RENAISSANCE UTOPIAN MASTERPIECE
A BLUEPRINT FOR MODERN DYSTOPIAS
[ANDREAE, Johann Valentin.]
Reipublicae Christianopolitanae descriptio ...
Strasburg, heirs of Lazarus Zetzner, 1619.
[—.] Herculis Christiani luctae XXIV. Strasburg, Lazarus Zetzner, 1615.
[—.] Turris Babel sive Judiciorum de Fraternitate Rosaceae Crucis Chaos. Strasburg, heirs of Lazarus Zetzner, 1619.
[—.] Civis Christianus, sive Peregrini quondam errantis restitutiones. Strasburg, heirs of Lazarus Zetzner, 1619.
Four works in one vol., 12mo; I: pp. 220, [4 (blank)], [1 (errata)], [2 (blank)], with a folding engraved plate depicting Christianopolis; II: pp. , 54, 59-62, [6 (blank)], lacking C6.7 (pp. 55-58); III: pp. 72; IV: pp. 235, [5 (blank)]; very lightly browned, but excellent copies; in contemporary vellum over boards with yapp fore-edges, spine later lettered in ink; early inscription in ink on upper margin of the Herculis Christiani luctae (bound first), eighteenth-century notes on rear free end-paper, nineteenth-century booklabel of James Brown Thornton to upper pastedown.
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Reipublicae Christianopolitanae descriptio ...
A rare and influential Renaissance political utopia, in a fine sammelband of four first editions by the Lutheran humanist Johann Valentin Andreae (1586–1654).
Contemporary with two other major Renaissance political utopias, Campanella’s City of the Sun and Bacon’s New Atlantis, Andreae’s Christianopolis presents a wholly original declension of this genre, one in which Christianity, scientific knowledge and social equality go hand in hand, enhancing one another in complete integration. Unlike Bacon’s sailors taking refuge on New Atlantis, and unlike the captain who witnesses the splendour of the City of the Sun, on experiencing the ideal holy city the protagonist in Christianopolis undergoes a deep psychological and spiritual change, and is profoundly transformed by its Christian egalitarianism – more a Dantesque tale of enlightenment, conversion, and redemption than a list of features for social planners. Thomas More, of course, looms large. However, in telling contrast with More’s tenacious adherence to verisimilitude, the ship on which Cosmoxenus departs is named Fantasy. Fifty chapters describe the ways and rules of the strange city he finds – a portrait of life within an egalitarian community under a spiritual rule. ‘Only after men have undergone an inner transformation can they realize a terrestrial Christianopolis that will be both a simulacrum and a foretaste of the heavenly city. Universal brotherhood, godliness in men’s hearts, must precede the establishment of Christianopolis’ (Manuel and Manuel, Utopian Thought in the Western World, p. 305).
Andreae’s wholly voluntaristic, benign imagined integration of spiritual, political, social, and scientific spheres has in fact become, in modern times, one of the blueprints of dystopian literature – coercion being the momentous new element, a tool for the safeguarding of spiritual univocity in pluralistic cultures.
The folding plate shows a plan and a birds-eye elevation of Christianopolis. Like Campanella’s, the city has a central plan, with a temple in its middle – its rigorous geometry proclaiming a universe built on mathematics, proportions, and reason. Unlike Campanella’s, its shape is quadratic, reminiscent of the plan of Solomon’s Temple, reinforcing the centrality of Christian spirituality.
The utopia is bound with three other first editions by Andreae. The Herculis Christiani luctae is an interesting example of ‘typology’ literature linking a classical hero with a Christian life, here celebrating Andreae’s friend and mentor, Tobias Hess; Turris Babel is Andreae’s ‘critical assessment and analysis of the unexpected effects of the Rosicrucian idea’ (Martin Brecht in Das Erbe des Christian Rosenkreuz (Amsterdam 1988), p. 151); the didactic and pedagogic element of Civis Christianus, the last work in this volume, found echo in Comenius’s Labyrinth of the World.
I: Dünnhaupt 23 (‘Erster evangelisch orientierter utopischer Staatsroman im Geiste von Moore’s Utopia und Campanella’s Sonnenstaat’); Faber du Faur I 128; Gardner 38. II: Cimelia Rhodostaurotica 46; Gardner 30. III: Cimelia Rhodostaurotica 285; Gardner 39. IV: Cimelia Rhodostaurotica 284; Gardner 42. No other copy of Christianopolis has appeared at auction in the last fifty years.
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