POSTEL’S MOST IMPORTANT WORK

De orbis terrae concordia libri quatuor, multiiuga eruditione ac pietate referti, quibus nihil hoc tam perturbato rerum statu vel utilius, vel accommodatius potuisse in publicum edi, quivis aequus lector iudicabit . . . Adiectae sunt quoq[ue] annotationes in margine a pio atque erudito quodam viro, ne delicatoris palati aut iniquioris etiam iudicii aliquis, ut sunt fere hodie quamplurimi, offenderetur. Proinde ut pectore candido accipere, quae in ecclesiae misere adeo afflictae utilitatem scribuntur, lector velis, per Christum et animae tuae salutem obtestatum te volumus.

[Basel, Johannes Oporinus, 1544.]

Folio, pp. [8], ‘427’ (recte 447), woodcut initials; occasional very light foxing or soiling, two small repaired holes in title (no loss of text on recto or verso), but a very good copy; bound in eighteenth-century calf, spine gilt; slightly rubbed, neatly rebacked preserving spine (head and foot of spine neatly repaired, spine label worn, old paper label at head of spine).

£4500

Approximately:
US $5620€5321

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De orbis terrae concordia libri quatuor, multiiuga eruditione ac pietate referti, quibus nihil hoc tam perturbato rerum statu vel utilius, vel accommodatius potuisse in publicum edi, quivis aequus lector iudicabit . . . Adiectae sunt quoq[ue] annotationes in margine a pio atque erudito quodam viro, ne delicatoris palati aut iniquioris etiam iudicii aliquis, ut sunt fere hodie quamplurimi, offenderetur. Proinde ut pectore candido accipere, quae in ecclesiae misere adeo afflictae utilitatem scribuntur, lector velis, per Christum et animae tuae salutem obtestatum te volumus.

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First edition of all four books of Postel’s vision of the unity of the world. The first book had been printed privately in Paris the previous year while approval of the Sorbonne theologians was awaited. When that was not granted, Postel had the work printed by his friend Oporinus in Basel.

‘The goal of Postel’s life was expressed in a single word: concordia. It was at once the key to the title of his most important book and the key to his mind. The word has an obvious temporal sense: it signifies peace among men. But to Postel it was heavy with further meanings and pointed to a whole complex of ideas. He was not unaware of its immediate political significance; but Postel, who was in fact a propagandist for the crusade, was no mere secular pacifist. The De orbis terrae concordia is essentially a manual for missionaries; hence Concordia has religious meaning. It implies agreement on the deepest level of religious unity, and is to be understood literally: unity of heart. But this is only the beginning. Ultimately, the Concordia mundi is an eschatological ideal; it is identical with the restoratio omnium, and it refers not merely to the human race but to the whole creation. It represents, therefore, the proper order of the universe, the systematic arrangement of all its elements according to the original intentions of God, the harmony and unity of nature and its subordination to the eternal purpose’ (Bouwsma, Concordia mundi: the career and thought of Guillaume Postel (1957), p. 64).

‘Postel was among the first to proclaim the need for a universal religion and a universal state. Postel’s program for a unified world under God preceded by more than twenty years the work of his fellow countryman, Jean Bodin, who is usually credited with being the “father of universalism”. At any rate, because of his problems with the Doctors of Paris, the De orbis terrae concordia, in which he proclaimed the need for harmony of all men in a Christian world and a tolerant attitude, even an appreciation of Moslems and Jews whom nevertheless he hoped to convert to Christian faith, was not published in Paris but in Basle by his friend, Oporinus, in 1544’ (Marion L. Kuntz, Guillaume Postel, prophet of the restitution of all things: His life and thought (1981), pp. 502).

Book two is devoted to the Muslim world and includes numerous citations from the Qur’an, which Postel translated directly from Arabic, rather than relying on existing translations. ‘In his belief in a peaceful debate with Muslims who should be convinced by a rational presentation of Christian tenets, Guillaume Postel was knowingly pursuing the same tradition as Nicholas of Cusa and Dionysius the Carthusian . . . . This book, published by Johannes Oporinus a year after Bibliander’s first edition of the Quran, was Postel’s main work on the confutation of Islam and his best known call to the Muslims to convert to Christianity. It contains a translation and critical discussion of parts of the Quran and a life of the prophet, as well as a transcription of Arabic texts and an appeal for the foundation of Arabic chairs at the principal universities’ (Europe and the Arab World).

This edition contains Theodor Bibliander’s annotations to the first two books. Apparently added without Postel’s knowledge, these annotations ensured that the work was put on the Lyons Index of 1550 (no. 215) and the Index of 1558 (no. 210), with the remark ‘Annotationes in Guilielmum Postellum de orbis terrae concordia, incerti autoris’ (see Claude Postel, Les écrits de Guillaume Postel publiés en France et leurs éditeurs 1538–1579 (1992) II, p. 36).

Provenance: Friedrich August, Herzog von Braunschweig-Lüneburg-Oels (1740–1805), with bookplate.

Adams P 2020; Bouwsma 10; Caillet 8903; Europe and the Arab World 7; Smitskamp, Philologia orientalis 242; VD16 P 4481.

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