BENEATH THE VEIL

Le mie vedute su la sanità e la longevità.

Naples, Vincenzo Orsino, 1804.

8vo, pp. 91, [1] blank, [1] errata, [1] blank, [4]; a very good, crisp copy in contemporary vellum, flat spine with remains of a lettering-piece.

£950

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Rare first edition, purportedly a reply to Sir John Sinclair’s 1802 pamphlet An essay on longevity.

The discourse, on the surface merely concerned with physical health and medicine, is in fact an enticing, ironic, sustained metaphor disguising a radically materialistic and liberal tract concerned with a political, social and economic sort of welfare. Among the recommended cures, the anonymous author (no doubt a Southern-Italian Bourbon subject living in one of the most reactionary contexts in Europe) suggests the unification of Europe, to be governed by a Supreme Council.

The camouflage worked: after the errata leaves at the end, there are two leaves of letters of approval to the censor, dated 1805: one of them is by a theology professor, stating that nothing in this book is opposed to the Christian religion, despite a sentence smuggled in in the early paragraphs, referring to the world as a mass of matter and nothing else, and other similarly unchristian statements. This anonymous work was re-published in 1826 with an appendix of three essays by one Nicola Pilla.

Not in OCLC or COPAC. ICCU locates one copy only, in Avellino (without errata and letters of recommendation at the end).

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