JESUIT SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY: WITH A VOLVELLE AND 27 PLATES

‘P[hiloso]phia particularis data sub R.P. Paulo Lalieu art. doct. ac p[hiloso]phiae professore, recepta a Nicolao J. Beautour in coll. coenobii Aquicinctini Duaci 1739’.

Douai, France, 1739-1740.

Manuscript on paper, in Latin, 4to (22 x 18 cm), in 3 parts, pp. 351, 368-370, [5 blank]; 117, [4], [5 blank]; 59, 70-77, [15], [12 blank]; neatly written in brown ink in a single cursive hand, c. 35-40 lines per page; title written within architectural engraved plate (‘a Paris chez I.F. Cars’); illustrated with 27 engraved plates, one volvelle with three moving parts, and 2 cut-out illustrations pasted to pp. 128 and 131; small wormhole to first few leaves, small holes to pp. 142 and 178, marginal damp staining to some plates, occasional light marks; overall very good in contemporary calf, spine gilt in compartments, marbled endpapers; small areas of loss at head and foot of spine, some wear to extremities and rubbing to boards; ‘Nicolaus Josephus Beautour in collegio coenobii Aquicinctini Duaci anno 1740’ composed from cut-out printed letters/words at beginning of part 2; ‘Guillaume Bautour’ inscribed to last leaf.

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‘P[hiloso]phia particularis data sub R.P. Paulo Lalieu art. doct. ac p[hiloso]phiae professore, recepta a Nicolao J. Beautour in coll. coenobii Aquicinctini Duaci 1739’.

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A fascinating manuscript course of lectures on cosmography, ethics and metaphysics, compiled by a student at the Jesuit College near Douai, northern France, during the reign of Louis XV, illustrated with a handsome volvelle and twenty-seven engraved plates.

The manuscript was compiled by Nicolas Joseph Beautour, of Givet in the Ardennes, while studying with the Jesuits at Anchin Abbey, where a college had been established in 1562. The contents were taken down from lectures given by Paul Lalieu (d. 1779), who later served as rector of the Jesuit colleges at Luxembourg and Mons, and as treasurer and provincial of the Gallo-Belgian Province. Occasional dates record the progress of the composition of the manuscript, between October 1739 and June 1740.

The volume is illustrated with an unusually large number of engraved plates, which Beautour would have purchased to accompany his text. Of particular interest is an engraved volvelle, inserted in a chapter on the terrestrial sphere, which features a central rotating circle bearing the names of twenty-four places around the globe, surrounded by two moveable sailing ships, against a backdrop showing the hours of day and night. The choice of place names is intriguing, including Douai itself (clearly more important than Paris), as well as Lisbon, Brazil, Cusco, Mexico, the Solomon Islands, Arima (Trinidad and Tobago), Malacca, Bengal, Goa, Ormus (Persia), Babylon, and Constantinople.

Many of the plates are signed ‘Jacobus Jollain rue St Jacques a l’etoille’, i.e. Jacques Jollain (1649–1710?), a member of the notable Parisian family of engravers and print sellers. Of particular note are a handsome armillary sphere and a double hemisphere map of the world (‘Typus orbis terrarum’) showing California as an island and ‘terra australis incognita’. The other plates encompass geometrical diagrams, planetary systems, alchemical apparatus, pendulums, scales and pulleys, magnets and thermometers, weather phenomena, and illustrations of the eyes, brain, and heart.

The first and principal part of the manuscript is devoted to cosmography, beginning with consideration of the creation of the world, its nature and perfection (was it created instantly or over time? do other worlds exist?), as well as the nature of the heavens and their influence on earthly affairs. The text then discusses the earth itself (horizon, meridian, equator, tropics, poles, climate zones etc.), the Sun and Moon (with reference to telescopic observations), and the planets and stars, before analysing the various models of the universe proposed by Ptolemy, Copernicus, Descartes and Tycho Brahe (concluding in favour of the Tychonic system), and solar and lunar eclipses. The section ends by examining the four elements, rivers, the sea, meteors, thunder and lightning, wind and rain, earthquakes, plant life, and the soul (providing proofs of its immortality).

The second part covers ethics, including freedom of action, fear and desire, good and evil, intention, and happiness, with references to Cornelius Jansen, Luther, Calvin, Boethius, Thomas Aquinas, and St Augustine; and the final part on metaphysics examines being and existence, individuality, and the existence of God (with proofs thereof).

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