7 parts in 6 volumes (15 1/4 x 9 5/8 in.; 383 x 245 mm). Profusely illustrated. First 20 leaves, vol VI, with slight worming at top edge affecting only the blank upper margin but overall a fresh copy. Uniformly bound in three quarter calf over marbled boards, some boards loose or detached, worn.
Hunt, Jacob, and Mijnhardt, The Book that Changed Europe: Picart and Bernard's Religious Ceremonies of the World (Cambridge: Harvard University Press), 2010
first english language edition of the book that changed europe
In the early 18th century, in the very first decades of the intellectual movement known as the Enlightenment, two men produced a multi-volume work that made readers – in French, English, Dutch and German – see religion in a new way. Bernard Picart (1673-1733) was one of the most prolific and talented engravers of his age. Jean Frederic Bernard (1683-1744) was a French language bookseller and publisher of Huguenot background based in Amsterdam. Together they prepared thousands of pages and hundreds of engravings that sought to capture the ritual and ceremonial life of all the known religions of the world.
Cérémonies et coutumes religieuses de tous les peuples du monde, or simply "Picart" as it was often subsequently known, broke with all the previous models. It attempted to present all religions, even those of the "idolatrous peoples," as even-handedly as possible. It argued for religious toleration by showing the ill effects of fanaticism, wherever it could be found, and by praising those religions, such as Islam, that offered toleration to others. At a time of widespread anti-Semitism, it offered one of the most sympathetic portraits then available of European Jewry.
Its translation into English removed some of the more radical comments about religion found in the original French text, though the Dutch one did not, and these translations, along with an abridgment in German, meant that the book and especially Picart's images became the standard means of portraying many of the world's religions until well into the nineteenth century.
Provenance: Chauntry House Library, Newark, Nottinghamshire-ex libris on each front board; John A. Irving-ex libris inside each front board.
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