De incorruptione cadaverum.

RAYNAUD Theophile (1665 [18 January 1645])


Available to view at our Curzon Street shop.


Typographic ornament throughout.

8vo (150 x 97mm). [16], 296, [2]pp. Contemporary vellum, title in MS on spine (vellum a little grubby). 

Avignon: Iacobi Bramereau, 1665 [18 January 1645]. 

First edition of this study of the discovery of a miraculously preserved female corpse underneath a cathedral; no copies found in US libraries.

Discovered in the vaults of Carpentras Cathedral in Provence, in 1642, the cadaver's extraordinary state of preservation, with no sign of decomposition, is here described by controversial Jesuit theologian Théophile Raynaud (1583-1663) as the consequence of incorruption. Rather than natural causes, deliberate embalming or, indeed, demonic influence, the miraculous state of the body he attributes to divine intervention. Incorruption, or lack of decay was perceived by the Catholic Church to be a symbol of the body's holiness and a promise of resurrection, although in this case Raynaud advises erring on the side of caution -- the corpse should be kept aside in its own chamber and kept an eye on for any changes, to see whether ultimately the woman's soul is heading for damnation, or to Paradise.

The discovery of the body was a local sensation, and contemporary accounts credit the intervention of the local bishop and rector with avoiding the outbreak of fanatical foment and further scandal. Raynaud's involvement came after he received a letter from Horace Rollery, a surgeon based in Carpentras who was one of the first to examine the body on its exhumation and who was subsequently keen to consult the 'plus grandes lumières' of the time for their perspective. Raynaud himself has been described by Steinmetz as 'wild, expatiating genius [...] with a penetrating intellect, brilliant imagination and a prodigious memory', a member of the Society of Jesus for sixty years, though unpopular with his brethren for his controversial views and acerbic prose, and strongly encouraged to leave the order on several occasions. Nonetheless, in this volume is printed the privilege and permission of the Lyon Society of Jesuits on the final leaf, and the inscription of the library of a Jesuit college can be found at the head of the title page. 

Provenance: 'Collegij Bisuntini Soc. Jesu Catalogo ad Scriptus 1646' inscribed at head of title page, that of the Jesuit College of Besançon, founded at the end of the sixteenth century. 

Sporadic browning. Unobtrusive closed tear to p.172. 

A. Steinmetz, History of the Jesuits Vol. III, p.565. De Backer/Sommervogel VI, 1530 no. 31.

[OCLC: UK: Wellcome Library, Cambridge University. No copies in US.]

Stock Code: 239465

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