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Calmet, Dissertation on Vampires, 1759. First English edition.

Calmet, Dissertation on Vampires, 1759. First English edition.

Dissertation Upon The Apparitions of Angels, Daemons, and Ghosts, and concerning the Vampires of Hungary, Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia. By the Reverend Father Dom Augustin Calmet, A Benedictine Monk, and Abbott of Senones in Lorraine. Translated from the French. London, 1759.

New speckled brown Cambridge-style (panel calf) leather binding, with raised bands, gold details, and red title plate on spine. New end papers. Some faint discoloration along margins of title page. Original first leaf of preface lacking, but supplied in facsimile printed on antiquarian paper. Remainder of text block otherwise clean and tight with ample margins

 

“For if the return of these vampires be real, it is worth while to defend and establish its truth. If it be nothing but mere whim, it is of great importance to religion to undeceive those who look upon it as true, and to put a stop to an error that maybe attended with very dangerous consequences.”

- Augustin Calmet, from his Preface. (Montague Summers, in his The Vampire; His Kith and Kin, 1928, quotes this last statement, though he substantially modifies and expands it to make it more elaborate and sensational).

 

“Augustin Calmet...devoted himself particularly to the studies connected with Biblical literature.... His general character, as a scholar and writer, is that of a diligent and judicious collector and compiler, with more of tolerance than was usual among the Catholics of that day, but without any profound skill in original investigation, or any distinguished tact or taste in the plan and arrangement of his works.”

- Edward Robinson, Oct 15, 1832, Preface to the American Edition of Robinson’s editorship of Calmet’s Dictionary of the Holy Bible.

 

“In its day it (Calmet’s Dissertations sur les Apparitions...) exercised very great influence, and as it is still constantly referred to, it may not be impertinent to give a brief account of the eminent authority, its author.

 

Dom Augustin Calmet, who is so famous as a biblical exegetist, was born at Menil-la-Horgne, near Commercy, Lorraine, on 26th February, 1672; and died at the abbey of Senones, near Saint-Die, 25th October, 1757. He was educated by the monks of the Benedictine Priory of Breuil, and in 1688 he joined this learned order in the abbey of St. Mansuy at Toul, being professed in the following year, and ordained 17th March 1696. At the Abbey of Moyen-Moutier, where he taught philosophy and theology, he soon engaged the help of the whole community to gather the material for his vast work on the Bible. … It is impossible that in some small points so encyclopaedic a work should not be open to criticism, but its merits are permanent and the erudition truly amazing. … When we add to these his historical and philosophical writings the output of this great scholar is well-nigh incredible. So remarkable a man could not fail to hold high honours in his own Congregation, and it was only at his earnest prayer that Pope Benedict XIII refrained from compelling him to accept a mitre, since this Pontiff on more than one occasion expressed himself anxious to reward the merits and the learning of the Abbot of Senones.

 

To-day, perhaps the best known of Dom Calmet’s works is his Traite sur les Apparitiones des Esprits, et sur les Vampires, and in his preface he tells us the reasons which induced him to undertake this examination. One point which he emphasizes must carefully be borne in mind and merits detailed consideration Vampires, as we have seen, particularly infest Slavonic countries, and it does not appear that this species of apparition was well known in western Europe until towards the end of the seventeenth century.”

 

-Montague Summers, The Vampire, His Kith and Kin, 1928

Calmet’s treatise on vampires is now legendary, and oft referred to in more modern scholarship on matters supernatural (see for example, the Introduction of Paul Barber’s Vampires, Burials, and Death; Folklore and Reality, 1988).

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