Tag Archives: Memory

A disputed legacy? The shadow of Renaudot vs. Baile

Voltaire: Le siècle de Louis XIV., tome premier (1785, p. 136).

Friday n° 28, April 19th, 2019

 “Voltaire blaims him for having prevented Bayle’s dictionary from being printed in France. This is very natural in Voltaire and Voltaire’s followers; but it is a more serious objection to Renaudot, that, while his love of learning made him glad to correspond with learned Protestants, his cowardly bigotry prevented him from avowing the connection.”[1]

Chalmers’s general biographical Dictionary, vol. 26, 1816

Bad press, good press

As it is Good Friday, I wanted to get this week’s post out early as an advance Easter surprise. Fittingly, this piece will cover an issue with a confessional nature. And as I until now managed to avoid big names in my study of forgetting quite well, I thought I’d deal with a rather well-known episode this time, because it was connected – at least by Alexander Chalmers’s (1759–1834) dictionary, as you just have read – to a quite big name also. In fact, to two of them: Pierre Bayle (1647–1706) and François-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire (1694-1778). Until now, both have only appeared in the margins of my project – Bayle because he died before three of my protagonists, and Voltaire because there were no direct connections between him and my four scholars, although he was something of a contemporary to all of them. He was eight years old when Thomas Gale died, and 26 at the death of Eusèbe Renaudot.

And it is precisely Renaudot who is in the center of today’s issue, as the polemic between him and Pierre Bayle concerning the Dictionnaire historique et critique might have had an impact on his posthumous reputation. At least in Chalmer’s dictionary it left a mark in the entry concerning him. The question now is: What does that mean in the context of forgetting? Isn’t bad press always good press? Should the connection to a work as prominent as Bayle’s Dictionnaire not be sufficient to hold a name in circulation, let alone if supplicated by Voltaire? Well, let’s have a bit of a look at that.

What happened …

In 1697, Eusèbe Renaudot submitted a memoire concerning Pierre Bayle’s Dictionnaire on behalf of the court, because some Paris printers had applied for a royal printing privilege for a second edition of the book. Renaudot was called upon to examine whether there was anything suspicious in it; and he found enough things not to his liking that he advised against such an edition. Pierre Bayle, who already had been provided with a copy of the draft memoire by Pierre Jurieu, replied to Renaudot’s points, while Jurieu got the memoire printed.[2] In the meantime, Renaudot’s advise had been followed, and there had been no second French edition of the Dictionnaire historique et critique.

… and what was reported …

The entry on Renaudot in Chalmer’s The general biographical Dictionary I started from is closely modelled on French sources, however, most notably the entries on Renaudot in Jean-Pierre Niceron’s (1658–1738) Memoires pour servir a l’histoire des hommes illustres dans la Republique des lettres[3] and in the later edition of Le grand dictionnaire historique originally edited by Louis Moreri (1643–1680),[4] as he duly acknowledged. Now Le grand dictionnaire historique – ‘the Moreri’, how it was commonly called – itself had Chalmers relied on a third source also, but I’m going into this only a bit later. First, let’s check the dictionaries he made use of.

Niceron’s 43 volume series on illustrious scholars featured a rather large entry on Renaudot, which also covered the issue of the memoire. Niceron stressed that Renaudot had drawn it up at the explicit request of the minister, had found things against religion in it, and had advised against a reprint. The memoire had fallen into the hands of Jurieu, Bayle had been furious, but after a fierce polemic both contrahents – as was quite usual in the late 17th century Republic of Letters – were reconciled again, and Bayle did not comment on the whole thing in the second edition of the Dictionnaire printed outside of France.[5] So far, the story closely matches Chalmers’s depiction of the events, only that he skipped the happy ending. Moreri’s dictionary, which had been especially designed to champion Catholicism, skipped the whole episode however; the entry on Renaudot makes no mention of it.

… and how it evolved …

This already predicted a pattern to be followed throughout the paper trail Renaudot left in the dictionaries. Some of these dictionaries would mention it, others would not; and most of them – as was quite customary at the time – would not indicate their sources. Even Chalmers did not fully disclose his sources for his entry, for it is more than likely that he copied at least the Voltaire part from the predecessor dictionary to his work, the New and general biographical dictionary : containing an historical and critical account of the lives and writings of the most eminent persons in every nation, particularly the British and Irish, from the earliest accounts of time to the present period, which appeared in London in eleven volumes from 1761 to 1762. The anonymous author of the Renaudot entry could, this time, draw upon a source which had not been yet available as Niceron and Moreri’s editors had compiled their entries: Voltaire’s Le siècle de Louis XIV., which had first been printed in 1751, and which the New and general biographical dictionary now cited: “Mr. Voltaire says that ‘he may be reproached with having prevented Bayle’s dictionary from being printed in France.’ [Siecle [sic] de Louis XIV. tom. II.] »[6] Much more than that Voltaire really had not said about the whole affair (see snippet above).[7]

This might explain while other dictionary entries up to 1800 did not say much more about it, if they said anything about the episode at all. Nicolas-Toussaint Le Moyne Des Essarts (1744–1810) kept silent about in his Siècles littéraires de la France,[8] although it would likely have been the best place to put it. In John Watkins’ An universal biographical and historical dictionary, nothing about it was said in the Renaudot entry,[9] but only in the entry on Bayle Watkins wrote:

“The same year he formed the plan of his celebrated dictionary, the first volume of which appeared in 1695, and was uncommonly well received, though some parts of it were attacked by M. Jurieu, and the abbé Renaudot. […] He [Baile] was undoubtedly a man of brilliant parts, and of an acute intellect; but his religious principles appear to have leaned towards infidelity.”[10]

John Watkins: An universal biographical and historical dictionary, London 1800

… and why it was told that way

Precisely this – that Bayle was in orthodox circles, Catholic as well as Protestant, still suspected of the most dreadful crime imaginable, atheism – might have been the case not to refer on Renaudot stopping a reprint of the Dictionnaire historique et critique which would have proliferated Bayle’s ungodly sentiments, or if, to refer to it in a rather neutral way. As Voltaire sometimes was suspected to be guilty of the same sin as Bayle, it might have seemed prudent not to refer to him as an authority in the matter also.

But shortly after 1800 this changed, at least for a while, and now one could read other entries in other dictionaries, as that on Renaudot of Thomas Morgan (n.d.) in the General biography, the 8th volume of which was printed in 1813, three years before Chalmer’s 26th volume went off the press in 1816, and which said: “It’s a circumstance which reflects no honour on his memory, that the unfavourable representations which he gave to the ministry, of Bayle’s “Dictionary”, were the means of preventing that work from being printed in France.”[11]

A shadow thrown on memory…

By now, suppressing Bayle had obviously become a stain on Renaudot’s memory. Morgan only did not elaborate upon how he came to that conclusion. But Chalmers did, and now it pays to have a look at the third of his sources, and that is Leonard Twell’s (+1742) The Live of the rev. and most learned Dr. Edward Pocock of the same year 1816 as the entry on Renaudot. To have a look at it means to read a – I am sorry to admit – really very long quote from this biography of the Oxford orientalist Edward Pococke (1604-1691), where Twell gave an account of the correspondence between Renaudot and Pococke in the preparation of Renaudot’s Liturgiarum Orientalium Collectio[12]:

“In this epistle the writer professes a very high esteem for our author, desires the liberty of consulting him in all the doubts, that should occur in preparing the works above-mentioned, and promises, in return for this favour, to make a public acknowledgement of it, and to preserve a perpetual memory of the obligation. It is highly probable, that death prevented Dr. Pocock from giving any assistance to Renaudot in these designs; but I am sorry to say, that the treatment that learned person has given to the memory of our author has not been consistent with the expressions of respect for him, with which this letter abounds. For when he came to publish his Collection of Eastern Liturgies, forgetting his own professions, and the duty of a gentleman, a scholar, and, above all, of a Christian, he goes out of his way, in the end of his preface, to reproach him with a mistake, which, perhaps, was the only one which could be fastened upon his writings, though Renaudot, as above-mentioned, had, without good grounds, charged him with another; but the Abbot’s zeal against the Protestants got the better of his candour, and though he could treat the learned amongst them with civility in a private way, it was not, as it should seem, adviseable to observe such measures with them in the eye of the world.”[13]

Leonard Twell: The Live of the rev. and most learned Dr. Edward Pocock, 1816, pp. 339-340.

…or not?

The problem with Renaudot now became that he seemed to have been a model fanatic Catholic, dismissing protestant authors out of sheer bigotry regardless of their results, and that this was now used by Chalmers to explain why Renaudot had voted against Bayle: not for any scholarly reason but for blind (and most probably misguided) faith only. Fittingly, Chalmers had been the editor of Twell’s Life of Pocock. But the religious issue obviously only became pressing when it was used to throw a shadow on the memory of an English scholar – Pococke – and only then turned into something that could be used against Renaudot’s memory in return. At least theoretically. For obviously at least in the world of dictionaries this episode – although it was connected to famous persons, writings, and contained a juicy religious element – only spread in English-language ones, and only for a while, until the middle of the 19th century as I have been able to establish so far. In French-language dictionaries on the other hand, if the affair was reported, it was reported closely matching Niceron, and thus neutralized. But most of the time it was just left out altogether. So in this case bad press was not good press in the end, but no press after all; it failed to significantly boost Renaudot’s frequency of reference in any way. This might have been due to the complex entanglement of religion, language, and national sentiments at play here; but this is something I have to have a closer look at still.

Happy Easter!


[1] Anon: Renaudot (Eusebius), in: Alexander Chalmers (ed.): The general biographical Dictionary containing an historical and critical account of the lives and writings of the most eminent persons, particularly the English and Irish, from the earliest accounts to the present time (32 vols.), vol. 26, London: J. Nichols 1812-1816, pp. 140-141.

[2] [Pierre Jurieu (ed.)], [Eusèbe Renaudot]: Jugement du public et particulierement de M. l’abbé Renaudot, sur le Dictionnaire critique du sr Bayle, Rotterdam : Acher 1697.  

[3] Anon: Eusebe Renaudot, in : Niceron, Jean-Pierre (ed.): Memoires pour servir a l’histoire des hommes illustres dans la Republique des lettres (43 vols.), vol. 12, Paris : 1733, pp. 25-41, and vol. 20, Paris: Briasson 1733, pp. 35.

[4] Anon: Renaudot (Eusebe), in: Moreri, Louis (Founder): Le grand dictionnaire historique ou Le mélange curieux de l’histoire sacrée et profane. Nouvelle et derniere édition revûe, corrigée et augmentée (6 vols.), vol. 5, Paris : Vincent 1732, pp. 481–482.

[5] Anon: Eusebe Renaudot, in : Niceron, Jean-Pierre (ed.): Memoires pour servir a l’histoire des hommes illustres dans la Republique des lettres (43 vols.), vol. 12, Paris : 1733, pp. 25-41 ; here p. 39-41.

[6] Anon: Renaudot (Eusebius), in: A New and general biographical dictionary: containing an historical and critical account of the lives and writings of the most eminent persons in every nation, particularly the British and Irish, from the earliest accounts of time to the present period : wherein their remarkable actions or sufferings, their virtues, parts, and learning are accurately displayed : with a catalogue of their literary productions (11 vols.), London: Owen/Johnston 1761-1762, vol. 10, pp. 136-137; here p. 137.

[7] Jean-Jacques Tourneisen (ed.), Voltaire: Le siècle de Louis XIV. Tome premier (=Oeuvres completes de Voltaire. Tome vingtieme), Basel : Tourneisen 1785, p. 136.

[8] Anon: Renaudot, Eusebe, in: Nicolas-Toussaint Le Moyne Des Essarts (ed.): Les Siècles littéraires de la France, ou nouveau dictionnaire, historique, critique, et bibliographique, de tous les Ecrivains français, morts et vivans, jusqu’à a la fin du XVIIIe. Siècle (6 vols.), Paris: Des Essarts 1800-1803, vol. 5, pp. 372-374.  

[9] John Watkins: Renaudot (Eusebius), in: —: An universal biographical and historical dictionary. Containing a faithful account of the lives, actions, and characters, of the most eminent persons of all ages and all countries; also the revolutions of states, and the successions of sovereign princes, ancient and modern. Collected from the best Authorities, By John Watkins, A.M. L.L.D., London: Philipps 1800, p. [760].

[10] John Watkins: Bayle (Peter), in: Ibid., p. [136].

[11] Thomas Morgan: Renaudot, Eusebius, in: John Aikin, Thomas Morgan, William Johnston: General biography; or lives, critical and historical, of the most eminent persons of all ages, countries, conditions, and professions, arranged according to alphabetical order (10 vols.), London: Robinson 1799-1815, vol. 8, pp. 506-507; here p. 507.

[12] Eusèbe Renaudot (ed.): Liturgiarum Orientalium Collectio : Adjunctae sunt Rubricae rituales ex variis codicibus Mss. collectae, & suis locis appositae (2 vols.), Paris: Coignard 1716.

[13] Leonard Twells: . The Live of the rev. and most learned Dr. Edward Pocock, in: Alexander Chalmers (ed.): The Lives of Dr. Edward Pocock, the celebrated orientalist, by Dr. Twells; of Dr. Zachary Pearce, bishop of Rochester, and of Dr. Thomas Newton, biship of Bristol, by themselves; and of the Rev. Philip Skelton, by Mr. Burdy, vol. 1, London: Rivington / Gilbert, 2 vols., 1816, pp. 1-356; here pp. 340-341.

An institutional memory?

Saturday, January 18th, for Friday No. 16

Histoire de l’Académie Royale des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres, Vol. 1, 1717, title page.

In one of my last posts I suggested that none of my four exemplary cases has been able to profit from a memorializing attempt by his institution. Today I would like to examine one case a bit closer, which is that of Eusèbe Renaudot and the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres he was a member of from 1691until his death in 1720. The academy was an institution very actively publishing their member’s efforts. They not only regularly printed research contributions – dissertations – by their members to various subjects in their own journal, the Mémoires de litterature, tirés des registres de l’Académie royale des inscriptions et belles lettres, but also every couple of years published quite massive volumes recording the institutional processes and progresses made in form of the Histoire de l’Académie royale des inscriptions et belles-lettres series, which began in 1717 and only terminated with volume 51 in 1843. And as if this were not enough, in 1740 the historian Claude Gros de Boze (1680–1753), together with the savant Claude-Pierre Goujet (1697–1767) and using materials by Paul Tallemant (1642-1712), compiled a history of the academy up until this time in three volumes, theHistoire de l’Academie royale des inscriptions et belles-lettres depuis son etablissement, avec les eloges des academiciens morts depuis son renouvellement, published in Paris.

Commemoration done

There would have been plenty of room, therefore, to commemorate the abbé Renaudot. Yet, if one takes a closer look at these materials, the form in which this commemoration took place turns out to be quite interesting. Starting with the most obvious point, there was no eloge on his behalf when he passed away in 1720, but only in 1729 with the 5th volume of the Histoire de l’Académie royale des inscriptions et belles-lettres. This is easily accounted for by the notorious delay of the Histoire volumes in wrapping up the events within the academy. The 1729 volume explicitly only dealt with the years 1718 – 1725;[1] so he was no exception in this. This span of nine years between the publication of the eloge and the actual death is however quite long. It becomes even more pronounced if one takes into account that the following five volumes did not mention Renaudot at all, and he only appeared again within the series in the 11th volume of 1740 – which in itself comes as no surprise because this was the index volume to the preceding ten. From then on, until volume 16 of 1751 there would be no notice of Renaudot in the Histoire series either.

Having a complementary look at the second series of proceedings the Académie royale des inscriptions et belles-lettres produced, the Memoirs, is, unfortunately, a bit more complicated. They are digitally available in very good scan quality via Hathi Trust, yet not fulltext searchable – and it would take quite a while to read through over 70 volumes of around 500 pages each, so I have to restrict my findings to the tables of contents in this case for the time being. Nevertheless, these are quite instructive. Although the first volumes to move beyond Renaudot’s lifetime were seven to nine (covering 1718–1725), there are only four dissertations by him in all of the first nine volumes, two in both volumes two and three,[2] which basically means that he ceased publishing on behalf on the academy before 1710; and obviously there was no posthumous material published after 1720. [But as long as I haven’t done an analysis of reference to him at the intratextual level, this is not necessarily indicative of his overall presence in the epistemic community formed by the academy’s members.]

Commemmoration achieved?

Now one might argue that this was just what was to be expected as someone who was thirty years dead by then would in all likelihood not be able to play a large role in the current affairs of the academy. He perhaps should not turn up there at all. But it is a bit more complicated than that, as the 1751 volumes 16 and 17 of the Histoire series show upon inspection. Renaudot was mentioned thrice in them, once in no. 16 and twice in no. 17. The first instance was a reference to the correspondence between Bernard de Montfaucon (1655–1741) and Jacob Gronovius (1645–1716) which had once been triggered by a Renaudot letter.[3] The other two instances of reference to Renaudot quoted some of his work on the history of the Eastern churches within a dissertation about the Assassins.[4] And then there was silence – at least for another ten volumes.

But before I turn to the reappearance of Renaudot in volume 26 of the Histoire de l’Académie royale des inscriptions et belles-lettres series, let me jump back to the year 1740 and have a look at the other history of the academy, de Boze’s Histoire de l’Academie royale des inscriptions et belles-lettres depuis son etablissement, avec les eloges des academiciens morts depuis son renouvellement. As if to make up for the delay in publishing the eloge on the abbé, this second history also contained it,[5] as well as some references to Renaudot in its records of the academy’s workings.[6] 1740 thus serves as first peak year of institutional references of the Academie royale des inscriptions et belles-lettres to its former member, the abbé Renaudot. But as already said, with that obligation fulfilled, there was nothing said about him anymore apart from the three rather peripheral references in 1751.

Collateral commemoration

This only changed with the 26th volume of the Histoire de l’Académie royale des inscriptions et belles-lettres series of the year 1759, in which Renaudot was referred to in a particular context,[7] which I, not incidentally, already wrote about on this blog from the perspective of the other party. It was the dispute between John Swinton (1703–1777) and Jean-Jacques Barthélemy (1716–1795) about the honour of having been the first to be able to correctly interpret the Palmyrene inscriptions. There is nothing contemporary in the Memoirs series, which is due to the fact that this series over the years had built up even more delay in publication than the Histoire – the proceedings for the years 1749-1760 were only printed in 1771. The Barthélemy version of the decipherment of Palmyrene[8] does have certain advantages over the Swinton version, one of these being that Barthélemy unlike his English colleague and/or competitor referred back not only to Adrien Reland and Jacob Rhenferd (1654-1712) as Swinton had done but also to Eusèbe Renaudot and Gijsbert Cuper (1644–1716) who both were included in his account for good reason. Renaudot had studied the inscriptions himself and then decided it was not worth the effort given the situation at his time; and Cuper had been instrumental in providing the additional inscription brought forward first by Rhenferd and later Reland.

To assume that this was what brought Renaudot back into the reference flow once again would certainly be very far-fetched. I would rather like to argue that Barthélemy represents a general trend here, the trend towards antiquarian topics the likes of which Renaudot had been dealing with which brought him back into the focus of the academy’s members now. Unlike in the years between 1729 to 1740 and 1741 to 1758, Renaudot was referred within the Histoire series now on a regular basis, even if with rather low frequency. From the 1790s onwards the remarks become increasingly critical,[9] but they are still there.

So what can be seen from these patterns of references? Although the institution the abbé Renaudot belonged to had done him the customary honours of memorialization, it had done so a bit belatedly, and without lasting effects. The modest Renaudot comeback since the middle of the 1750s, more than 30 years after his death, had nothing to do with the commemorative efforts undertaken by the academy but was due to an external event outside the institution’s control.


[1] Histoire de l’Académie royale des inscriptions et belles-lettres, Vol. 5, Paris : Imprimerie royale 1729, title page: “depuis l’année M. DCCXVIII. jusques & compris l’année M. DCCXXV.”.

[2] Mémoires de litterature, tirés des registres de l’Académie royale des inscriptions et belles lettres, Vol. 2, Paris : Pancoucke 1722 [reprint], pp. 318-342, 343-360;  Mémoires de litterature, tirés des registres de l’Académie royale des inscriptions et belles lettres, Vol. 3, Paris : Pancoucke 1722 [reprint], pp. 152-184; 236-245.

[3] Histoire de l’Académie royale des inscriptions et belles-lettres, Vol. 16, Paris : Imprimerie royale 1751, p. 326.

[4] Histoire de l’Académie royale des inscriptions et belles-lettres, Vol. 16, Paris : Imprimerie royale 1751, p. 146, 148.

[5] De Boze, Histoire de l’Academie royale des inscriptions et belles-lettres depuis son etablissement, avec les eloges des academiciens morts depuis son renouvellement, vol. 2, pp. 188 – 222.

[6] De Boze, Histoire de l’Academie royale des inscriptions et belles-lettres depuis son etablissement, avec les eloges des academiciens morts depuis son renouvellement, vol. 1., p. 16, 45, 122, 128 ; vol. 3, p. 404, 451.

[7] Histoire de l’Académie royale des inscriptions et belles-lettres, Vol. 26, Paris : Imprimerie royale 1759, pp. 61, 581.

[8] Jean-Jacques Barthélemy: Réflexions sur l’alphabet et sur la langue dont on se servoir [sic] autrefois a Palmyre (12 Février 1754), in: Histoire de l’Académie royale des inscriptions et belles-lettres, Vol. 26, Paris: Imprimerie royale 1759, pp. 577–597.

[9] Cf. Histoire de l’Académie royale des inscriptions et belles-lettres, Vol., 45, Paris: Imprimerie Nationale 1793, p. 178, and Vol. 49, Paris: Imprimerie Impériale 1808, p. 106.

What’s a pupil worth?

Saturday, for Friday No.10, December 15th, 2018 (Holidays are coming and everything is getting complicated to schedule…)

I do not have touched upon one facet of scholar’s posthumous reputation yet, although it is commonly believed to possibly have a powerful influence upon it. And that ist he impact a scholar’s pupils can have on his or her memory.

The pupil hypothesis

The hypothesis behind this is quite simple. If you study with someone, who provides you the starting point for your own learning and perhaps even your career, you might be especially likely to keep that person not only in fond memory privately butalso to refer him or her professionally by quotation, citation or other forms of reference. This would then contribute to the overall reference frequency of the teacher. And you might even pass his or her theories, ideas, writings or whatever to your own pupils as a kind of intellectual legacy. At least this is what is commonly thought to be happening in the formation of intellectual communities, schools of thought, or scientific disciplines.

 As with all hypotheses this one also should be tested before being assumed too easily. Toput it to the test is unfortunately a bit tricky. The problem with it is that it has been drawn from the showcase examples. For those cases in which we areable to see such a pattern at work clearly are the successful ones, those that really did establish intellectual communities, schools of thought, or scientific disciplines and framed them as certain person’s legacies. They are present, powerful, and seem to indicate the value of the hypothesis because it is able to explain them. The question now should be, are these cases representing the standard against which all others should be measured, or are they exceptional? If they are exceptional, the patterns that formed them are likely to be exceptional, too. They should, therefore, only with care be applied to other cases as long as this possibility cannot be ruled out.

How to test this?

If I now want to test this hypothesis with my four protagonists which clearly do not represent successful showcases of establishing intellectual legacies, this raises a number of follow-up questions. The first and perhaps crucial of these is simply: Who is a pupil? Obviously not every student who ever heard a lecture by one of them should qualify for that. And also not every younger scholar who ever exchanged letters with one of them should do so. But if the source material is scarce anyway, how am I to determine the closer kind of relationship which would qualify as a teacher-pupil-relationship?

The second and third questions are not very much more easily solved either. For having identified someone as qualifying for a pupil in the sense of the hypothesis, I would have to determine his (in my cases there are no hers, unfortunately) overall impact; and then to single out from this impact his references to his teacher to be able to determine how much this particular individual contributed to the reference pattern.

I do not have very conclusive evidence to present yet (for two select cases see below) but from what I have seen so far I strongly suspect that for the average scholar, the impact of pupils is highly overrated by the standard hypothesis. It really does not seem to matter so much. But before I go into speculation about why that might be so, first let me present two very contrary examples which are completely non-representative but which may give you an idea what I am after here.

First: a forgotten scholar’s unknown pupil

In 1713 the Journal des Savants (issue 34/1713, August 21th) reviewed a scholarly commentary of some Hebrew texts, the Hilkōt maʿśerōt Seu Commentarius Philologicus De Decimis Judaeorum[1] by Johann Conrad Hottinger (1688?–1727?). The young author was characterized in this piece intwo ways: First, as he was himself kind enough to tell in the title of thereviewed book, he was a member of the Zürich Hottinger family of reputedscholars for all matters theological and oriental. It even detailed the precisenature of this connection: He was a nephew of Heinrich Hottinger (1647–1692) by being a son of Heinrich’s brother Conrad, most likely Johann Conrad Hottinger (1655–1730). This would make “our” Johann Conrad Hottinger the second of the name, and stemming from something like a sideline, as his father was none of the celebrated scholars of the name but a physician and numismat of lesser fame. That his uncle rather than his father was named as the reference point for the family connection on the title page of Johann Conrad the younger’s printed work would make perfect sense then. Second, and not directly forthcoming from the title of the work, Adrien Reland was referred to by the reviewer as “the young author’s teacher”.

Journal des Savants, 34/1713, August 21th, p. 450. 

It is always a bit risky to trust your sources too much but in this case there is no other evidence I yet know of contradicting this, so I trust the anonymous reviewer to have done his homework and to have known what he wrote. That a complimentary letter from Reland to the author was added to the work makes it an interpretation highly probable. So what I have here is a prime case fulfilling the hypothesis, at least on the face of it. There is a teacher-pupil-relationship in which the pupil uses the name and fame of his teacher to proliferate his writings, and by referring back to his teacher in return circulates his name. The problem is that this in all likelihood did not benefit Reland much, as the young Hottinger seems never to have made himself much of a name. It is quite hard to find any reliable information about him; even the larger catalogues have problems disambiguing him and his father. And even if one of his publications surely had the potential to be influential interms of circulating references to his “maitre”, the Journal “Altes und Neues aus der gelehrten Welt”, it seems to have been rather short-lived and not to have spread very far. So as a first preliminary conclusion from this case the hypothesis would have to be specified in that you may only expect substantial returns in terms of reference frequency from your pupils if they are either at least modestly successful themselves – so as to have an audience – or if they are very many (to compensate for little individual success).

Second: a famous pupil of two forgotten scholars?

Johannes Braun, professor of theology in Groningen and himself often busy with the exegesis of scriptural Hebrew, had many pupils of minor fame who later ventured to become predikanten in Dutch churches, an occupation for which a solid theological education was necessary. But there were also others among those who listened to his lectures. One of these, the young Albert Schultens (1686–1750) in 1706 defended a thesis on the utility of Arabic in the study of scripture presided over by Braun. In an age where the defended thesis often was acollaboration between president and respondent, this points to a rather close relationship, as does the theme. And moreover, Schultens afterwards relocated to Utrecht in 1707 to further study Arabic under Reland, living in his house. His first publication, the “Animadversiones philologicae in Jobum” is said to have been written under Reland’s direct guidance, and as Hottinger’s book also contained a letter to the author by Reland as a prelude – as well as a laudatory examination verdict by Johannes Braun and his colleague Paulus Hulsius (1653–1712). Now Schultens embarked on a very solid career, became an appreciated Orientalist and Arabist, and the founder of a dynasty of three generations of renowned Arabists. This, then, would be the ideal pupil for the hypothesis: Building on the knowledge inherited from his or her teachers an own career, becoming esteemed, and also creating a family tradition of proliferation of this intellectual legacy he or she should be perfectly able to carry on the name and fame of the teachers who had been instrumental in laying the foundations to these accomplishments.

Only that Schultens does not seem to have done so, at least not overly zealous. As far as I am able to determine at the moment. So even famous pupil might net you not much return for your own reference patterns in the end, perhaps – one more preliminary conclusion – because they are too much taken up by building their own reputation. 

But if neither minor nor major pupils really add to your reference patterns as the hypothesis supposes, who then does? Well, I don’t know yet, but I’ll going to try to find out.


[1] Johann Conrad Hottinger: Hilkōt maʿśerōt Seu Commentarius Philologicus De Decimis Judaeorum: Decem Exercitationibus absolutus. In quo omni, quae ad hanc materiam illustrandam pertinent, tum è Sacris Litteris, tum ipsis Judaeorum veterum monumentis explicantur, variaque alia Sacrarum Antiquitatum themata ex occasione tractantur. Auctore Joh. Conr. Hottingero, Henr. ex Conr. Nep. Helv. Tigurino. Praemittitur celeberimi viri Hadriani Relandi Epistola ad Auctorem. Cum Indicibus necessariis, Leiden: Isaac Severinus 1713.

What to do with a heap of old manuscripts?

From the letter of the conservatory of the Bibliothèque nationale to the minister of the interior, May 18th, 1798

Friday No. 7, November 16th, 2018

Close your eyes, and imagine that among your worldly possessions there is a heap of old manuscripts inherited from your maternal great-uncle who died almost 80 years ago. A rather large heap of old manuscripts, by the way. Now imagine that you belong to a noble lineage, and that you want to get rid of these manuscripts. Done? Good. Now imagine that you are negotiating a settlement between you and the national library about the destination of these writings. Still comfortable? Good. Now imagine that it is the year 6 of the French Republic, you are negotiating with the Directoire Government, and you are dead set to barter your manuscripts against books, not to sell them. Now I’ve overdone it, right?

Bartering for books, first round

But I haven’t. This is what actually happened in 1798/99. The family in question – that’s you! don’t forget to imagine – really had something extraordinary in their hands, as the director of the French national library stated:

“There is no person who doesn’t know the reputation the late Eusebe Renaudot enjoyed within the Republic of Letters. Equally accomplished in the knowledge of the most difficult and most ancient oriental languages and in the study of Greek and Latin, and moreover very apt in handling worldly affairs; this savant has left at his death a large collection of manuscript treatises other than the works published in his name during his lifetime; its existence was known throughout all of Learned Europe, and through succession it now has passed into the possession of the Menou family, related by marriage to that of Verneuil, the heir of Eusebe Renaudot.”[1]

The manuscripts in question were those of the abbé Eusèbe Renaudot (1646–1720), Oratorian, member of the Academie française and the Academie des Inscriptions since 1689, specialist for the early history of the Eastern churches and for languages such as Arabic and Aramaic. At his death, Renaudot had bequeathed his considerable library to the monastery of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, but a part of his collections – perhaps not really just “a small number which was of no use to them”[2] – had gone to the executor of his testament, his nephew Eusèbe Jacques Chaspoux de Verneuil (1695–1747), “Secrétaire de la chambre et du cabinet du Roi”, who was the son of Renaudot’s younger sister Anne-Claude Claire (1664–1720). Chaspoux de Verneuil had left the manuscripts to his son, Eusèbe Félix Chaspoux de Verneuil (1720-1791), and Eusèbe Félix in turn to his daughter Anne Michèle Isabelle Chaspoux de Verneuil (1751-1829) who had married René-Louis-Charles de Menou (1746-c.1820) in 1769. René-Louis-Charles’ father had been “Maréchal-de-champ” of Louis XV,[3] and his younger brother was the notorious Jacques-François Abdallah de Menou (1750–1810) who in 1798 was fighting with Napoleon in Egypt and would soon convert to Islam to marry an Egyptian woman. These were the “citoyens Menou” who now owned 94 of Eusèbe Renaudot’s manuscripts, and had offered them to the Bibliothèque nationale in exchange for printed books. They didn’t want money, they wanted books.  So they submitted a wish list to the director of the national library, but it turned out to be a bit more complicated than that.

Bartering for books, second round

The director of the Bibliothèque nationale was either not capable or not comfortable deciding such an issue on its own, and thus forwarded the request to the minister of the interior, who already six days later approved of the exchange.[4] But now it happened to be the case that the books the citoyens Menou had wished for were not all found in the “dépôts littéraires”, and the negotiations entered a second stage. Because, as the next report to the minister of the interior stated on June 1st, 1798, “The curators of manuscripts at the Bibliothèque nationale have thoroughly examined this collection and found it to be of major importance and utility“,[5] he was urgently advised to stay with his decision to approve of the exchange nevertheless and to let the citoyens Menou make another selection from the holdings of the “dépôts littéraires”. Only that finding another suitable set of books for the exchange seems to have been somewhat more difficult than thought of. It took its time at least. When the conservatory of the Bibliothèque nationale addressed the issue to the minister the next time, half a year had gone by.[6]

Bartering for books, final round

This time, everything seemed settled. The Menous had taken a good look around the depots, had made their list, and the conservatory reported to the minister: “See the list of books the Menou family wishes for: to us they seem acceptable given the material and immaterial worth of the manuscripts.”[7] Now this is indeed interesting because it gives a hint as to how highly the librarians really thought of the manuscripts and their value. What could one get for 94 Renaudot autographs? Well, here’s the list (the links point you to the edition I established as the most probable one to have been meant here):

“Livres demandés pour le Citoyen françois Menou, en Echange des Manuscrits d’Eusebe Renaudot qu’il a remis à la Bibliothéque [sic] Nationale.

Taken together this amounts to 106 volumes in duodecimo; 107 volumes in octavo; and 19 volumes in quarto. Or 232 printed books altogether. Quite impressive I think. It’s amazing what the memory of a long-dead great-uncle can do for you if you want to clean up the house.

I might add that something is clearly wrong with my working strategy: I spent one and a half hour in the archive on the sources, another hour transcribing those documents I photographed, and then more than four hours this morning in identifying those damned editions. And I didn’t even get them all right!


[1] Archives Nationales, Paris, F/17/3468-I, Acquisitions de l’an IV à 1830, an VII: Acquisition des manuscrits d’Eusebe Renaudot. Capperonier to the minister of the interior, 23. Floreal an VI (May 12th, 1798), p.1.

[2] C. Detlef G. Müller: Renaudot, Eusèbe, in: Bautz, Traugott (ed.): Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon, Vol. 8, Hamm: Bautz 1994, col. 34-44, online version: http://www.bautz.de/bbkl/r/renaudot_e.shtml (11/16/2018): „Eine kleine, für sie nicht brauchbare Anzahl erhielt der Neffe, Herr Verneuil.“

[3] François-Alexandre Aubert de La Chesnaye Des Bois: Dictionnaire de la noblesse, 2nd ed., vol. 10, Paris: Antoine Baudet 1775, p. 46.

[4] Archives Nationales, Paris, F/17/3468-I, Acquisitions de l’an IV à 1830, an VII: Acquisition des manuscrits d’Eusebe Renaudot. Ministre de l’Interieur to the Conservateur de la bibliothèque Nationale, 29. Floreal an 6 (May 18th, 1798).

[5] Archives Nationales, Paris, F/17/3468-I, Acquisitions de l’an IV à 1830, an VII: Acquisition des manuscrits d’Eusebe Renaudot. Rapport présenté au minister a l’interieur, 13. Prairial an 6 (June 1st, 1798): “Les Conservateurs des manuscrits de la Bibliotheque nationale ont éxaminé attentivement cette collection et l’ont trouvée d’une importance et d’une utilité majeure […].”

[6] Archives Nationales, Paris, F/17/3468-I, Acquisitions de l’an IV à 1830, an VII: Acquisition des manuscrits d’Eusebe Renaudot. Conservatoire de la bibliothèque nationale to the ministre de l’interieur, 12. Frimaire an 7 (December 2nd, 1798).

[7] Ibid.

[8] Obviously not the complete edition which was 70 volumes in total.

[9] The only Buffon edition approximately matching this number was the edition linked to, but that is slightly at odds with its printing date. Of course it might be that the books in being rebound had been split, and the original number of volumes was smaller. Anyone a good idea?

[10] Only a selection of the original edition which totalled 125 volumes.

[11] I must confess I don’t know what this is. The only publication Gaillard dedicated to Charles V I have been able to find was the linked “Eloge of 1767, but this is not likely to have been bound as six separate volumes.

[12] Archives Nationales, Paris, F/17/3468-I, Acquisitions de l’an IV à 1830, an VII: Acquisition des manuscrits d’Eusebe Renaudot. Conservatoire de la bibliothèque nationale to the ministre de l’interieur, 12. Frimaire an 7 (December 2nd, 1798).

Due praise, due forgetting?

“IT is therefore the Privilege of Posterity to adjust the Characters of Illustrious Persons, and to set matters right beween those Antagonists who by their Rivalry for Greatness divided a whole Age into Factions. We can now allow Caesar to be a great Man, without derogating from Pompey; and celebrate the Virtues of Cato, without detracting from those of Caesar. Every one that has been long dead has a due Proportion of Praise allotted him, in which whilst he lived his Friends were too profuse and his Enemies too sparing.”[1]

Nicely said. And placing a huge responsibility on those who judge, by the way. But is it really true in the end? And have those who have not been thus handed down to us as illustrious just been weighed and found wanting (as the quote seems to suggest)? Which are the factors at work in this presumed grand arbitration? And does it not only hold for politics but also for learning itself – who judges the judges? How does the academic world select who is remembered, and how, and who is not? In short, what about forgotten scholars?

A large bundle of questions which I will explore a bit further on this blog. Each friday from now on, so don’t forget to drop by!

More about the project: See About!

[1] The Spectator, 2, 1713, No. 101 (26 June 1713), p. 104.