The First Printing in English of "Christian Natural Philosophy," An Attempt to Reconcile Genesis with Scientific Knowledge


(London: [Printed by John Kingston] for Andrew Maunsell, 1578). 189 x 134 mm. (7 3/8 x 5 1/4"). [4], 87, [1] leaves (with foliation errors, but complete).Translated from the Latin by Thomas Twyne. First Edition in English.

Retrospective half pigskin over marbled boards, raised bands, red morocco label. Title with woodcut ornament, head- and tailpieces, many decorative initials. Printed in black letter. Front pastedown with Macclesfield bookplate for the South library; title with inscription in ink "Dulcius ex ipso fonte bibuntur aquae" ["Sweetly the waters have been drunk from the fountain itself"]; a couple of contemporary annotations in ink (one slightly shaved); numerous marginal readers' marks in ink and pencil. STC 6231; ESTC S105155. ◆Paper a shade or two less than bright, title somewhat soiled, a dark stain affecting the upper corner of ff. 24-28 (touching text but all is legible); still, an overall very good, clean copy in a pleasing new binding.

This is the first appearance in English of Daneau's 1576 "Physica Christiana," the foundational work of "Mosaic physics," which attempted to reconcile the account of creation in Genesis with scientific knowledge of the natural world in order to create a "Christian natural philosophy." Though obviously theological in origin, "Christian Physics" is nevertheless substantially a work of natural history, generally adopting the Aristotelian worldview then prevalent. The first of two parts is a disquisition on creation, a long Socratic dialogue on the meaning of the opening chapters of Genesis. The second part, which occupies a good deal more than two-thirds of the volume, is a broader treatise on nature, including discussion of such things as light and shadow, meteors, the rainbow, thunder, precious stones, glass, gold, various trees, stars and planets, fish, birds, elephants, foxes, and many more topics. A Calvinist theologian forced into itinerancy because of his incautiously expressed opinions, Daneau (1530-95) produced a considerable number of books, mostly commentaries on the Bible and controversial works written against Lutherans and Catholics alike. Our copy has a couple of curious contemporary marginal annotations. On the verso of fo. 2, at the beginning of the second chapter, someone noted "Five / [s]peciall / [copie?]s of na- / [tu]rall phi- / [lo]sophye." And at the head of fo. 39 (mis-numbered 40] recto is the inscription "Sr. Walter Rawley Laureatus poeta May 4 anno reg. Eliz. 39 anno dom. 1598." There is nothing in Raleigh's biography that can account for his being mentioned as poet laureate in 1598; in that period, he was occupied in naval pursuits against the Spanish armada. It has been suggested that our copy was once owned by scholar and translator Andrew Hartwell (1553-1606), a bibliophile who sometimes used the Latin motto on the title page and marked passages in his books with the floret-like squiggle seen here on ff. 3-12. The book was later in the great library of the earls of Macclesfield. The present work is rare: ABPC and RBH locate just one other copy at auction in the past 40 years.

Price: $8,500.00