Posted 7 years ago
As a lover of science and a collector of Bohemian Glass, I was very excited to find a book that touches both areas, albeit one indirectly. This is a first printing of a series of essays published by Etienne Souciet, a Jesuit, in 1726. The essays were a critical of an abstract of Sir Isaac Newton's published without his permission, a couple of years earlier. Through some backhanded dealings, a copy of Newton's abstract of "A Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms" found its way to a French publisher, who after making a few weak attempts at getting Newton's permission to publish, took Newton's silence on the matter as tacet approval. What the publisher didn't tell Newton, however, was that he was also planning to publish a book criticizing Newton's timeline at the same time. Souciet had sent clarifying questions to Newton, who was nearing the end of his life, and was sent a verbal reply that the abstract was not meant for publication, etc, and so Souciet, not wishing to create waves, withheld further commentary, until the Abstract and the accompanying critique were published. Souciet no longer felt restrained once the cat was out of the bag, and so he published his collection of essays in 1726. Newton was livid about his abstract being published, and he felt compelled to publish an updated Chronology, something he was working on right up until his death in 1727. Newton's "Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms (Amended) was published posthumously by a Mr. John Conduitt in 1728. At the beginning of the book, Mr. Conduitt inserted the following "advertisement":
"Tho' The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms amended, was writ by the Author many years since; yet he lately revis'd it, and was actually preparing it for the Press at the time of his death. But The Short Chronicle was never intended to be made public, and therefore was not so lately corrected by him. To this the Reader must impute it, if he shall find any places where the Short Chronicle does not accurately agree with the Dates assigned in the larger Piece. The Sixth Chapter was not copied out with the other Five, which makes it doubtful whether he intended to print it: but being found among his Papers, and evidently appearing to be a Continuation of the same Work, and (as such) abridg'd in the Short Chronicle; it was thought proper to be added.
Had the Great Author himself liv'd to publish this Work, there would have been no occasion for this Advertisement; But as it is, the Reader is desired to allow for such imperfections as are inseparable from Posthumous Pieces; and, in so great a number of proper names, to excuse some errors of the Press that have escaped."
Regarding Souciet's book, Newton was reported to have said that the book "only served to show the ignorance of its author".
So, the content of this book is far less compelling than the circumstances that surrounded it.
More interesting to me, as a collector of Bohemian glass (which includes pieces made by the Harrach Glass Works) is the book plate affixed to the inside back cover. It is the book plate of Aloys, Count von Harrach, the member of the Harrach family that gave permission to build the glass works on the family's property in 1712. This book comes from his private library. This book plate is documented in the book An Illustrated Handbook of German and Austrian Exlibris, by Karl Emich Count zu Leiningen-Westerburg in 1901. A scan from the book is shown in the last photo. The book is in superb condition, considering that it is 290 years old!