Paul Nelles

Paul Nelles

Berenson Fellow
The Information Order: Writing, Mobility and Distance in the Making of the Society of Jesus (1540-1573)


Paul Nelles is Associate Professor of History at Carleton University. He received his PhD from Johns Hopkins University. His work encompasses the history of the book, libraries, and communication in the early modern world, with a particular focus on the intersection of religion, culture, and writing. He has a recent co-edited volume of essays, Books in Motion in Early Modern Europe: Beyond Production, Circulation and Consumption (Palgrave MacMillan, 2017). In May 2017 he delivered the Lyell Lectures in Bibliography at Oxford University on the subject of “The Vatican Library and the Counter-Reformation.”

Project Summary

 My project studies writing, mobility, and the early Jesuits. It takes the form of a microhistory of the first permanent Jesuit secretary in Rome, Juan Alfonso de Polanco. Jesuit communication was characterized by the regular exchange of written documents and the routine, often ritualized performance of communicative acts across the scattered hubs and nodes of the Jesuit network. Informed by extensive archival research, my work explores the global movement of objects, texts, and people across the Jesuit mission and describes the material and social practices that shaped Jesuit communication locally and across distance.