Rotterdam: Chez Reinier Leers, 1706. First edition. Hardcover. Five volumes (the third in two parts), published between 1706 and 1707, duodecimo: I. , 600pp., 1 folding table; II. , 603-1132, [36, table and errata]pp., 3 engraved folding plates, 1 text chart; III (part 1). , 384pp., 1 text illustration; III (part 2). , 385-912pp. IV. , 915-1430, [2, blank]pp. V. , 1435-2174, [81, table & corrections], [1, blank]pp., 1 text illustration. Volumes II and IV dated 1706. Text in French, with occasional Hebrew quotations throughout. Contemporary calf, richly gilt spine with raised bands, morocco lettering pieces, dentelles, marbled edges. Light rubbing at extremities. Intermittent mild to moderate embrowning, else a very good set, handsomely bound.
Collation: I. [star]-2[star]12 3[star]5, A-2B12 (= 329 leaves); II. A-Z12 2A8 (= 284 leaves); III part1. [pi]1 [star]4 A-Q12 (=197 leaves); III part 2. [pi]1 R-2P2 (=265 leaves); IV. A-X12 Y8, (260 leaves; blank Y8); V. Z4 2A-3L12 (= 412 leaves).
First edition of “the first comprehensive and truly erudite history of the Jews in the Christian era” (EJ). The French Protestant theologian, controversialist, diplomat, and historian Jacques Basnage (1653-1723) was born at Rouen in Normandy, the eldest son of the eminent lawyer Henri Basnage. He studied classical languages at Saumur and theology at Geneva. Returning to his native town, Basnage served as pastor from 1676 until 1685, but after the revocation of the edict of Nantes chose to reside in the United Provinces, first at Rotterdam where he was made pastor of the Walloon church, and later at The Hague. Anthonie Heinsius, the Grand Pensionary of Holland, secured for Basnage numerous diplomatic commissions, “all of which he discharged with great ability” (EB). Scholarship was clearly his passion, however: While at Rotterdam Basnage participated in a weekly salon, whose principal members included Bayle and Reinier Leers. “The works which he wrote raised him a great reputation over all Europe and he kept a correspondence with a great many learned men both in the United Provinces, and in foreign countries” (Chalmers).
The present history of the Jews in the post-biblical era would become Basnage’s most celebrated work. Though its author lacked sufficient Hebrew to support such an ambitious enterprise, he was nonetheless able to draw upon the Latin versions of Jewish sources prepared by Buxtorf, Arias Montano, and many other Christian scholars. Basnage’s theological training and familiarity with Jewish medieval philosophy are apparent in his trenchent analysis of Spinoza’s system (vol. III, pp. 86-107), mention of which appears in the general preface, as well: “Spinoza a suivi la-dessus les Docteurs de sa Nation preferablement aux Philosophes, & son habileté consistoit à ajuster les principes des Cabbalistes sur les émanations de la Divinité avec ceaux de Descartes [Spinoza preferred the learned of his nation to the philosophers and his great skill consisted in adjusting the principles of the Cabalists concerning emanations to those of Descartes]” (vol. I, *4v). His biographical treatment of that radically controversial philosopher (vol. V, pp. 2106-2112) is also “on a higher level than most contemporary accounts” (Bamberger). “Despite Basnage’s dry style and occasional inability to control his vast material, his book enjoyed great popularity and was the basis for later, more informed Jewish histories” (EJ). Thomas Taylor’s English version appeared at London in 1708. The Abbé Dupin (without troubling to obtain the author’s permission) reprinted a version of the Histoire (Paris: L. Roulland, 1710), much mutilated and altered, “adapted to the sentiments of the church of Rome” (Chalmers). In vindication, Basnage produced a supplementary volume under the title L’Histoire des Juifs reclamée et retablié par son veritable auteur (Rotterdam: Fritsch et Böhm, 1711). Very Good -. Item #48851
References: Bamberger 161. Brunet I.691. Chalmers IV.110. EB (13th ed.) III.484. EJ IV.310. Fürst I.92.