Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2015 Issue

The Sun Shines For the Devils

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Like Copernicus, Swinden saw the sun as being at the center of the universe.

Revelation says (chapter XVI, 8; 9), «and the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire; and men were scorched with great heat.» Sinners, repent! Or thou shalt burn in a fire that will forever consume without destroying thee, thus leaving thee to suffer eternal pains and remorse in a giant barbecue. Now, this being said, let’s talk about logistics. Which place on Earth could possibly hold the numerous fallen angels and the countless sinners among mankind? A huge underground cave, probably. No, objects Tobias Swinden in his book An Inquiry Into the Nature and Place of Hell published in 1741 (London), as this place is of pure water. Furthermore, it would be far too small. There is only one place Hell can be found, the body of the Sun.

 

Just as NASA was putting out the very first high-definition (4K) video of the Sun, God put a weird book on my (narrow) path the other day, the first French edition of Tobias Swinden’s Recherches sur la Nature du Feu de l’Enfer et du lieu où il est situé (Amsterdam, 1728). This in-8° volume illustrated with two intriguing folding plates is what bibliophilists call a “curiosity”. This type of book is usually cherished, since they are among the rare ones to arouse our neophyte friends’ interest. Theologians have never been sparing with silly books, and most of their productions cannot even be regarded as testimonies of their time, but only as the fruits of their disturbed minds. But Swinden’s work is different. His system is built around “the old Pythagorick and the new Copernician system, which supposeth the Sun, and not the Earth, to be placed at the centre of the World.”

 

As an English priest, Swinden did not fear the Pope’s discontent and “took for granted” the heretic system of Copernicus, whose book had been listed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (the Index of Forbidden Books, first published in 1559 at the request of the Inquisition) since March 1616. As a matter of fact, the French edition or our book was printed in Amsterdam—far from the police of books—and came out without Approbation. The French translator, Jean Bion, was a priest from Dijon, who later denied Catholicism and sought refuge to England, and then to Holland. An Inquiry Into the Nature and Place of Hell was also added to the Index Librorum Prohibitorum on May 22nd, 1745, and was still listed in the 1948 edition. “Behold therefore the Sun fixed in the center of the Universe, about which in their several orbits the planets are supposed to move; and among them this terraqueous globe on which we live,” writes Swinden to explain the first plate of his book (see illustration). In accordance with Copernicus and Gaffendi’s theories, the Sun stands in the middle of the Universe (the lowest part), surrounded by the known planets of the Milky Way. Farther are the fixed stars and, at an almost infinite distance, the Empyrean Heaven (the highest part), where the righteous souls shall end up following the destruction of the Earth—and the period of 1,000 years evoked in Revelation. “The two extreams (sic) or opponents in the highest degree are the Empyreum, and the body of the Sun. The former of these is confessed by the Divines, as Gaffendus affirmeth, to be the region of angels and happy souls. And therefore what more rational than to suppose the latter to be the seat of devils and miserable spirits?” Indeed, it sounds like reasonable sophistry.

 

Demonstrations

 

Swinden, who wants to proceed scientifically, needs to demonstrate the physical existence of hell, yet was questioned by some stubborn philosophers. It is, as reported by St John in the Bible, “a lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” Swinden’s description of Hell will give you the creeps, even in 2015: “The punishment of hell are by Divines reckoned to be that follow, shame, and confusion of face, the wrath of God, an eternal separation from God, and His holy angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect; a society of fellowship with devils and wicked men, tribulation and anguish of mind,”—which, so far, sounds like ordinary life on Earth—“and lastly the torments of outer darkness and tortures of hell fire.” Being physically and forever tormented by fire is an unpleasant prospect, I agree; but the worst about Hell is probably the dreadful “worm of bitter remorse” that shall “inwardly gnaw thy conscience.”

 

Defining Inferno in his Philosophical Dictionary (no place, 1773), Voltaire says: “Inferum, underground passage. The first peoples buried their dead underground; their souls, they figured, went there with them. Such was the first physics and metaphysics of the Egyptians and the Greeks.” Yet, Swinden wonders, if Hell is a lake of fire, how could it be located at the heart of the Earth, since God “has founded (the Earth) upon the seas, and established it upon the floods” (Psalm XXIV)? Besides, Genesis says, “In the beginning (...) the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” Swinden then concludes: “If there must be some other body about the center besides earth, it would be more consonant to reason and experience, if not to Revelation too, to place water there than fire.” Not to mention that the heart of the Earth is too small to welcome so many sinners and devils. When God chased “Lucifer and his apostate angels”, it left a wide gap in Heaven. “If then such a number of angels fell has caused a great chasm in the vast orb of the Heaven itself, how can they be conceived as containable in a minute part of the little ball of Earth?” Revelations says, “the tail of the great dragon (when falling from the heavens—editor’s note) drew with him the third part of the stars of Heaven.” As a result, “they who fix the dimensions of hell in the Earth,” rages our author, “and state it to any determinate number of lapsed angels and miserable men are unpardonably presumptuous.”—forgive them, Lord; they know not what they are thinking!

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>The Tragedie of Julius Caesar.</i> London, 1623. 1st appearance in print, Complete from the First Folio. Sold for $175,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Ernst, Max. <i>Mr. Knife and Miss Fork</i>. Paris, 1932. DELUXE EDITION. Sold for $15,625
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Einstein, Albert. Signed Passport Photo for his US citizenship application. Bermuda, 1935. Sold for $17,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Verard, Antoine. Illuminated printed Book of Hours. Paris, 1507. Sold for $7,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Wetterkurzschlussel. German Weather Report Codebook - for Enigma use. Berlin, 1942. Sold for $225,000
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Morelos y Pavon, Jose Maria. Autograph letter signed to El Virrey Venegas, February 5, 1812. Sold for $6,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Milne, A.A. Complete set of <i>Winnie-the-Pooh</i> books. 4 volumes. All first issue points. London, 1924-1928. Sold for $5,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> A 48-star American Flag, battle worn flown at Guadalcanal and Peleliu, 1942-1944. Sold for $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Locke, John. Autograph Letter Signed mourning the death of his friend, William Molyneaux, 2 pp, October 27, 1698. Sold for $20,000
  • <b>Doyle, online only: Angling Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake" Johnson. July 13-24, 2018</b>
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Zane Grey, Inscribed photograph album depicting Grey and party at Catalina, fishing, and in Arizona. $700 to $1,000
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Eric Taverner, Salmon Fishing...London: Seeley, Service & Co., 1931. $600 to $900
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> The Gentleman Angler. $300 to $500
    <b>Doyle, online only: Angling Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake" Johnson. July 13-24, 2018</b>
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Ken Robinson, Flyfishers' Progress. [London: The Flyfishers' Club, 2000. $200 to $300
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> G. H. Lacy, North Punjab Fishing Club Angler's Handbook. Calcutta: Newman & Co., 1890. $300 to $500
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> J. Harrington Keene, Fly-Fishing and Fly-Making for Trout, etc. New York, 1887. $200 to $300
    <b>Doyle, online only: Angling Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake" Johnson. July 13-24, 2018</b>
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Arthur Macrate, The History of The Tuna Club, Avalon, Santa Catalina Island, California, 1948. $400 to $600
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Joseph D. Bates Jr. Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing. Harrisburg, PA: The Stackpole Company, 1966. $800 to $1,200
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Paul Schmookler and Ingrid V. Sils. Rare and Unusual Fly Tying Materials: A Natural History. $300 to $500
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Herbert Hoover, Fishing For Fun - And To Wash Your Soul. New York: Random House, 1963. $400 to $600
  • <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 372: Martin Luther King Jr. March for Freedom Now! Placard. Chicago, 1960. 28 x 22”. $3,000 to $6,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 567: Warhol, Andy. Tate Gallery Exhibition Booklet, Signed on the Cover by Warhol. Tate Gallery, 1971. $700 to $900
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 72: Mitchell, Margaret. <i>Gone With the Wind.</i> New York: The Macmillan Co., 1936. First edition, first issue. $4,000 to $5,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 468: Photo Archive Documenting the 1930s—50s Chicago Jazz and Night Club Scene. A significant collection. $2,000 to $4,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 143: Dr. Seuss. <i>Oh Say Can You Say.</i> 1979, First Edition, Signed. $200 to $300
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 285: [Maps] Thomas G. Bradford. <i>A Comprehensive Atlas, Geographical, Historical & Commercial.</i> Boston: William D. Ticknor, 1835. First Edition. $1,600 to $1,800
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 69: Herman Melville. <i>Moby Dick, or The Whale</i>. New York: Random House, 1930. First Kent Trade Edition. $400 to $600
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 295: John James Audoban. Group of 148 Lithographs from the Birds of America. Philadelphia: J.T. Bowen, ca. 1840s. $600 to $800
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 54: Langston Hughes. <i>One-Way Ticket.</i> New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1949. First edition. $300 to $500
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 7: Ray Bradbury. <i>The Martian Chronicles.</i> With a Wine Label Signed by Bradbury. Garden City: Doubleday, 1950. First edition $300 to $500
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 121. Frank L Baum. <i>The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.</i> Chicago: George M. Hill Co., 1899, 1900. First Edition. $4,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 369. [Declaration of Independence] Peter Force Engraving of the Declaration of Independence. One page; 29 x 26”. From the "American Archives" 1837-1853 series of books. $15,000 to $20,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> first edition of the earliest extant manual on modern chess, Salamanca, circa 1496-97. Sold for $68,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Carte-de-visite album with 83 images of prominent African Americans & abolitionists, circa 1860s. Sold for $47,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk,</i> Vienna & Leipzig, 1918. Sold for $106,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Man Ray, <i>[London Transport] – Keeps London Going,</i> 1938. Sold for $149,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolas de Fer, <i>L’Amerique Divisee Selon Letendue de ses Principales Parties,</i> Paris, 1713. Sold for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Russell H. Tandy, <i>The Secret in the Old Attic,</i> watercolor, pencil & ink, 1944. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Hemingway, <i>Three Stories & Ten Poems,</i> first edition of the author's first book, Paris, 1923. Sold for $23,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Walker Evans, <i>River Rouge Plant,</i> silver print, 1947. Sold for $57,500.

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