FINOTTI, S.J., Rev. GIUSEPPE MARIA

Copyright 2000-2019 John N. Lupia, TOC

Rendering of Rev. Giuseppe Maria Finotti, S. J.

Reverend Father Giuseppe "Joseph" Maria Finotti (1817-1879), Society of Jesus, was born at Ferrara, Emilia-Romagna, Italy, 21 September, 1817, the second child of seven children born to Francesco Maria Finotti (1779-1857), and Rosina Tassinari (1783-1837). 

In 1833, the young Finotti was received into the Society of Jesus in Rome, and for several years taught and studied in the colleges of the order in Italy. 

He was one of the recruits whom Fr. Ryder, in 1845, brought from Europe to labor in the Maryland Province. After his ordination at Georgetown, D. C., Fr. Finotti was appointed pastor of St. Mary's Church, Alexandria, Virginia, and given charge of outlying missions in Maryland and Virginia. In 1852, he left the Society of Jesus and went to Boston arriving November 12, 1853. For many years he held the position of literary editor of  The Pilot, America's oldest Catholic newspaper and the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston while acting as pastor of Brookline and later of Arlington, Massachusetts. The last few years of his life he spent in the West, becoming, in 1877, pastor of Central City, Colorado, and retaining charge of that parish up to the time of his death.

Fr. Finotti was a great book lover, giving much time to literary pursuits and displaying special interest in the Catholic literary history of America. Among his literary productions are, "Month of Mary", 1853, which reached a sale of 50,000 copies; "Life of Blessed Paul of the Cross", 1860; "Diary of a Soldier", 1861; "The French Zouave", 1863; "Herman the Pianist", 1863; "Works of the Rev. Arthur O'Leary"; "Life of Blessed Peter Claver", etc. Most of these publications were translated or edited by him. His best-known work, never completed, is his "Bibliographica Catholica Americana" which took years of study and care. It was intended to be a catalogue of all the Catholic books published in the United States, with notices of their authors, and epitomes of their contents. The first part, which brings the list down to 1820 inclusive, was published in 1872; the second volume, which was to include the works of Catholic writers from 1821 to 1875, was never finished, though much of the material for it had been industriously gathered from all available sources. His last literary effort, which he did not live to see published, entitled "The Mystery of Wizard Clip" (Baltimore, 1879), is a story of preternatural occurrences at Smithfield, West Virginia, which is partly told in the life of Father Gilitzin.

His numismatic pursuits led him to become a member of the Boston Numismatic Society. Fr. Finotti amassed a very fine collection of U. S. proof coins and colonials. He owned one of the four silver proof 1827 quarters struck at the U. S. Mint in Philadelphia for J. J. Mickley. This coin passed from W. E. Woodward as he published in the description of lot 244, of the Heman Ely sale of January 8-10, 1884, to George F. Seavey who sold it at auction through W. H. Strobridge at Bangs on September 22, 1863 for $225. 


Finotti began to sell his coins at auction in 1860. Another of his collections consisting of 1908 lots was sold by Woodward on November 11-14, 1862, and was Woodward’s first Bangs, Merwin & Co., New York coin sale. The New York Times cites the Finotti sale of November 1862 : “NUMISMATIC SALE. Messrs. BANGS, MERWIN Co. offered for sale by auction, on Tuesday evening, a large number of old coins. The attendance of purchasers was large and the bidding spirited. The catalogue embraced the American portion of the Finotti collection of coins and medals, now the property ...” 

Woodward also sold at auction more coins of Fr. Finotti in his second Bangs, Merwin & Co., New York sale of April 28-May 1, 1863. 


Finotti tomb. Mount Olivet Cemetery, Wheat Ridge, Jefferson County, Colorado.

Fr. Finotti died at Central City, Gilpin County, Colorado, 10 January, 1879. He is buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery, Wheat Ridge, Jefferson County, Colorado.

The New York Times cites the Finotti sale of October 1879, in an article on book sales that attained $10,000.00 or more.


Bibliography :


“General City News,” The New York Times, November 13, 1862, Wednesday, Page 3, 1905 words

Emmanuel Joseph Attinelli. Numisgraphics (N. Y. : Author, 1875)

Mason, III, No. 4, April (1869) : 41b; IV, No. 8, August (1870) : 125;

Scott & Co., Auction Sale, December 5-7, 1877, page 47, lot 974

Roden, Robert F., “Seventy Years of Book Auctions; Their History in New-York Heretofore Unrecorded — Collections Selling for $10,000 and More.” Saturday Review of Books and Art, The New York Times, March 19, 1898"--p. [6].

Edward P. Spillane, “Finotti, Joseph M.,” Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. VI (New York : Robert Appleton, 1909) : 77-78.

Edgar Adams, "Live American Numismatic Items," The Numismatist, April (1911) : 131

Gengerke, Martin, American Numismatic Auctions,  (1987);

John W. Adams, U. S. Numismatic Literature Vol. 1, 26, 28;

Q. David Bowers, The Rare Silver Dollars Dated 1804 and the Exciting Adventure of Edmund Roberts. (Wolfeboro, 1999); 

 Pete Smith, “American Numismatic Pioneers : An Index to Sources,” Asylum Vol. XXII, No. 3, Consecutive Issue No. 87, Summer (2004) : 290.

                Q. David Bowers, The Numismatist, January (2013) : 47
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