• <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts Online<br>Now through June 21</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 21:</b> THOREAU, HENRY DAVID. <i> Walden: or, Life in the Woods.</i> Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1854. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 21:</b> BUKOWSKI, CHARLES. Archive of Correspondence Addressed to Kay "Kaja" Johnson, Los Angeles, California: July – November 1961. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 21:</b> DICKENS, CHARLES, AND GEORGE CRUIKSHANK [ILLUSTRATOR]. Unpublished autograph letter signed, to Cruikshank, completed on the artist's proof, related to the publication of The Pic-Nic Papers. $7,000 to $10,000
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts Online<br>Now through June 21</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 21:</b> FEYNMAN, RICHARD. <i>"Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman!" Adventures of a Curious Character.</i> As Told to Ralph Leighton. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1985. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 21:</b> GERSHWIN, GEORGE. Autograph music manuscript of "Leavin’ for de Promise’ Lan’" from the opera Porgy and Bess, Act One Scene Two. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 21:</b> LINCOLN, ABRAHAM. Document signed ("Abraham Lincoln") as sixteenth president, being a military commission for Rufus H. Johnson. $8,000 to $10,000
  • <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Blaise Cendrars and Fernand Léger, <i>La Fin du monde filmée par l’ange N.-D.,</i> Paris, Editions de la Sirène, 1919
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> André Breton, <i>Second manifeste du Surréalisme,</i> Paris, Editions Kra, 1930
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Paul Eluard and Pablo Picasso, <i>La Barre d’appui,</i> Paris, Editions « Cahiers d’Art », 1936
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Blaise Cendrars and Fernand Léger, <i>La Fin du monde filmée par l’ange N.-D.,</i> Paris, Editions de la Sirène, 1919
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Hans Bellmer, <i>Die Puppe,</i> Paris, G.L.M., 1936
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Salvador Dali, <i>La femme visible,</i> Paris, Editions Surréalistes, 1930
  • <b>Chiswick Auctions:</b> Rowling (J.K). <i>Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,</i> FIRST EDITION, first issue, 1997. £15,000 to £20,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, seeking consignments:</b> Thornton (Samuel). <i>A Large Drought of the North Part of China Shewing…the Harbour of Chusan,</i> copper engraved map, 1711. £600 to £800
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, seeking consignments:</b> Stuart (Helen). Portrait of a Maori, over-painted gelatin silver print, signed and dated, 1885. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, seeking consignments:</b> Picasso (Pablo). Minotaure vaincu, plate 89 from La Suite Vollard , signed, Paris, 1939. £4,000 to £5,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, seeking consignments:</b> Pissarro (Camille). Vachère au Bord de l'Eau, NUMBER 14 OF 100 PROOFS, etching, 1890. £800 to £1,200
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, seeking consignments:</b> Einstein (Albert). Copy of typewritten script of the episode "The Atom" of the TV programme "Your World Tomorrow", signed by Einstein. £2,000 to £3,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> NYC pride parade photos by Hank O’Neal, annotated on verso by Allen Ginsberg, 1970s. Pictured is Marsha P. Johnson. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> David Wojnarowicz, <i>Neon Dancer,</i> postcard signed to Jim Fouratt, 1982. $5,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Personal papers of Candy Darling, New York, circa 1950s-1973. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Walt Whitman, <i>Memoranda of the War,</i> Remembrance Copy, inscribed to Peter Doyle, from “the author with his love,” Camden, 1875-76. $50,000 to $75,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Oscar Wilde, <i>The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People,</i> first edition, signed, London, 1899. $50,000 to $70,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> James Baldwin, <i>Giovanni’s Room,</i> first edition, presentation copy, New York, 1956. $1,800 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> JEB (Joan E. Biren), <i>Ginger and Catherine,</i> silver print, 1972. $700 to $1,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Su Negrin, <i>Gay Liberation,</i> photograph by Peter Hujar, poster published by Times Change Press, 1970. $400 to $600.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Harvey Milk, Autograph Letter Signed, as acting Mayor of San Francisco, March 7, 1978. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 23:</b> Lester Beall, <i>Rural Electrification Administration,</i> 1939. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Gerda Wegener, <i>Two Women in a Window,</i> watercolor, chalk & wash, circa 1920. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Jean Cocteau, original sketchbook, <i>Le Mystère et Antigone,</i> including sketches of his lover Jean Desbordes, 1932. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Djuna Barnes, <i>Ladies Almanack . . . Written & Illustrated by A Lady of Fashion,</i> limited edition, signed & inscribed to her literary executor, 1928. $10,000 to $15,000.

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

  • <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>The Library and Picture Collection of the late Martin Woolf Orskey<br>June 26</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Book of Hours. Illuminated manuscript, Flanders or northern France, c. 1450. With 12 full-page illuminated miniatures. £10,000 to £15,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Zahrawi, Abu’-Qasim, al- (c. 936-1013). <i>Albucasis chirurgicorum omnium,</i> Strasbourg, 1532. The first comprehensive illustrated treatise on surgery. £3,000 to £5,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Milles, Thomas. <i>The Custumers Alphabet and Primer,</i> 1608. Gilt supralibros of 17th-century English bibliophile Edward Gwynn. £2,000 to £3,000
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>The Library and Picture Collection of the late Martin Woolf Orskey<br>June 26</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Guillemeau, Jacques. <i>Child-Birth or, the Happy Deliverie of Women,</i> 1st edition in English, 1612. The second midwifery manual printed in English. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Rabisha, William. <i>The Whole Body of Cookery Dissected,</i> 1st edition, 1661. Rare. Five copies in libraries. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Royal binding. <i>An Abridgment of the English Military Discipline,</i> 1678. Contemporary red goatskin gilt by Samuel Mearne for Charles II (1630-1865). £1,500 to £2,000
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>The Library and Picture Collection of the late Martin Woolf Orskey<br>June 26</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Pallavicino, Ferrante. <i>The Whores Rhetorick,</i> 1st edition in English, 1683. Rare anti-Jesuit satire. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Swift, Jonathan. <i>The Benefit of Farting,</i> 1st London edition, 1722. Teerink 19. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Edwards, George. <i>Natural History of Uncommon Birds</i> [and] <i>Gleanings of Natural History,</i> 7 volumes, 1743-64. Contemporary tree calf, 362 hand-coloured engraved plates. £8,000 to £12,000
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>The Library and Picture Collection of the late Martin Woolf Orskey<br>June 26</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Campbell, Patrick. <i>Travels in the Interior Inhabited Parts of North America,</i> 1st edition, 1793. Howes C101; Sabin 10264. Uncut in original boards. £5,000 to £8,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Hearne, Samuel. <i>A Journey from Prince of Wales's Fort in Hudson's Bay, to the Northern Ocean,</i> 1st edition, 1795. Sabin 31181. Large-paper copy. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Edgeworth, Maria. <i>The Match Girl, A Novel,</i> 1808. £1,000 to £1,500
  • <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> Presentation Copy. Sold for $500,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. Autograph Letter Signed, 3 pp, negotiating the 2nd American edition with Appleton. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Hemingway, Ernest. Autograph Letter Signed, 8 pp, Paris, 1924, to his father discussing Bullfighting, Stories, and his new baby. Sold for $25,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Corialanus.</i> London, 1623. 1st printing [Extracted from the First Folio]. Sold for $50,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Swift, Jonathan. <i>Gulliver's Travels.</i> London, 1726. 1st edition, Teerink's A edition, fine, large copy. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Fitzroy, Robert. Autograph Letter Signed to agent Thomas Stilwell, informing him of the progress of H.M.S. Beagle. Sold for $17,575.
    <center><b>Bonhams<br> Property from the Collection of Nicole and William R. Keck II</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Sonnets.</i> 1901. 2 volumes. Printed on vellum and illuminated by Ross Turner, bound by Trautz-Bauzonnet. Sold for $13,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Beardsley, Aubrey. <i>The Birth, Life, and Acts of King Arthur.</i> 1893-94. 2 volumes. Contemporary painted vellum gilt by Chivers. Sold for $5,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Assisi, St. Francis. <i>The Canticle of Brother Sun.</i> Illuminated on vellum, for the Grolier Society. Sold for $7,575.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Proust, Marcel. <i>Du coté de chez Swann.</i> 1st edition, 1st issue. Inscribed by Proust. Sold for $8,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Rackham, Arthur. <i>Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.</i> 1/500 copies signed by Rackham. Sold for $4,825.
  • <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini. June 27</b>
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> KENNEDY ONASSIS, JACQUELINE Typed letter signed to Oleg Cassini. $400 to $600
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> [CASSINI-KENNEDY FASHIONS] Important archives related to the development of fashions for Mrs. Kennedy… $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> [CASSINI-KENNEDY FASHIONS] Detailed ledger of the Kennedy White House years… $500 to $800
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> KELLY, GRACE. Four autograph letters to Oleg Cassini. $5,000 to $8,000
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini. June 27</b>
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> CASSINI, OLEG. Group of Kennedy-era original fashion sketches. $1,000 to $1,500
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> KENNEDY ONASSIS, JACQUELINE. Autograph letter signed to Oleg Cassini. $800 to $1,200
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> CASSINI, OLEG. Fashion sketch titled “Mrs. Kennedy-Palais de Versailles-State Dinner.” $800 to $1,200
    Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini: [CASSINI, OLEG - KENNEDY, JACQUELINE.] Group of approximately 130 original fashion designs… $800 to $1,200.

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