• £1,400.00 GBP

[Maillet, Benoit de]

Telliamed Ou Entretiens D'Un Philosophe Indien


Published: L'Honor?© & Fils, Amsterdam, 1748.

Avec un missionnaire Francois. Sur la Diminution de la Mer, la Formation de la Terre, l'Origine de l'Homme, &c. Mis en ordre sur les Mémoires de feu M. de Maillet. Par J. A. G ***. Two volumes in one.

Contemporary full French mottled calf very skilfully rebacked and recornered with spine in gilt compartments each with central floral tool and lavish foliate cornerpieces, slightly raised banding and burgundy morocco title label; crimson stained edges; handmade marbled endpapers; small 4to, 198x128 mms.

First Edition. Half title-page to volume one and two woodcut vignette title pages. Dedication to Cyrano de Bergerac.

A good copy of this important and controversial work.

By using the device of an imaginary voyage to India by a French missionary, and by presenting the work's philosophy as the beliefs of an Indian mystic, Maillet sought to make palatable his pre-Darwinian theories of evolution.

De Maillet (1656-1738) was a diplomat and explorer. His fame rests almost exclusively on this work, which Ward and Carozzi described as introducing 'the concept of slow changes over a great period of time and that of a diminishing ocean as well as the evolution of marine life into terrestrial life. Everybody read Telliamed'.

Generally, the work was based on de Maillet's observations throughout Europe, and depends on the study of geological age to contradict the biblical chronology. Although most of the theory is sheer fancy - in particular his belief that the earth is in fact a burnt out star - his insistence on the importance of scientific study of rock formations was influential. It also uses classical and modern precedent to tentatively suggest that all life may in fact have had its origins in the sea. The work was not published until ten years after de Maillet's death, and even then reluctantly, by his friend the Abb?© Le Mascrier, who was also responsible for the work's dedication to Cyrano de Bergerac. Even with this posthumous publication, Le Mascrier still found it easier to attribute the work to an Indian philosopher (the eponymous 'Telliamed' is a simple inversion of the author's real name) in an attempt to dilute its radical impact. It is thought that Diderot was heavily influenced by this work in his shift from deism to atheism, and Sabin comments that it was 'long supposed to have suggested to Mr. Darwin his celebrated theory.'

Barbier, IV, p. 673; Sabin, 43891; Ward and Carozzi 1457.

Dimensions (height / length / width )

20cm / 4.5cm / 13cm

18th Century First Edition Brown Leatherbound Individual Volume

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