• <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 18 - 28:</b> Lewis, Meriwether, and William Clark. <i>History of the Expedition Under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark, To the Sources of the Missouri…</i> 1814, first edition. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 18 - 28:</b> Poe, Edgar Allan. <i>Tales.</i> New York: Wiley And Putnam, 1845. First edition, first printing, first issue. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 18 - 28:</b> Dürer, Albrecht, and Johann Stabius. [Map of the World as a Sphere.] [Vienna,] 1781 (From Woodblocks Cut In 1515). $120,000 to $180,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 18 - 28:</b> Ferdinand, Franz — Lala Deen Dayal [Photographer]. VISIT OF H.I. & H.R. THE ARCHDUKE FRANZ FERDINAND OF AUSTRIA ESTE TO HYDERABAD (DECCAN), JANUARY 1893. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 18 - 28:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Manuscript Letter Signed ("Yours Truly A. Lincoln") as Sixteenth President to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles Regarding William Johnson. $200,000 to $300,000
  • <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.
  • <b>Sotheby’s London: Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts and Continental and Russian Books.<br>July 3, 2018</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s London, July 3:</b> The Breviary of Marie (1344-1404), Duchess of Bar, Daughter of Bonne of Luxembourg and King John II (the Good) of France, Franciscan Use, in Latin with a few rubrics in French [France (Paris), c.1360]. £500,000 to £700,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, July 3:</b> John Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew’s Gospel, in Greek [Byzantine Empire (Constantinople), late 9th century]. £200,000 to £300,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, July 3:</b> Bible, with prologues and interpretations of Hebrew Names, in Latin [France (Paris), c.1250]. £80,000 to £120,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London: Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts and Continental and Russian Books.<br>July 3, 2018</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s London, July 3:</b> Euclides. Elementa Geometriae [Translated by Adelardus Bathoniensis, Edited by Johannes Campanus]. Vicenza: Leonardus Achates de Basilea and Guilielmus de Papia, [13 May Or 20 June] 1491. £40,000 to £60,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, July 3:</b> Apocalypsis Sancti Johannis. Single Leaf from a Block Book [Schreiber's Edition III]. [The Netherlands, C. 1465-1470]. £15,000 to £20,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, July 3:</b> Seneca, Lucius Annaeus. Opera Philosophica. Epistolae [Edited by Blasius Romerus]. Treviso: Bernardus De Colonia, 1478. £20,000 to £30,000
  • <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.
    <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>

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2017 Issue

Ernest Renan, The (Emotional) Life of Jesus

7aa37eea-2515-425b-8d1e-e5e4a689e7bf

Renan's Vie de Jésus.

Matthews and friends

 

For many, Renan’s book was a renegade’s work—at the time, Jean Guéhenno wrote that it was “the chronicle of God’s agony within one of the most religious, yet clear-sighted, souls ever.” Indeed, Renan had lost his faith. “To write the history of a religion,” he states in his preface, “it is necessary, firstly, to have believed it (otherwise we should not be able to understand how it has charmed and satisfied the human conscience); in the second place to believe it no longer in an absolute manner for absolute faith is incompatible with sincere history.” Renan had a “modern” approach. His book was the first chapter in a series entitled The History of the Origins of Christianity1. In the second volume, The Apostles (Paris, 1866), he explains: “To shake the faith of someone is what I really do not intend to do. This kind of works must be executed with supreme indifference, just as if one was writing for an uninhabited planet.” A learnt man, he gives a precious and reasonable overview of the four Gospels: Matthew deserves our full trust as far as the discourses of Jesus are concerned; Luc was less an evangelist than a biographer; Marc’s Gospel is the firmest, the more precise—compiled from to the memories of an eyewitness, probably Peter himself; and John’s Gospel continuously displays the ulterior motives of a sect willing to convince, and though featuring “admirable gleams, some traits which truly come from Jesus,” is more into metaphysics and dark dogmas. But what really makes his book different is that Renan had travelled to the holy land—with his sister, in 1861. That’s where he wrote his book, as a matter of fact, contemplating the countries he was talking about. It gave him a carnal approach to the Bible. His description of Galilee is haunted by the luminous spectre of Jesus, who once walked this ground. “The first task of the historian,” he says, “is to sketch well the environment in which the events he recounts took place.” His geographical approach of history (inherited from the German school) is limpid in this book—and indeed, it seems like Renan had “secular”, or “historical” visions while he was there. As a matter of fact, not only was his biography of Jesus historical, but it was also very emotional.

 

A Few Historical Facts

 

The infallibility of the Scriptures was way behind Renan: “That the Gospels are in part legendary is evident,” he writes, “since they are full of miracles and of the supernatural.” He goes on: “Jesus was born at Nazareth, and it is only by a rather embarrassed and round-about way that, in legends respecting him, he is made to be born at Bethlehem.” Renan also calls a myth the famous Massacre of the Innocents, supposedly ordered by Herod the Great to get rid of Jesus.

 

Jesus, Renan says, was a simple man, and “although born at a time when the principle of positive science was already proclaimed, he lived entirely in the supernatural.” In fact, under his pen, Jesus appears like stranger to the low occupations of the Pharisees of Jerusalem. He wasn’t into analysing the Law (Torah), but he believed “that by praying he could change the path of clouds, arrest disease, and even death.” He had, Renan adds, an exaggerated belief in the power of man, and profound idea of the familiar relations of man with God—“beautiful errors, which were the secrets of his power.”

 

The Gospels portray Jesus as a “reformer”, constantly challenging the religious Law. He was clearly a man of rare understanding, but he was no intellectual. Jesus was a man of action, and a man of joy. His relationship with “the austere” John the Baptist also appears with an unprecedented clarity. When they met on the bank of the Jordan, Jesus became “during some weeks at least, the imitator of John.” The influence of the Baptist on Jesus was more hurtful than useful, Renan says, as “it checked his development; for everything leads us to believe that he had, when he descended towards the Jordan, ideas superior to those of John, and that it was by a sort of concession that he inclined for a time towards baptism. Perhaps, if the Baptist (...) had remained free, Jesus would not have been able to throw off the yoke of external rites and ceremonies, and would then have remained an unknown Jewish sectary.” But he soon developed what Renan calls the “transcendent disdain” that placed him above all things. My kingdom is not of this world, as he said—probably, argues Renan, his most genius statement.

 

Renan also revisits the foundation myth of the resurrection of Lazarus—“perhaps the ardent desire of silencing those who violently denied the divine mission of Jesus, carried his enthusiastic friends beyond all bounds. It may be that Lazarus, still pallid with disease, caused himself to be wrapped in bandages as if dead, and shut up in the tomb of his family.” When Jesus arrived, surrounded by an important crowd, Lazarus suddenly walked out of the tomb, and people shouted “Miracle!” Yes, this founding myth might come from Lazarus’ “ardent desire” to support his friend—who would deny the key role human emotions have played in the history of humanity?

 

The Style and the Historian

 

The style is the man himself,” Buffon once said—and he said it all. Renan wrote in such a tender and melancholic style! Some passages of his book are like Christian lullabies, and you will feel like being rocked in the bosom of Jesus Christ at times. His incredible power of evocation makes his book fascinating. Perrine Simon-Nahum says: “The argument that proved the most harmful to Renan was, curiously, the only positive point upon which both his enemies and supporters agreed: his style, the poetry of his evocation, his fluid and charming writing.” Jesus suddenly ‘appears’ to us—appetizer, any one?—as a man of exception, full of tenderness and joy, surrounded by a small “family” of enthusiastic young disciples and devoted women; as the end draws nearer, the burden of his destiny falls on his shoulder, he becomes a grave, almost dark figure—we are entering into the intimacy of Christ, and this is quite exciting. “Renan saved the Gospel from dust; laziness, indifference and ignorant bigotry had overwhelmed it and it was suffocating,” wrote J. Orth (Simon-Nahum). This compliment was coming from one of Renan’s worst opponents—indeed, the more he was praised as a popularizing author, the less convincing he appeared as a historian.

 

At the end of the day, Ernest Renan was rehabilitated, elected to the Académie Française, and even appointed administrator of the same Collège de France. “But make no mistake!’ warns Simon-Nahum. “As soon as dead, he sank into oblivion—mostly because of his Vie de Jésus’.” Indeed, his peers never understood his project—or did they understand it too well, on the contrary? Though he “succeeded in assuaging one of the great anxieties of his time, the antagonism between science and religion,” according to Encyclopedia Britannica, he probably gave too much room to feelings. And History had another agenda. “In the 1880s,” Simon-Nahum concludes, “History was placed under the sign of the historical method—not of feelings.” The French historians would rather focus on facts, not on style—the letter that kills, rather than the Spirit that gives life. The Pharisees had won again. Poor Buffon! Poor Jesus! Poor us!

 

(c) Thibault Ehrengardt

1 It is composed of the following titles: Vie de Jésus (1863)/Les Apôtres (1866)/Saint Paul (1869)/L’Antéchrist (1873)/Les Evangiles et la seconde génération chrétienne (1878)/L’Eglise chrétienne (1879)/Marc Aurèle (1883)/Index général (1883).

 

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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
  • <center><b>TIMED ONLINE AUCTION<br>June 11 - 25, 2018</b></center>
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> ACCADEMIA ERCOLANENSE DI ARCHEOLOGIA. <i>Ornati delle Pareti</i>, Naples 1796. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> AMERICAS. <i>Il Gazzettiere Americano…</i>, Livorno, 1763. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> BARROW, John. <i>Travels in China…</i>, London, 1804. £600 to £800
    <center><b>TIMED ONLINE AUCTION<br>June 11 - 25, 2018</b></center>
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> BENOIST, Felix. <i>Album de L'Ile de Jersey</i>…, Paris & Nantes, 1870. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> GAIL, Wilhelm. <i>Erinnerungen aus Spanien,</i> Munchen, [ca. 1837]. £1,800 to £2,200
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> HANCARVILLE, Pierre d'. <i>Recherches sur l'origine…,</i> London, Appleyard, 1785. £1,5000 to £2,000
    <center><b>TIMED ONLINE AUCTION<br>June 11 - 25, 2018</b></center>
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> HULLEY, T. <i>Six Views of Cheltenham.</i> London, R. Ackerman, 1813. £800 to £1,200
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> JEFFERSON, Thomas. <i>Notes on the state of Virginia</i>…, London, 1787. £12,000 to £18,000
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> LEWIS, John F. <i>Lewis's illustrations of Constantinople…,</i> London, McLean, 1837. £3,000 to £4,000
    <center><b>TIMED ONLINE AUCTION<br>June 11 - 25, 2018</b></center>
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> MARQUARD, Johann. <i>Tractatus politico-juridicus,</i> Frankfurt, 1662. £1,800 to £2,200
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> MAUND, Benjamin. <i>The botanic garden,</i> London, 1825-42. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> Willughby, Francis; John Ray (ed.). <i>Ornithologiæ libri tres</i>. London, John Martyn, 1676. £1,500 to £2,000

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions