“BEFORE THE ‘I AM,’ THEY WERE”: FIRST EDITION OF RIVERS OF LIFE, FORLONG’S MAGISTERIAL ANALYSIS OF THE ORIGINS OF RELIGION, COMPLETE WITH THE MASSIVE COLOR FOLDING CHART OF WORLDWIDE RELIGIOUS EVOLUTION
FORLONG, J.G.R. Rivers of Life, or Sources and Streams of the Faiths of Man in All Lands; Showing the Evolution of Faiths from the Rudest Symbolisms to the Latest Spiritual Developments. London: Bernard Quaritch, 1883. Three volumes. Quarto, original green cloth rebacked with original spines laid down, patterned endpapers. $2600.
First edition of this comprehensive, cross-cultural study of world religions, illustrated with 17 plates, two color folding maps, over 300 in-text illustrations, a large, folding, “synoptical table of gods, god-ideas and many features which all faiths have more or less in common” and an extremely large (21 by 96 inches) folding, linen-backed, color chart displaying the global evolution of religious thought.
Major-General Forlong was not only a military engineer but also a life-long, comparative scholar of world religions. He knew seven different languages and traveled extensively in India. He produced two magisterial works: Faiths of Man, a Cyclopaedia of Religions (1906) and this work in 1883. Forlong traces the development of the world’s great faiths from such ancient origins as the worship of trees, serpents, ancestors and heavenly bodies. He treats a wide variety of esoteric and mystical matters, including: the connection between pyramids in Egypt and earthen mounds in Kentucky; the influence of myths about Vishnu on the symbolism found in Christian catacombs; parallels between Babylonian and Israelite flood myths; the link between Assyrian and British crowns; the relationship of Roman sun worship to the doctrine of Roman Catholic transubstantiation; and water worship among peoples from the primitive Celts to the Cibola tribes of New Mexico. Includes the first appendix, a large (7-1/2 by 2-1/4 feet) chart of faith streams, issued (according to the Table of Contents) either folded (as here, in a separate case as Volume III) or on rollers. Bookplate of the Esoterika Biblion Society and owner inkstamps to folding chart case (not on chart itself). Occasional marginalia.
Rear inner paper hinge of Volume II split, binding sound. Light rubbing to edges of cloth. Extremely large color folding chart bright with occasional light wear. A near-fine copy, scarce in any condition, particularly complete with the extremely large folding chart.