BOLLANDISTS, the Belgian Jesuits who publish the Acta Sanctorum, the great collection of biographies and legends of the saints, arranged by days, in the order of the calendar. The original idea was conceived by a Jesuit father, Heribert Rosweyde (see Hagiology), and was explained by him in a sort of prospectus, which he issued in 1607 under the title of Fasti sanctorum quorum vitae in Belgicis Bibliothecis manuscriptae. His intention was to publish in eighteen volumes the lives of the saints compiled from the MSS., at the same time adding sober notes. At the time of his death (1629) he had collected a large amount of material, but had not been able actually to begin the work. A Jesuit father, John Bolland, was appointed to carry on the project, and was sent to Antwerp. He continued to amass material, and extended the scope of the work. In 1643 the two volumes for January appeared. The three volumes for February appeared in 1658, the three for March in 1668, the three for April in 1675, and so on. In 1635 Henschenius (Godfried Henschen) was associated with Bolland, and collaborated in the work until 1681. From 1659 to 1714 Papebroch (Daniel van Papenbroeck) collaborated. This was the most brilliant period in the history of the Acta Sanctorum. The freedom of Papebroch's criticism made him many enemies, and he had often to defend himself against their attacks. The work was continued - with some inequalities, but always in the same spirit - until the suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1773. The last volume published was vol. iii. of October, which appeared in 1770.
On the dispersion of the Jesuits the Bollandists were authorized to continue their work, and remained at Antwerp until 1778, when they were transferred to Brussels, to the monastery of canons regular of Coudenberg. Here they published vol. iv. of October in 1780, and vol. v. of October in 1786, when the monastery of Coudenberg was suppressed. In 1788 the work of the Bollandists ceased. The remains of their library were acquired by the Premonstratensians of Tongerloo, who endeavoured to continue the work, and in their abbey vol. vi. of October appeared in 1794.
After the re-establishment of the Society of Jesus in Belgium the work was again taken up in 1837, at the suggestion of the Académie Royale of Belgium and with the support of the Belgian government, and the Bollandists were installed at the college of St Michael in Brussels. In 1845 appeared vol. vii. of October, the first of the new series, which reached vol. xiii. of October in 1883. In this series the Jesuit fathers Joseph van der Moere, Joseph van Hecke, Benjamin Bossue, Victor and Remi de Buck, Ant. Tinnebroeck, Edu. Carpentier and Henr. Matagne collaborated. Father John Martinov of Theazan was entrusted with the editing of the Annus Graeco-Slavicus, which appeared in the beginning of vol. xi. of October in 1864.
In 1882 the activities of the Bollandists were exerted in a new direction, with a view to bringing the work more into line with the progress of historical methods. A quarterly review was established under the title of Analecta Bollandiana by the Jesuit fathers C. de Smedt, G. van Hooff and J. de Backer. This reached its 25th volume in 1906, and was edited by the Bollandists de Smedt, F. van Ontroy, H. Delehaye, A. Porcelet and P. Peeters. This review contains studies in preparation for the continuation and remoulding of the Acta Sanctorum, inedited texts, dissertations, and, since 1892, a Bulletin des publications hagiographiques, containing criticisms of recent works on hagiographic questions. In addition to this review, the Bollandists undertook the analysis of the hagiographic MSS. in the principal libraries. Besides numerous library catalogues published in the Analecta (e.g. those of Chartres, Namur, Ghent, Messina, Venice, etc.), separate volumes were devoted to the Latin MSS. in the Bibliothèque Royale at Brussels (2 vols., 1886-1889), to the Latin and Greek MSS. in the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris (5 vols., 1889-1896), to the Greek MSS. in the Vatican (1899), and to the Latin MSS. in the libraries of Rome (1905 seq.). They also prepared inventories of the hagiographic texts hitherto published, and of these there have appeared the Bibliotheca hagiographica graeca (1895), the Bibliotheca hagiographica latina (1899) and the Bibliotheca hagiographica Orientalis. These indispensable works delayed the publication of the principal collection, but tended to give it a more solid basis and a strictly scientific stamp. In 1887 appeared vol. i. for November; in 1894, vol. ii., preceded by the Martyrologium Hieronymianum by J.B. de Rossi and the abbé Louis Duchesne; in 1902, the Propylaeum ad Acta Sanctorum Novembris, comprising the Synaxarium ecclesiae Constantinopolitanae.
There are three editions of the Acta Sanctorum: the original edition (Antwerp, Tongerloo and Brussels, 63 vols., 1643-1902); the Venice edition, stopping at vol. v. of September (1734-1770); and the Paris edition, stopping at vol. xiii. of October (61 vols., 1863-1883). In addition to these, there is a volume of tables, edited by the abbé Rigollot.
See Acta Sanctorum apologelicis libris ... vindicata (Antwerp, 1755); L.P. Gachard, Mémoire historique sur les Bollandistes (Brussels, 1835); van Hecke, "De ratione operis Bollandiani" (Acta Sanctorum Octobris, vii.); and Cardinal J.B. Pitra, Etudes sur la collection des Actes des Saints (Paris, 1880).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)