Paris, chez Antoine Vitré, 1643.
4to [245 x 176 mm] of (90) ll., 790 pp., (1) l. of errata. A few browning and waterstains, ex-libris formerly scratched on the title. Bound in full contemporary limp vellum, flat spine. Contemporary binding.
First edition of “the work that established le Grand Arnauld’s reputation” (Rahir, La Bibliothèque de l’amateur, n°1222). Graesse, Trésor de livres rares, p. 45; Brunet, I, 489.
“Five editions of this work were published between 1643 and 1644, and another one in 1649.” (Brunet)
“A social invitation is at the origin of this work meant to become the bedside book of all everyone who wanted to get rid of social niceties. One day, Madame de Sablé urges her friend, Madame de Guéméné, to come with her at the ball. This one refuses shyly: she received Communion this very morning, and her confessor strictly forbade her to associate the company of both the Holy Table and the dance parquet floor. We shouldn’t be surprised to learn that this severe guide was no one else but M. de Saint-Cyran. It was Madame de Sablé’s turn to be worried; she adresses her doubts to her own director with in attachment the Rules written by Saint-Cyran for his penitent: this director happens to be a Jesuit, F. de Sesmaisons. This is too good an occasion not to get it over with. Sesmaisons, with two fellow members, Fathers Bauni and Rabardeau, produces in his turn a document undermining point by point Saint-Cyran’s text. In this closed circle that is the devout world, nothing remains a secret. Barely written, the text, thanks to Madame de Guéméné’s good offices, is in Arnauld’s hands. Quesnel reports his reaction: ‘This refutation being in Mr. Arnauld’s hands, he found so many things opposed to the doctrine of the Fathers & to the Church Tradition & in the mean time so pernicious towards the salvation of the souls, that he felt obliged to respond, in order not to let the mistake of the truth triumph.’” La querelle janséniste extra muros, Raymond Baustert.
This synthesis of Arnauld’s spiritual doctrine was a considerable success, and his author became the initiator and the spokesperson of Jansenism in France.
It is the most famous and most read work of le Grand Arnauld (1612-1694): its publication, in 1643, created immediate and violent controversies; despite the successive bannings, it kept being printed and meditated. This treatise placed his author at the head of the Jansenist movement and provoked the Jesuits hatred who schemed to have him imprisoned.
“The book of ‘la fréquente communion’ was published in 1643 with the approvals of sixteen archbishops and bishops of France, and of twenty-four Sorbonne’s doctors. Since its publication, this work aroused very strong complaints. It was denounced in Rome.” (Diderot, Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné, 1753, III, pp. 733-737).
A very pure and beautiful copy, with wide-margins, preserved in its contemporary limp vellum binding.
No copy has been on the public market since the beginning of the reports 40 years ago.