"WHAT SORT OF MAN THIS WAS, WHOM THE DEVIL MADE USE OF…": DE TILLEMONT'S ACCOUNT OF THE LIFE OF APOLLONIUS TYANEUS, 1702 FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH
DE TILLEMONT, Louis-Sebastien Le Nain. An Account of the Life of Apollonius Tyaneus. To which are added, Some Observations upon Apollonius. London: S. Smith and B. Walford, 1702. Slim octavo, early 19th-century full brown paneled calf expertly rebacked, red morocco spine label. $1500.
First edition in English of this life of the controversial Greek philosopher, mystic and alchemist.
Apollonius of Tyana was "a Greek philosopher of the Neo-Pythagorean school, born a few years before the Christian era… He traveled though Asia and visited Ninevah, Babylon and India, imbibing the oriental mysticism of magi, Brahmans and gymnosophists. The narrative of his travels given by his disciple Damis and reproduced by Philostratus is so full of the miraculous that many have regarded him as an imaginary character. On his return to Europe he was saluted as a magician, and received the greatest reverence from priests and people generally. He himself claimed only the power of foreseeing the future; yet in Rome it was said that he raised from death the body of a noble lady… Finally he set up a school at Ephesus, where he died, apparently at the age of 100 years. Philostratus keeps up the mystery of his hero's life by saying, 'Concerning the manner of his death, if he did die, the accounts are various.' The work of Philostratus composed at the instance of Julia, wife of Severus, is generally regarded as a religious work of fiction… In the 3rd century, Hierocles endeavored to prove that the doctrines and the life of Apollonius were more valuable than those of Christ, and, in modern times, Voltaire and Charles Blount (1654-93), the English freethinker, have adopted a similar standpoint… If we cut away the mass of mere fiction which Philostratus accumulated, we have left a highly imaginative, earnest reformer who labored to infuse into the flaccid dialectic of paganism a saner spirit of practical morality" (Britannica). Much of Church historian de Tillemont's volume is a response to Blount: "De Tillemont's view is that Apollonius was sent by the Devil to destroy the work of the Saviour" (G.R.S. Mead). However, de Tillemont was viewed as objective by many, including historian Edward Gibbon, who references de Tillemont in his footnotes to his Decline and Fall. References to Apollonius appear outside of Christian argument. The medieval Book of Stones by Islamic alchemist Jabir ibn Hayyan is a lengthy analysis of alchemical works attributed to Apollonius (called "Balinas"). Apollonius, listed as "Balinus," appears in the Baha'i Tablet of Wisdom as a great philosopher, who "surpassed everyone else in the diffusion of arts and sciences and soared unto the loftiest heights of humility and supplication." In some Theosophical teachings, Apollonius of Tyana has been regarded as an ascended master and an embodiment of Jesus. Helena Blavatsky, however, in her 1877 masterwork Isis Unveiled, noted that "Apollonius, a contemporary of Jesus of Nazareth, was, like him, an enthusiastic founder of a new spiritual school. Perhaps less metaphysical and more practical than Jesus, less tender and perfect in his nature, he nevertheless inculcated the same quintessence of spirituality, and the same high moral truths." This Life of Apollonius was originally part of de Tillemont's Histoire des empereurs et autres princes (1690-1738).
Occasional scattered foxing to text. Contemporary calf boards expertly restored. Scarce.