased by Benjamin Hazard. By reason of Luke Wadding’s office as consultor to the Holy See, a selection of these papers came into his hands and, under his supervision, Irish Franciscan friars made exact copies of documents from the Vatican Archive and Library. The collection includes manuscript correspondence, contemporary transcripts and printed matter. This reflects the wide variety of activity engaged in at St. Isidore’s College – from theological scholarship to diplomacy and politics, from Franciscan relations with other religious orders to concerns about patronage and the day-to-day running of the college.

The collection preserves two main types of documents: correspondence, and material for research into ecclesiastical history. Centred upon the years 1618-1657, it starts with the period of Wadding’s career at St. Isidore’s to his death, encompassing his work as Irish agent in Rome and his scholarly interests as a historian. After Wadding’s death, Fr Francis Harold OFM, a nephew of Luke Wadding and his first biographer, continued to add to the collection which was subsequently maintained by the archivists at St. Isidore’s College, Rome, before its transfer to Dublin in 1872. At times, however, the handwriting is difficult to decipher and the material is quite fragmentary. These documents were written and compiled from the late sixteenth to the early nineteenth centuries.

The overall arrangement is broadly chronological but the repositioning of documents in these five volumes reflects the regular disruption witnessed in their compilation since the early seventeenth century. For instance, it should be noted that, before being bound in the twentieth century, each of these documents was foliated. After binding, each volume was paginated. The material can therefore appear rather disjointed. The division between the contents of these volumes is not absolute but the material can be categorised as follows:

  • Franciscan correspondence and historiography, especially for the Irish Province of the Order;
  • material concerned with the Irish Colleges in Italy, the Low Countries, Spain and Prague;
  • documents relating to the Confederation of Kilkenny and Luke Wadding’s work as their accredited agent in Rome;
  • material from Wadding’s own research as an ecclesiastical historian, such as his interest in the foundation of Irish friaries and abbeys;
  • historical tracts written in defence of Ireland and the Irish;
  • printed matter and transcripts thereof;
  • items of interest from the Jacobite period;
  • letters of the Irish clergy, hierarchy and laity to the offices of the Holy See.

These five volumes serve a number of research uses. Principal among these is the study of the Franciscan Order, the writing of Irish history, the study of the histories of Irish Colleges established across Europe in the early-modern period and the personalities who worked within them. The collection also casts light on the intellectual atmosphere amongst the global Irish in the early-modern era. Some of these documents have been brought to print by historians since their return to Dublin. The two most notable publications are G. D. Burtchaell and J. M. Rigg (eds.), Historical Manuscripts Commission Report on Franciscan Mss. preserved at the Convent, Merchants’ Quay, Dublin (Dublin: H.M.C., 1906); and Brendan Jennings (ed.), Wadding Papers, 1614-1638 (Dublin: Irish Manuscripts Commission, 1953). Where this occurs, both the foliation and the pagination are recorded.

It should be noted that the appearance of Fr Luke Wadding’s name and those of his near contemporaries can differ from one document to another due to the variety of languages in use and the lack of standard spelling during the period dealt with in these documents. Variants are therefore recorded to avoid confusion.

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