Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2015 Issue

The Sun Shines For the Devils


Enhanced view of the sun as seen through a telescope.

The second engraving added to the book is quite fascinating. It represents the surface of the Sun “as it was discovered by Kercher and Scheiner, through the great telescope at Rome, in the year 1635.” Father Scheiner is another suspicious religious who “observing the sun through a magnifying glass, (...) suddenly noticed some dark spots at the surface,” reads the Encyclopédie (Yverdon, 1775). This discovery was “contrary to the philosophical principles of the time,” since it denied “the incorruptibility of the heavens.” But it suited Swinden’s theory. Indeed, our scientific theologian had to explain where the “darkness” evoked in the Bible could be found in the seat of universal brightness! “As for the ‘darkness’ in the ‘chains’ whereof (the devils) are said to be ‘reserved’, I take it to be an objection against me of little weight,” he says casually—still adding the engraving of the map to his book. He claims that the “dark spots” are “dens or caverns; which therefore may not irrationally be supposed to be the proper seats of the blackness or darkness.” If this rational argument does not convince you, bear in mind that “by darkness may well be understood that blindness, with which, as with chains (the devils) are fettered, that they cannot approach the glorious light of Heaven.” Any further questions?


The Universe Is A Stage


There’s something irresistible about this map and this naive representation of the Universe. Though amusing, they make us painfully aware of what we’ve lost in the course of time. “It is, I confess, the peculiar humour and infelicity of this, to be sceptical beyond the examples of foregoing ages,” deplores Swinden, “and the men of it are very apt to scoff at that which they have not some experimental or rational account.” It is so exciting to imagine the scary and mad faces of terrifying devils and sinners popping out these dark spots, surrounded by the eternal flames of damnation, and shouting in pain as the worm of remorse gnaws their entrails! Just like a painting by Jerome Bosch, it touches some remote part of our Judeo-Christian subconscious. But, whereas it used to scare our ancestors to death, this vision of hell is more of a lost paradise to us. People like Swinden saw the world as a “beautiful fabrick (sic)”, a holy stage that had been created in six days’ time, some 6,000 years ago. The almighty play writer had put Man at the centre of this tragi-comic play, so everything was here for a reason, and only our limited understanding of His divine handiworks created uncertainties. As proven by Swinden’s book, science and religion are not necessarily opposed. Yet, the more our knowledge increases, the more the Earth resembles a ship that has lost her anchor, drifting away in an unfriendly and cold universe. Guess it is comforting to feel that God might be closely watching over our shoulders, even if the price to pay is a potential eternal trip to the dark dens of the Sun.


Suffering from cancer, the poet Miss Deshoulières (1633-1694) begged God to deliver her from Reason—which she referred to as the seat of her pride—so that she might be able to believe beyond doubt and thus partly relieve her pains. The French poet Chaulieu (1639-1720) even calls reason “the poison that corrupts righteousness (...) and the truthfulness of our hearts.” The theologians have always asserted that a good Christian should not think too much. How convenient! When they run short of arguments, the theologians leave it to God. Théophile Imarigeon Duvernet (1734-1796), in his critical Histoire de la Sorbonne (Paris, 1790), reminds us that, according to them, “it is better to believe than to think; to be a good Christian than a bel-esprit.” Intelligence is then the enemy of Man and of the theologians. In a word, blessed are the dumb. 

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b><center>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Printed & Manuscript African Americana:<br>March 30, 2023</b>
    <b>Swann March 30:</b> Victor H. Green, <i>The Negro Motorist Green Book,</i> New York, 1949. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann March 30:</b> Papers of pianist-composer Lawrence Brown relating to Paul Robeson & more, various places, 1925-54. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann March 30:</b> Freedom Summer archive of civil rights activist Karen Haberman Trusty, Atlanta & elsewhere, 1963-64. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann March 30:</b> E. Simms Campbell, <i>A Night-Club Map of Harlem,</i> New York, 1933. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann March 30:</b> Archive of letters from the sculptor Richmond Barthé to a close Jamaican friend, various places, 1966-85. $25,000 to $35,000.
  • <b>ALDE, Apr. 18:</b> CASAS (BARTOLOMÉ DE LAS). <i>La Découverte des Indes occidentales par les Espagnols,</i> Paris, 1697. €1,500 to €2,000.
    <b>ALDE, Apr. 18:</b> GARCILASO DE LA VEGA. <i>Primera parte de los commentarios reales, que tratan del orígen de los Yncas…,</i> Lisbonne, 1609 [1608 au colophon]. €8,000 to €10,000.
    <b>ALDE, Apr. 18:</b> GARCILASO DE LA VEGA. <i>Histoire des Yncas rois du Pérou. On a joint à cette édition l'Histoire de la conquête de la Floride,</i> Amsterdam, 1737. €800 to €1,000.
    <b>ALDE, Apr. 18:</b> LAET (JOHANNES DE). <i>L'Histoire du nouveau monde, ou description des Indes occidentales,</i> Leyde, 1640. €8,000 to €10,000.
    <b>ALDE, Apr. 18:</b> LAFITAU (JOSEPH-FRANÇOIS). <i>Mœurs des sauvages amériquains, comparées aux mœurs des premiers temps,</i> Paris, 1724. €1,200 to €1,500.
    <b>ALDE, Apr. 18:</b> ORRIO (FRANCISCO XAVIER ALEXO DE). <i>Solución del gran problema acerca de la población de las Americas,</i> Mexico, 1763. €1,500 to €2,000.
    <b>ALDE, Apr. 18:</b> [ROCHEFORT (CHARLES DE)]. <i>Histoire naturelle et morale des Îles Antilles de l'Amérique,</i> Amsterdam, 1716. €800 to €1,000.
    <b>ALDE, Apr. 18:</b> TURGOT (ANNE-ROBERT-JACQUES). <i>Mémoire sur les colonies américaines, sur leurs relations politiques avec leurs métropoles…,</i> Paris, 1791. €1,000 to €1,200.
  • <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>April 5<br>Printed Books, Maps, Atlases & Caricatures</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, Apr. 5:</b> Speed (John). <i>The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine...</i> bound with <i>The Prospect of the most Famous parts of the World,</i> Thomas Bassett & Richard Chiswell, 1676. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Apr. 5:</b> China. De Jode (Cornelis), <i>China Regnum,</i> Antwerp [1593]. £7,000 to £10,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Apr. 5:</b> World. Hondius (Henricus), <i>Nova totius Terrarum Orbis Geographica ac Hydrographica Tabula.</i> Auct: Henr. Hondio. Amsterdam, circa 1630. £5,000 to £8,000.
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>April 5<br>Printed Books, Maps, Atlases & Caricatures</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, Apr. 5:</b> World. Blaeu (Willem Janszoon), <i>Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Geographica ac Hydrographica Tabula</i> auct: Guilelmo Blaeuw, Amsterdam [1635 - 58]. £5,000 to £8,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Apr. 5:</b> Acosta (Emanuel). <i>Rerum a Societate Iesu in Oriente gestarum ad annum usque à Deipara Virgine…,</i> 1st edition, Dillingen: Sebald Mayer, 1571. £3,000 to £5,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Apr. 5:</b> Ruggieri (Francesco). <i>Scelta di Architetture Antiche e Moderne della Citta di Firenze…,</i> 4 volumes bound in two, Florence, Appresso l'Editore, 1755. £3,000 to £4,000.
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>April 5<br>Printed Books, Maps, Atlases & Caricatures</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, Apr. 5:</b> Parry (William). <i>Journal of a Voyage for the Discovery of a North-West Passage,</i> 6 vols in 5, 1st editions, 1821-27. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Apr. 5:</b> Hunter (John). <i>A Treatise on the Blood, Inflammation, and Gun-Shot Wounds,</i> 1st edition, 1794. £1,000 to £1,500.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Apr. 5:</b> Furber (Robert). <i>The Flower-Garden Display'd, in above Four Hundred Curious Representations of the most Beautiful Flowers…,</i> 1st quarto edition, London, 1732. £1,000 to £1,500.
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>April 5<br>Printed Books, Maps, Atlases & Caricatures</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, Apr. 5:</b> Friedman (Milton). <i>A Theory of the Consumption Function,</i> 1st edition, 1957. £500 to £800.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Apr. 5:</b> Clarkson (Thomas). <i>The history of the ... abolition of the African slave-trade,</i> 2 vols., 1808. £800 to £1,200.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Apr. 5:</b> Civil War Pamphlets. A sammelband of 19 pamphlets relating to events of the English Civil War, 1640-1661. £2,000 to £3,000.

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