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Joseph Stevenson SJ

Joseph Stevenson was born in Berwick upon Tweed to Presbyterian parents.  He was an indifferent pupil at school and abandoned his studies at the University of Glasgow.  He entered the Church of Scotland as a Minister. In 1831 he started work at the British Museum, chiefly working on the Arundel Collection.  He was appointed a sub commissioner of Public Records in 1834.  During this period he became an Anglican.  Following the death of his son in 1839 he enrolled at Durham University to study theology and was ordained in the Church of England.  At the same time he became Librarian at Durham Cathedral and catalogued the deeds and charters there. From 1849-1863 he was vicar at Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire.  During these years he produced over twenty edited volumes for learned societies, and was influential in the establishment of the Rolls Series in 1857.  In the early 1860s both he and his wife converted to Roman Catholicism, and following her death in 1869 he enrolled at the Seminary at Oscott College, and was ordained in 1872.  Now that he was Catholic he could access the Vatican Archive, and he became the representative of the English Record Office at the Vatican.  In 1877, at the age of 71 he joined the Society of Jesus, and took his final vows in 1882, after only 5 years in the Society, a much shorter time than was usual, in view of his age.  He lived his final 13 years as a Jesuit, primarily residing in Mount Street, London where he was active in the House of Writers and published articles and books about Mary Queen of Scots, Henry VIII, Cranmer, Anne Boleyn, Wyclif, Mary Stuart.  He also translated texts, notably the Life of St Cuthbert, and lectured at Scottish and English universities.  He died at Mount Street aged 89 in 1895.  The British Jesuit Archives hold a large collection of his letters bound into a volume, which is currently being Calendared.

Given his lifelong historical interests and work in libraries and archives, it is unsurprising Stevenson amassed a collection of books.  There is no record of when they were incorporated into the Jesuit Antiquarian Book Collection but at least 20 of the books have his name inscribed, sometimes accompanied by a date.  Some volumes also have bibliographical or other notes in his hand.

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