- New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press, 2016.
- 6.5 x 9.5 inches
- Cloth with dust jacket
- 408 pages
- ISBN: 9781584563570
Price: $55.00 other currencies
Order Nr. 128977
"Collectors, booksellers, cultural historians and librarians are the target audience of Robert Thake's scrupulous, meticulous, sumptuously produced and painstakingly researched biography of a book . . . Thake is omniscient and his lusciously illustrated book a model of scholarship. But he also triggers thoughts about the nature of censorship, not least by quoting Diderot, who laid down this challenge to civil and religious authorities in 1762: 'Line all your borders with soldiers, arm them with bayonets, keep dangerous books out and these books . . . will pass between their legs or leap over their heads and will still reach us'."
-- David Coward, TLS, July 18, 2017
This remarkable and entertaining study examines perhaps the most notorious example of a book whose enormous popular success was due almost entirely to its being banned by the Vatican. The story of the Abbé de Vertot and his Histoire de Malte will fascinate scholars of the history of the book, printing in the eighteenth century, enlightenment printing trends, the history of Malta and the Hospitalier Order of St. John, and the history of censorship.
Histoire des Chevaliers Hospitaliers de S. Jean de Jerusalem, affectionately referred to as Histoire de Malte, was written by the Abbé de Vertot and printed in Paris in four quarto volumes in 1726. The author, a provincial clergyman who attained great fame in the capital of the monde philosophe, was commissioned by the Order of St. John to be its chronicler and compose a history of the Order from its humble origins in Jerusalem until the year of publication. Vertot spent thirteen years composing the work but the product was far from what his patrons expected. What was meant to be a chronicle of the Catholic Order ended up attracting the ire of the inquisition due to the numerous anti-papist statements which the author included and, shortly after it saw the light, the publication was buried in the Vatican's literary cemetery, the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. This study is based on hitherto unpublished sources from nineteen archives and libraries around the world.
This study includes an illustrated bibliography of more than 120 editions of Vertot's book, reproductions of maps present in the original edition, as well as transcriptions of the report compiled by the Order of St. John together with excerpts of the statements deemed objectionable by the Knights and the Vatican.
Robert Thake holds a Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Malta. He is a member of The Bibliographical Society of London and the Oxford Bibliographical Society and a visiting lecturer within the civil law department of the University of Malta. He is the owner of a unique collection of historical books and manuscripts on Malta and the Order of St John. His special field of research is prohibited literature and anonymous publications in the eighteenth century.
"Robert Thake's erudite study reconstructs the publishing and diffusion history of the Histoire de Malte, the last major work of the abbé de Vertot, one of the most popular historians of the eighteenth century. . . . His careful bibliographic research, conducted in archives and libraries in Malta, France, Italy, Holland, Switzerland, and England, reveals just how popular the Histoire was and how broad was its geographic diffusion: copies of an English translation reached bookshops in North America."
-- Prof. Jeffrey Freedman, Yeshiva University, New York
"Much extensive and thorough research has evidently gone into the present work, and the result is a laudable piece of work that cannot be easily bettered. Based on an impressively wide selection of local and foreign archival sources and secondary literature, its arguments are all consistently built on solid and safe ground."
-- Prof. Victor Mallia-Milanes (University of Malta)
"A major contribution to the history of the book and the cultural history of early modern European networks, helping us to redefine consolidated notions of centres and peripheries."
-- Prof. Federico Barbierato, University of Verona.