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Bidding Information
Lot #    14543
Auction End Date    6/13/2006 10:47:30 AM (mm/dd/yyyy)
Title Information
Title (English)    Spinoza
Title (Hebrew)    sa vie et sa philosophie
Author    [Only Ed.] Henri Serouya
City    Paris
Publisher    Editions Excelsior
Publication Date    1933
Collection Information
Independent Item    This listing is an independent item not part of any collection
Description Information
   Frontpiece, 83, [2] pp., [32 plates], 207:160 mm., wide uncut margins, light age staining, stamps. A very good copy bound in the original title-wrappers.
   Baruch Spinoza (Benedict) (16321677), Dutch philosopher, born in Amsterdam. His father had fled from Portugal to the Dutch Sephardi community where he was a successful merchant until his death in 1654. Spinoza became an outstanding student in the school of the Spanish-Portuguese community. It has been traditionally claimed that he was led to his irreligious views by studying Latin with a freethinking ex-Jesuit, Van den Enden. Recent studies indicate it is more likely that his heretical views developed out of heterodox controversies within the Amsterdam Jewish community. A generation earlier, Uriel da Costa had twice been expelled from the community for denying the immortality of the soul, and for contending that all extant religions were manmade. In early 1656 Spinoza, a Spanish doctor, Juan de Prado (16141672?), and a schoolteacher, Daniel de Ribera began to attract attention for their heretical opinions, questioning, among other matters, whether Moses wrote the Pentateuch, whether Adam was the first man, and whether the Mosaic law took precedence over natural law. They may have been influenced by Isaac La PeyrIre's Praeadamitae which had just been published in Amsterdam. Prado was forced to apologize for his views, and a few days later, on July 27, 1656, Spinoza was excommunicated. The rabbinical pronouncement, signed by Saul Levi Morteira and others, states:

The chiefs of the council make known to you that having long known of evil opinions and acts of Baruch de Spinoza, they have endeavored by various means and promises to turn him from evil ways. Not being able to find any remedy, but on the contrary receiving every day more information about the abominable heresies practiced and taught by him, and about the monstrous acts committed by him, having this from many trustworthy witnesses who have deposed and borne witness on all this in the presence of said Spinoza, who has been convicted; all this having been examined in the presence of the rabbis, the council decided, with the advice of the rabbis, that the said Spinoza should be excommunicated and cut off from the Nation of Israel. Spinoza was then anathematized and cursed, and all in the Jewish community were forbidden to be in contact with him. He apparently studied at the University of Leiden after his excommunication, and was in Amsterdam with Prado in 165859, where a report to the Spanish Inquisition describes them as denying the Mosaic law and the immortality of the soul, and holding that God only exists philosophically. The hostility of the Jewish community, extending, according to 17th-century reports, to an attempt to kill him, led Spinoza to write an apology for his views in Spanish. The work, now lost, was apparently the basis for his later Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, his work on Bible criticism. Around 1660 Spinoza left Amsterdam, changed his name to Benedictus (the Latin equivalent of Baruch), became involved with some liberal Protestants, and settled in Rijnsburg where he earned his living grinding lenses. He moved to Voorburg, a suburb of The Hague in 1664, and to The Hague itself in 1670, where he stayed until his death. His correspondence indicates that he was developing his metaphysical system for discussion by a philosophical club in 1663. In the same year he wrote in Latin, Principles of the Philosophy of Rene Descartes, the only work he signed. The work presents Descartes' philosophy in geometrical form, and indicates Spinoza's basic points of disagreement with Cartesianism. His friend, Louis Meyer, published the work with an introduction and an appendix containing Spinoza's "Thoughts on Metaphysics." A Dutch edition appeared the next year. In 1670 his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus appeared unsigned, presenting his critique of revealed religion, his justification for intellectual and religious freedom, and his political theories. This rationalistic attack on religion caused a sensation, and was banned everywhere, and sold with false title pages. Spinoza became notorious, and was constantly accused of being an atheist. To prevent attacks, Spinoza stopped the publication of a Dutch edition of the Tractatus. In 1671 he sent a lengthy letter to the Jewish leader, Orobio de Castro, defending himself against the charges of atheism and irreligion.

Because of his fame, Spinoza was offered, in 1673, the chair of philosophy at Heidelberg by the Elector Palatine and was promised freedom to philosophize provided that he would not disturb the established religion. Spinoza declined the post, saying that he preferred his quiet life of philosophical research to teaching, and that he could not control the occurrence of religious dissension. Although Spinoza lived apart from public affairs, he briefly became involved during the French invasion of Holland in 1672. Spinoza had been a friend of the political leader, Jan de Witt (who had given him a small pension), and was profoundly agitated and disturbed when an angry mob, blaming De Witt and his brother for the catastrophe, turned on them and killed them. He told Leibniz, who had come to visit him, that he had tried to put up a sign reading "Ultimi barbarorum," but his landlord locked him in the house, lest he too be murdered.

Shortly thereafter Spinoza was called to Utrecht by the French commander, the Prince of CondM. Though they never met, other French officers told Spinoza that if he dedicated a work to Louis XIV, he would probably receive a pension. Spinoza declined the offer, but on his return to The Hague, was accused of being a French agent.

By 1674 Spinoza had completed his major work, the Ethics, and showed manuscript copies to his friends. He tried in 1675 to have the work published only to find that theologians blocked this effort on the grounds that Spinoza was denying the existence of God. Spinoza abandoned plans to have his book printed. He continued his simple quiet life, writing and discussing philosophy with Leibniz, among others, but making no efforts to convert people to his radical views. He managed to live out his life without belonging to any sect or church. He died of consumption which may have been aggravated by his lens-grinding activities. After his death his Opera Posthuma appeared, containing his Ethics, the unfinished On the Improvement of the Understanding, and the Political Treatise (completed shortly before his death), a Hebrew grammar, and a selection of his letters. His Hebrew grammar, Compendium Grammaticae Linguae Hebraeae, was undertaken at the request of Spinoza's friends some years before his death but remained unfinished. It purported to be a self-tutor to Hebrew but in it Spinoza discussed many of the more complex philological problems of Hebrew grammar. As he was writing mainly for his Christian friends he presented his grammar in the western (Latin) system, following Levita and Reuchlin. He used such terms as activum, passivum (from Latin grammar) and status absolutus. He also divided the alphabet into gutturals, labials, dentals, and palatals, as in modern philological systems. Ten years later, in 1687, his one scientific work, the Treatise on the Rainbow, appeared. It was reissued along with the hitherto unknown work, the Short Treatise on God, Man and his Well-Being, and some letters in Van Vloten's edition, Ad Benedicti de Spinoza opera quae supersunt omnia supplementum (1862).

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Listing Classification
20th Century:    Checked
France:    Checked
Other:    Philosophy
First Editions:    Checked
Language:    French
Manuscript Type
Kind of Judaica