Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Rare books 26: Quietly Going About Their Business


Unimposing volume of homiletic instructions on the life, thought, and virtues of Saint Teresa of Avila, given at the Carmel of Bordeaux on the third centenary of her death. (Soligny-la-Trappe, 1896) Notes: This title is not among the eleven works of this author listed on the Bibliothèque nationale de France, nor the 25 on WorldCat, rendering the work very very rare and the cataloguer temporarily speechless. The author is a Passionist, hence the order’s sign on the cover, with the slightly formidable name in religion Louis-Thérèse de Jésus Agonisant (1818-1907). It was another age that had such people in it. If the centenary was 1882, why are the homilies published in 1896? Because that which was lost has been found. The book is a rescue mission. “Ces instructions n’ont rien perdu, comme on serait tenté de la croire, de leur actualité,” as we read in the Avertissement on page iii. They are more especially not lost while there is a copy in the Carmelite Library, given it may be the only public copy in existence. How big was the print run? Should I scan the book this week? Arresting too is the name of the publisher: Imprimerie de la Grand-Trappe. The very concept conjures deep meanings in French church history, the printing room of the Cistercian Abbey at Soligny-la-Trappe, original home of the Trappists, founded in 1664. Clearly on this occasion, the monks were quietly going about their business.  

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