Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2015 Issue

The Sun Shines For the Devils

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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>Potter & Potter Auctions<br>Fine Books & Manuscripts<br>February 26, 2022</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter, Feb. 26:</b> ALLEN, Ethan. <i>A Narrative of Colonel Ethan Allen’s Captivity from the Time of his Being Taken by the British, near Montreal…,</i> Rare second edition, 1779. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Feb. 26:</b> CLEMENS, Samuel Langhorne ("Mark Twain"). <i>The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.</i> New York: Charles L. Webster and Company, 1885. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Feb. 26:</b> LANE, Edward William, translator. <i>Tales of a Thousand and One Nights; [or], The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments.</i> London, 1838–1841. 32 parts in 33. $7,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Feb. 26:</b> GRANT, James, Lieut. <i>The Narrative of a Voyage of Discovery, performed in His Majesty's Vessel The Lady Nelson...</i> London, 1803. $4,000 to $6,000.
  • <center><b>Case Antiques<br>Two-Day Winter Fine Art, Antique, and Jewelry Auction<br>January 29 & 30, 2022</b>
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 29-30:</b> Civil War Archive, including Hospital CDVs. $2,400 to $2,800.
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 29-30:</b> W.B. Gosnell's Civil War Era 34 Star Flag w/ Book on Western Expansion. $1,200 to $1,400.
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 29-30:</b> 15 Star Parade Flag and Envelope, Framed. $800 to $900.
    <center><b>Case Antiques<br>Two-Day Winter Fine Art, Antique, and Jewelry Auction<br>January 29 & 30, 2022</b>
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 29-30:</b> Partial Civil War Album, incl. Confederate Leaders. $800 to $900.
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 29-30:</b> CDV Album incl. Garfield, plus Framed CSA Currency. $800 to $900.
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 29-30:</b> Two Geronimo Cabinet Cards, incl. St. Louis World's Fair Signed. $2,800 to $3,200.
    <center><b>Case Antiques<br>Two-Day Winter Fine Art, Antique, and Jewelry Auction<br>January 29 & 30, 2022</b>
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 29-30:</b> Dickens, Charles. <i>A Christmas Carol,</i> 1st Ed. 1843. $1,800 to $2,000.
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 29-30:</b> Archive of Col. John Fite, CSA, POW Johnson's Island, first of two lots, 8 Items. $1,200 to $1,400.
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 29-30:</b> Kentucky Confederate Call to Arms Broadside, 1862. $1,200 to $1,400.
    <center><b>Case Antiques<br>Two-Day Winter Fine Art, Antique, and Jewelry Auction<br>January 29 & 30, 2022</b>
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 29-30:</b> Hemingway, Ernest. <i>For Whom the Bell Tolls,</i> 1st Ed. $1,000 to $1,200.
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 29-30:</b> Autograph Album with Confederate Signatures, incl. Jeff Davis. $800 to $1,000.
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 29-30:</b> WWI Navy Posters plus Photo of USS John Hood, 3 pcs. $700 to $750.
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br> Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including Americana<br>Online<br>Now through January 25, 2022</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> Audubon, John James. The "Wild Turkey" manuscript — capturing one of the nation's most iconic symbols of unity. $250,000 to $350,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> (Flag) — Commemorative Thirteen-Star Flag. Pre-Civil War, Thirteen-Star Flag of the United States, from the collection of Charles Kuralt. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> Fitzgerald, F. Scott. <i>Tender is the Night</i>. First edition, presentation copy, and a former mystery. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> Audubon, John James. The "Wild Turkey" manuscript — capturing one of the nation's most iconic symbols of unity. $250,000 to $350,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> Salinger, J.D. <i>The Catcher in the Rye.</i> A strikingly fresh first edition of Salinger's essential novel. $20,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> Whitman, Walt. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> “America's second Declaration of Independence” — signed by Whitman. $150,000 to $200,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> [Dylan, Bob]. Some of the earliest known professional portraits. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> Y-Worth [Yarworth], William. <i>Cerevisiarii Comes: Or, the New and True Art of Brewing…</i> A rare and early English work on the art of brewing. $5,000 to $7,000.
  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>A Record Breaking Season</b>
    <b>Swann:</b> <i>The Book of Mormon,</b> first edition, Palmyra, NY, 1830. Sold Sept. 30 — $112,500.
    <b>Swann:</b> Vincent Van Gogh, <i>Homme à la Pipe: Portrait du Docteur Gachet, Evening,</i> etching, 1890. Sold Nov. 2 — $161,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Edward Ruscha, <i>Stains,</i> title page, one of 70, signed, 1969. Sold Nov. 9 — $112,500.
    <b>Swann:</b> John James Audubon, <i>Carolina Parrot, Plate 26,</i> hand colored aquatint, 1828. Sold Dec.9 — $137,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Edmund Dulac, <i>The Snow Queen,</i> watercolor, gouache, pen & ink, 1910. Sold Dec. 16 — $125,000.

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