• <b>Seth Kaller:</b> “America the Beautiful”
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> George Washington, Tongue-in-Cheek, Writes James McHenry About His Wife or Mistress—But Funding the Continental Army is the Real Topic
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Young’s Map of the United States
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> President Lincoln & His Most Profitable Client, the Illinois Central Railroad
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Lincoln Thanks Former Pro-Slavery and Newly Republican Congressman for a Fiery Anti-Slavery Speech at a Philadelphia Campaign Rally
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> “A Visit From St. Nicholas” - great association copy inscribed by Clement C. Moore
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Einstein Agrees to Allow “a Short Book on the Hydrogen Bomb” to Use His Statement Made on Eleanor Roosevelt’s TV Show
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> The Building Blocks of Albert Einstein’s Creative Mind
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> A Unique Manuscript Map of Block Island Sound Including Fisher’s and Gardiner’s Islands, the Hamptons, and Montauk Point
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> J.R.R. Tolkien Writes his Proofreader with a Lengthy Discussion of the Lord of the Rings, Including Criticism of Radio Broadcasts of his Work
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Six Benjamin Franklin Signed Receipts – Including his Earliest Obtainable Autograph — Acknowledging a Donation to the Famous Library Company He Founded, and Five Payments for His Pennsylvania Gazette
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Sherman Dishes on Lincoln & Thomas, Meade, Sheridan, Halleck & Grant
  • <b>Now in press: 19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> <i>The First American Magna Carta. English Liberties.</i> Boston, 1721.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Babbage presentation to Peel, the man who killed the Difference Engine 1832
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> The Stamp Act. 1765
    <b>Now in press: 19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Central Park Photographs by Prevost 1862
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Salem Witch Trials. Wonders of the Invisible World 1693
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Mammoth print of Millie-Christine, "The Carolina Twins" c. 1868
  • <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> BROWNING, ELIZABETH BARRETT. Autograph Manuscript Initialed ("E.B.B."), being the working notebook for the poems contained in <i>The Seraphim and Other Poems</i>. $400,000 to 600,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> WILDE, OSCAR. Two leaves, pp 31-34, from the first appearance of <i>The Picture of Dorian Gray in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine for July, 1890</i>, with Wilde's autograph revisions. $40,000 to 60,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>Comedies, Histories and Tragedies; Published according to the true Originall Copies. Second Impression. [THE SECOND FOLIO.]</i> $200,000 to 300,000
    <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> KENNEDY, JOHN FITZGERALD. Photograph Signed ("John F. Kennedy") and Inscribed, 8 x 10 inch gelatin silver print, of Senator Kennedy and Miss Barelli, at the swearing of the secretarial oath for Miss Barelli. $1,200 to 1,800
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> COOPER, JAMES FENIMORE. Autograph Manuscript, being Chapter XXVII of <i>Afloat and Ashore</i>. $15,000 to 20,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> IRVING, WASHINGTON. Autograph Manuscript, being Chapter 20 from Volume IV of <i>The Life of George Washington</i>. $20,000 to 30,000
    <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> VERNE, JULES. Autograph Manuscript Signed ("Jules Verne"), being the complete short story "<i>Une fantaisie de docteur Ox</i>". $100,000 to 150,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> ALCHEMY. <i>[The Crowning of Nature, or Coronatio Naturae.]</i> Original alchemical manuscript on paper, ruled in red, with watermark of the arms of Schieland. $100,000 to 150,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> DE JODE, CORNELUS. 1568 - 1600. <i>Quivirae Regnu, Cum Alija Versus Borea</i>. [Antwerp: Arnoldum Coninx, 1593]. $7,000 to 10,000
    <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> HOOKER, JOSEPH DALTON. <i>The Rhododendrons of Sikkim-Himalaya; Being an Account, Botanical and Geographical, of the Rhododendrons Recently Discovered in the Mountains of Eastern Himalaya</i>… $7,000 to 10,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> CATLIN, GEORGE. <i>North American Indian Portfolio. Hunting scenes and amusements of the Rocky Mountains and prairies of America. From drawings and notes of the author, made during eight years' travel.</i> $20,000 to 30,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> LINCOLN, ABRAHAM. HESLER, ALEXANDER. Platinum print, 8 3/4 x 6 3/4 in, of a beardless Lincoln, 1860.<br>$2,000 to 3,000
  • <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> THE PAPERS OF BREVET MAJOR GENERAL JOHN GROSS BARNARD (1815-1882), Chief Engineer of the Army of the Potomac. Estimate: $75,000-100,000
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> ALVIN LANGDON COBURN. London. With 20 photogravures by Coburn and text by Hilaire Belloc, London and New York: 1909. First edition. Est: $4,000-6,000
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> WILLIAM FADEN, A Plan of New York Island, with part of Long Island, Staten Island & East New Jersey. London: 1776. Estimate: $5,000-8,000
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> MAX BEERBOHM, Lord Curzon delivering an oration. Original drawing with collage. London, 1912. Est: $2,000-3,000
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> AMERICAN REVOLUTION, Recueil des Loix Constitutives des Colonies Angloises. A Philadelphie, et se vend a Paris: Cellot & Jombert, 1778. First collected edition in French. Estimate: $500-800
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN, Confederate General Joseph Johnston's copy of Sherman's General Orders No. 65 announcing the final agreement of Surrender, 27 April 1865. Est: $4,000-6,000
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> JOHN KEATS, Lamia, Isabella, the Eve of Saint Agnes and Other Poems. London: Taylor and Hessey, 1820. First edition of Keats’s third book.. Estimate: $5,000-7,000
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> M. T. Cicero's Cato Major, or his discourse of Old-age: With Explanatory Notes. Philadelphia: Benjamin Franklin, 1744. Est: $5,000-8,000
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> WINSTON S CHURCHILL, History of the English Speaking Peoples. London: Cassell, 1956-58. First editions. Est: $1,500-2,500

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2015 Issue

Abbé Prades, the Little Heretic. Or, Muddy Chaff and Golden Wheat

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Jean-Martin de Prades.

I love eBay in the summer. Just the other day, I bought a very nice copy of Abbé Fleury's Histoire Ecclésiastique abrégée (Berne, 1767)—a handsome two volumes sets bound in full contemporary calf, Jansenist style—for the price of a regular pack of cigarettes. Who cares about abridged histories? Well—I didn’t intend to invest on the original edition of 1691 (Paris, Chez Jean Mariette), which is a sought after set of twenty in-4° volumes worth a few thousands Euros, but was nevertheless interested in getting a rough idea of what this book, half-despised and half-praised by Voltaire, was all about. I soon realized that this abridged version is a book of its own; in fact, it's an “open philosophical attack” on Christianity—Oh my God!

 

A Philosophical Preface

 

Before bidding, I simply read Voltaire’s commentary in Le Siècle de Louis XIV (Khel, 1784): “This Histoire de l’Eglise is the best ever written, and the preliminary discourses are far above the rest; unlike the history, they are almost worthy of a Philosopher.” It was only later on that I came across a more in-depth analysis by the same Voltaire, who clearly used the book as a primary source: “I saw a statue of mud with a few gold nuggets; I kept the gold, and threw away the mud. (...) In the discourses we find some traits of freedom and truth but the main body of work is full of fairy tales an old lady would be ashamed to repeat.” (Mélanges Historiques, Khel, 1784). Though Voltaire referred to the original edition, it was still a good recommendation. When I received the set, I was puzzled by a few details. First, it came out with no “privilège” or “approbation”, two official seals that informed the honest readers that a book could be safely read; and books about religion usually featured both of them. Besides, it wasn’t printed in France but in Berne (Switzerland), a common trick to avoid censorship. The title page also reads: “Translated from English”; yet Abbé Fleury (1640-1723) was French, and he wrote his Histoire ecclésiastique in his native language. In fact, Fleury was the protégé of the famous Bossuet, thanks to whom he became the preceptor of the Conti family; he later on took care of the education of Louis XIV’s son, before being appointed to the Académie française in 1696. Though sometimes suspected of complacency towards Jansenism, he was definitely the kind of author to get a “privilège” for his writings. Notwithstanding, I started to read the forewords, and was caught totally off-guard by the very first paragraph: “In the early days, the foundations of Christianity were like most empire’s, quite weak. A Jewish commoner, whose birth is dubious, who mingled absurdities with the ancient Hebraic prophecies and the precepts of a good moral; to whom were attributed some miracles, and who eventually suffered an ignominious death; such was the hero of this sect. Twelve fanatics then went from the East to Italy, where they convinced many thanks to the holy and sane moral they preached.” I beg your pardon? The fruit of Mary’s womb—dubious? The holy apostles—a bunch of... fanatics? Lord have mercy!

 

All right—that might have come from an Englishman, after all; a Protestant, trying to belittle the power of the Roman Church. Growing excited, I resumed my reading. Excommunications, anti-popes, and theological schisms; the Fathers of the Church are here described as cunning politicians fighting the kings of the Earth for power rather than sticking to their holy mission. Talking about the Council of Chalcedony, our author wrote: “It would have been difficult for them to add a third entity to the Father and the Son, hadn’t a deceitful and cunning Father found the solution by adding a few lines to the Gospel of St John: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” But, wait! —one of my favourite Biblical quotes, a forgery? “We can also trace back to the same tricking spirit the building of deceitful decrees used as a footstool by the Pontiffs to dictate their will to foreign nations.

 

Now convinced that Fleury had little to do with this work, I looked up in Barbier’s Dictionnaire des ouvrages anonymes et pseudonymes (Paris, 1822). It reads: “Translated from English (or rather written by Abbé de Prades, and featuring a preface composed by Frederic II, King of Prussia).” Back to our reading, to the passage dealing with the holy crusades: “To gather some fanatics, the Pope published indulgences; which meant promising impunity to all sorts of crimes for those who would dedicate themselves to the Church and the pontiff. To bring war to Palestine, where there was nothing we could claim, and to conquer the holy land that wasn’t worth the cost of the expedition, many Princes, Kings and Emperors went to expose themselves in a foreign land. In front of their ill concerted expeditions, the successive Popes giggled and rejoiced over the blindness of Man and their own success. During these voluntary exiles (of the Prince and Kings) (...) the Popes despotically ruled Europe. (...) The Church used St Bernard as a tool on several occasions. His eloquence was the perfect poison to feed this epidemic fever; he sent many victims to Palestine, but was too prudent to go himself.” Our author—the King of Prussia if we are to believe Barbier—saw the crusades as the opening of a Pandora’s box: “So many indulgences and pardons for sale created a general loosening of the morals. People grew more and more corrupt; and the Christian moral, once so pure and so sane, was totally put aside; on its ruins prospered external cults and superstition. (...) To put the final touches to this era of vertigo and stupor, let’s add the luxury and splendour of the bishops that were like an insult to the public misery, the scandalous lives and the atrocious crimes of so many Popes, who openly denied the moral of the Gospels and who sold the divine pardons; it all proved that the Church was selling out the holiest part of the Christian doctrine.” And this book was published in 1767 as “A new and corrected edition”, as the original came one year earlier—whoa!

 

Mr PRADES

 

Who was Jean-Martin Prades? In his Dictionnaire historique (Liège, 1793), Mr Feller apologized for writing quite a “lengthy” article about him: “I did it because the Thesis of this abbot made history in the revolution currently undergone by Religion.” Prades was a preacher from the countryside, who came to Paris to study theology at La Sorbonne. In 1751, he wrote a thesis that “was approved by the board of the holy university.” (Feller) It was an apology of Christianity, which chastised the incredulous—including Montesquieu; but it was also inspired by the preliminary discourse of D’alembert’s Encypclopédie. As such, it claimed that Man had first lived a life of paganism before being slowly drawn to religion by the development of society. It also stated that emotions were the starting point of human reflection and that the idea of justice was nothing but a reaction of the weak against the oppression of the strong—Prades was close to Diderot, he even wrote some articles in the Encyclopédie. At the time, the Religion was fighting a spiritual war against the philosophers like Voltaire, Diderot or d’Alembert, and every suspicious work was reported. It eventually happened to Prades’. Embarrassed by the burgeoning controversy, La Sorbonne made a fantastic u-turn, and Prades’s thesis was condemned. It was said by Feller to contain “false proposals on the essence of the soul, on the notions of good and evil, (...) on the origins of society, on the law of Nature, and on the revealed Religion (...); but what excited the most resentment was the pagan parallel drawn between the cures of Aesculapius and the miracles of Jesus Christ.”



The Parliament of Paris finally banned this “gross and disgusting” thesis (Feller); so did Benoit XIV. Fearing for his life—at least for his liberty—, Prades left France in a hurry and sought refuge under the wing of Frederic II, King of Prussia, who “gathered beaux-esprits around himjust like the German Princes gather monkeys,” as La Beaumelle put it (Mes Pensées, Belin—1752). “He was Voltaire’s protégé,” wrote Chandon & Delandine (Dictionnaire historique—Lyon, 1804) about Prades, “and as such became the lecturer of Frederic II, who called him my little heretic”. The enlightened monarch, who supported the free thinkers of his time, had a love and hate relationship with Voltaire; the latter actually met Prades in Prussia. He described him to his niece in 1753: “He is, to tell you the truth, the funniest excommunicated heretic ever. He’s gay, amiable and he joyfully endures his misfortune.” The conservative religious of the time suspected Prades to be what he himself suggested St Bernard had been to the Pope, a political tool—in his case, in the hands of the enemies of the Religion. The controversy lasted for a while but Prades eventually signed a retraction in 1754. The Pope reinstituted him, and he died in France in 1782. But just like the Christians had, with their crusades, opened a breech for the Muslims to reach Constantinople—so said Frederic II—, his thesis set a precedent: “Before this, (the Religion) was only attacked under cover, by obscure means and through little underground brochures,” wrote Feller. “The Thesis was the first signal of an open charge. Ever since, impiety, under the mask of philosophy, has been walking in the open, and its partisans haven't been ashamed of writing their names on the frontispieces of the vilest works.” 


Posted On: 2015-08-02 14:15
User Name: scott jordan

This was a fascinating read. Thank you, Thibault.
sj


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Auction Pierre Bergé & associés in association with Sotheby’s: Important Books and Manuscripts from the Library of Jean A. Bonna from the 15th to the 20th Century. Sale on April 26, 2017. Exhibition in London March 28-30</b>
    <b>Pierre Bergé & Associés, Apr. 26:</b> Galileo, <i>Discorsi e Dimostrazioni matematiche.</i> Leyde, Elzevier, 1638. Original edition: only known copy of the first state. €700,000 – 900,000
    <b>Pierre Bergé & Associés, Apr. 26:</b> Fables illustrated by Benjamin Rabier. Paris, Tallandier, without date [ca. 1910]. Superb binding doubled in vellum decorated with painted and mosaic decors by André Mare illustrating four fables. €10,000 – 15,000
    <b>Pierre Bergé & Associés, Apr. 26:</b> Gustave Flaubert, draft for the preface of the <i>Memoir for the defense of Madame Bovary</i>, 15-30 January 1857. Exceptiona signed autograph manuscript. €40,000 – 60,000
    <b>Auction Pierre Bergé & associés in association with Sotheby’s: Important Books and Manuscripts from the Library of Jean A. Bonna from the 15th to the 20th Century. Sale on April 26, 2017. Exhibition in London March 28-30</b>
    <b>Pierre Bergé & Associés, Apr. 26:</b> Boccace, <i>The Book of Praise and the Virtue of the Noble and Cleric Ladies.</i> Verard, 1493. First edition of the French version attributed to Laurent de Premierfait. €40,000 – 60,000
    <b>Pierre Bergé & Associés, Apr. 26:</b> Exceptional set of 15 original bindings by Jean de Gonet, on rare editions illustrated by Picasso, Matisse, Miro or original editions of Bataille or Radiguet.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar. 30: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar. 30:</b> Malcolm X, typed manuscripts for the <i>LA Herald Dispatch</i> column "God's Angry Men," 1957.<br>$200,000 to $300,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar. 30:</b> Frederick Douglass, Autograph Letter Signed to George Alfred Townsend, Washington, 1880.<br>$40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar. 30:</b> Carte-de-visite album featuring a previously unrecorded image of Harriet Tubman, 1860s.<br>$20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar. 30: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar. 30:</b> Collection of documents from the Montgomery Improvement Association, Alabama, 1955-63. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar. 30:</b> Martin Luther King, Jr., working draft of the "Letter from Birmingham Jail," Alabama, 1963. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar. 30:</b> <i>Benjamin Bannaker's Almanac</i> for 1795, Baltimore. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar. 30: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar. 30:</b> Collection of 41 letters addressed to Rebecca Primus, 1854-72.<br>$20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar. 30:</b> Abby Fisher, <i>What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking</i>, first edition, San Francisco, 1881.<br>$10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar. 30:</b> Victor H. Green, <i>The Negro Motorist Green-Book for 1941</i>, New York, 1940. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar. 30:</b> Toni Morrison, <i>The Bluest Eye, </i>reviewer's copy, New York, 1971. $4,000 to $6,000.
  • <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books and Works on Paper. March 30, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions Mar. 30:</b> Potter (Beatrix). The Tale of Peter Rabbit, first edition, first issue, [1901]. Part of an extensive, private Beatrix Potter collection. £15,000 - 20,000
    <b>Forum Auctions Mar. 30:</b> Dodgson (Charles Lutwidge). The Hunting of the Snark, first edition, with original printed dust-jacket, 1876.<br>£7,000 - 9,000
    <b>Forum Auctions Mar. 30:</b> Buckland Wright (John). Pervigilium Veneris: The Vigil of Venus, number 1 of 100 copies (Christopher Sandford's copy), Golden Cockerel Press, 1939.<br>£2,000 - 3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books and Works on Paper. March 30, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions Mar. 30:</b> Kelmscott Press. Keats (John). The Poems, one of 300, orig. vellum, 8vo, Kelmscott Press, 1894. £1,800 - 2,200
    <b>Forum Auctions Mar. 30:</b> Greenhill (Elizabeth).- Morison (Stanley) and Kenneth Day. The Typographic Book, 1450-1935, bound in dark green goatskin by Elizabeth Greenhill, 1963. £6,000 - 8,000
    <b>Forum Auctions Mar. 30:</b> Fitzgerald (F. Scott). The Great Gatsby, first edition, first state dust-jacket, New York, 1925. £25,000 - 35,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books and Works on Paper. March 30, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions Mar. 30:</b> Dionysius, <i>Halicarnassensis</i>. Antiquitates Romanae, Editio princeps, Treviso, Bernardinus Celerius, 24 or 25 February, 1480. £4,000 - 6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions Mar. 30:</b> Canon Law. [Laurentius Puldericus. Breviarum decreti], manuscript in Latin, on paper, [?Germany], [c. 1450].<br>£5,000 - 7,000
    <b>Forum Auctions Mar. 30:</b> Swimming. Percey (William) The Compleat Swimmer: or, the Art of Swimming, first and only edition, by J.C. for Henry Fletcher, 1658. £5,000 - 7,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books and Works on Paper. March 30, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions Mar. 30:</b> Binding with silverwork by Anthony Nelme. The Holy Bible, containing the Old Testament and the New: : newly translated out of the original tongues, Oxford, John Baskett, 1716. £10,000 - 15,000
    <b>Forum Auctions Mar. 30:</b> George IV's copy. Nash (John, architect). The Royal Pavilion at Brighton, one of 10 copies, 1826. £8,000 - 10,000
    <b>Forum Auctions Mar. 30:</b> Blake (William, 1757-1827). "With Dreams upon my bed thou scarest me & affrightest me with Visions", 1825. £700 - 1,000

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