Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2014 Issue

Pulpit Preschi Prescha or the Art of Preaching


Fame could be achieved by the great preachers.

My soul for a ribbon: There were also some pretentious preachers, who quoted the Scriptures at length, in Greek or Latin. “Do not make, out of pretentious knowledge, / From Greek and Latin a burlesque manège,” warns our author; but De Villiers didn’t follow fashion either, and condemned those who, in order to make the Bible clearer to the Ladies, make Jesus Christ speak in the latest fashion. Others didn’t practice what they preached, and gave the pulpit a bad name. Some, like one Bizot, blamed indiscriminately. “When you blame the powerful for their inconsiderate expense,” begs De Villiers, “And wish in their clothes less magnificence, / Don’t you go too far, damning your brother for a ribbon.”


Let the poets bury the dead: Preachers dreamt of rubbing shoulders with the powerful—and flattered them. “Some use the pulpit as a step stone, / For rich sinners use kinder words, and a lighter tone, / Praising their probity over a tombstone.” As a matter of fact, funeral orations were another genre not to be mixed up with sermons—they were considered as a vulgar exercise. Only the bravest could remain righteous over the coffin of a powerful. “Let’s imagine Massillon standing in the pulpit,” writes La Harpe in the Encyclopaedia, “about to pronounce the funeral oration of Louis XIV—said Louis the Great—, first looking around, observing the usual morbid fanfare that follows the powerful up to their graves (...). He looks down for a while then raises his eyes to the heavens and declares with a firm and grave voice: God alone is great, my brothers.” Otherwise, the exercise was considered quite vulgar; genuine religious praised the Creator, not the creatures. They should leave it to writing mercenaries such as Esprit Fléchier. De Villiers wondered: “Should I blame an established custom? / Go and join Fléchier, to this morbid exercise accustom’d. / I am joking—but Abbot, what could I say, / About this misleading habit that every day, / At the foot of the tabernacle, out of a wicked, / Portrays a saint despite his evil deed’? / Leave flattery to the paid poets.”



De Villiers knew about the mighty maze of Man’s heart; and thus warned the too eloquent learning preachers: “To condemn, you speak the words of malicious gossiping/ You carefully depict the art of seducing—even loving. / Ô! Uninitiated translator of the plots of the high society, / Make sure you promote not the hated vices involuntarily, / Attracting to your sermons a vicious listener! / Always remember your aim while portraying a sinner.” Reading this part, I felt a little bit like Louis XIV—yes, I did—after Massillon’s sermon, exposed. As a man of his time, De Villiers had a somewhat dark vision of Man—and a resigned hope in mankind. Talking about the change a good sermon ought to make in everyone’s life, he stated with lucidity: “But this change will never take place. / No matter how zealous or convincing we preachers might be, / To rebellious listeners we hurt ourselves daily. / Needless to look for examples overseas, / I am uselessly writing those few verses.” Don’t be too sad, Abbot, and remember: God doesn’t require us to succeed; he only requires that you try.


L’Art de Prescher: (Anonymous), A Cologne, Chez Pierre du Marteau—1682.

Title, preface (4pp), 61 pages (numbered from 7 to 68).



Thibault Ehrengardt



PS : Father Bourdaloue has given his name to two objects. 1) A delicious pear-pie that was invented by a pastry cook who operated in Rue Bourdaloue (Bourdaloue Street), in Paris—the street was named after the preacher. 2) Some portable toilets used by people who attended his sermons. He could speak for hours, and it was sometimes necessary to discreetly relieve oneself. One copy can be seen at the Hautefort’s Museum of Medecine (www.musee-hautefort.com). 

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 7. Ritter's unusual sun-dial world map, 1607. Est. $3500 to $4500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 16. Fascinating Japanese satirical map published prior to WWII, 1932. Est. $1400 to $2000
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 30. Newton's 2" miniature terrestrial globe, 1833. Est. $3500 to $4500
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    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 346. One of the most decorative 18th century maps of Malta, 1680. Est. $1200 to $1500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 412. The first printed map devoted to the Pacific in full contemporary color, 1589. Est. $8000 to $10000
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 425. Rare set of celebrated explorers of the New World, 1592. Est. $1900 to $2300
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 436. Two superb miniature atlases bound in one volume with 98 maps, 1682. Est. $5500 to $7500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 445. Part IV of de Bry's "Grand Voyages" by Girolamo Benzoni, 1613. Est. $2000 to $2500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 447. Tallis' "History of the United States of America" in six volumes, 1850. Est. $1500 to $1800
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 448. Mallet's miniature military masterpiece, 1672. Est. $1400 to $1700
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Malcolm X, Autograph Letter Signed, from prison, 1950. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Letter from Moses Walker, an enslaved Georgia man, to his mother at another plantation, 1854. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Signed cabinet card of Frederick Douglass, albumen photograph, Boston, circa 1879. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Placard from the Memphis Sanitation Worker's strike, 1968. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b><br><i>The North Star,</i> volume 1, issue 27, Rochester, NY, 1848. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Hand-tinted tintype of John Brown, circa 1860. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Poster signed & inscribed by Huey Newton, circa 1967. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Album of aerial views of the march on Montgomery, taken by federal troops, 1965. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Poster for the SNCC, photograph by Danny Lyon featuring John Lewis, circa 1962. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
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    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. $100,000 to $150,000
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    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. $200,000 to 300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. $80,000 to $120,000
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
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  • <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Jenner (Rev. George Charles). <i>The Evidence at Large...Respecting Dr Jenner's Discovery of Vaccine Inoculation,</i> presentation copy from Edward Jenner to Rev. Rowland Hill, 1805. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Houdini (Harry).- Maggi (Girolamo). <i>De tintinnabulis liber postumus...de equuleo liber,</i> Harry Houdini's copy, Amsterdam, H. Wetstein, 1689. £600 to £800
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Meyer (Henry Leonard). Coloured Illustrations of British Birds, and their Eggs , 7 vol. in 2 plus Illustrations of British Birds, 4 vol., 1842-50 and [1835-51]. £5,000 to £7,000
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