FIRST EDITION OF THE FIRST ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF SANCHUNIATHON'S PHOENICIAN HISTORY, 1720, HANDSOMELY BOUND
(SANCHUNIATHON) (EUSEBIUS) CUMBERLAND, Richard, editor and translator. Sanchoniatho's Phoenician History, Translated from the First Book of Eusebius De Praeparatione Evangelica. With a Constitution of Sanchoniatho's History by Eratosthenes Cryenaeus's Canon, Which Dicaearchus Connects with the First Olympiad. London: Printed by W.B. for R. Wilkin, 1720. Octavo, 20th-century paneled speckled brown calf, raised bands, red morocco spine label. $1400.
First edition of the first English translation of this controversial but fascinating work on Phoenician history based on Eusebius' summary and excerpts of Sanchuniathon, with folding genealogical table, handsomely bound in full calf-gilt.
After entering the clergy around the Restoration, the translator and editor of this work, Richard Cumberland, swiftly ascended the ranks of the Church of England. In 1670, he was installed as vicar at All Saints in the scenic town of Stamford, Lincolnshire. His appointment brought new income, which allowed him to embark on a writing career. In the 1880s, he "produced the manuscript for Sanchoniatho's Phoenician History, the first English translation of this controversial fragment of Phoenician ancient history, which is recorded in the work of Eusebius; it appeared together with a detailed commentary that sought to reconcile Sanchoniatho's [i.e. Sanchuniathon's] history with the Bible. Sanchoniatho's account revealed the means by which the Phoenicians had corrupted sacred history to deify their own versions of biblical individuals. Cumberland traced the resulting polytheism and idolatry to its most recent manifestation in the Roman Catholic church. On the eve of the revolution of 1688 Cumberland's publisher thought the work too controversial to publish… Sanchoniatho's Phoenician History was published posthumously in 1720 with a biographical memoir by Cumberland's son-in-law and domestic chaplain, Squire Payne" (DNB). The story behind Sanchuniathon's alleged writings is complex, as is the controversy surrounding them. According to Britannica, Sanchuniathon was "an ancient Phoenician sage [13th century BC], who belongs more to legend than to history. He is said to have flourished 'even before the Trojan times,' 'when Semiramis was queen of the Assyrians.' Philo Herennius of Byblus claimed to have translated his mythological writings from the Phoenician originals. According to Philo, Sanchuniathon derived the sacred lore from the mystic inscriptions on [probably "sun pillars"] which stood in the Phoenician temples. That any writings of Sanchuniathon ever existed it is impossible to say. Philo drew his traditions from various sources, adapted them to suit his purpose, and conjured with a venerable name to gain credit for his narrative." Whatever the case, the stories made their way into Eusebius' influential fourth-century work of Christian apologetics devoted to casting aside paganism. As a result, Sanchuniathons, real or otherwise, has become a crucial part of the Christian tradition and the purported stories of Phoenician history remain a strong link to that civilization. ESTC T100370.
Closed tear at table stub, a couple faint label fragments to spine. Near-fine condition.