Henry Schelte, Amsterdam, vol. 1, 1703; vol. 5, 1705; vol. 27, 1713.
Binding: 8 x 14.5 x 2cm. Bound in calf, banded spines, four gilt florets on spine and two coloured compartments for title and volume numbers. Marbled endpapers and paper edges.
Jean Le Clerc (Johannes Clericus) (1657 – 1736) was a leading Swiss Biblical scholar and theologian in his day. He promoted radical Reformation ideas, questioning the doctrine of the Trinity and the divine inspiration of the Bible. In 1684 he settled in Amsterdam, owing to the relatively liberal religious atmosphere there, and became professor of belles-lettres, philosphy and Hebrew in the Remonstrant seminary.
Le Clerc’s approach to hermeneutics – the interpretation of biblical texts – led to major advances in the techniques of textual criticism, although he is best-known for the series of literary journals he edited. These are the Bibliothèque Universelle et historique (Amsterdam, 25 vols, 1686-1703), the Bibliothèque Choisie (Amsterdam, 28 vols, 1703-1713) (three volumes of which are the current books), and the Bibliothèque Ancienne et Moderne, (29 vols, 1714-1726). The Bibliothèque Choisie, while ostensibly encyclopedic in scope, focuses primarily on philosphical and theological issues, engaging with figures like Bayle, John Locke and Hogo Grotius.
The books are beautifully presented, and the title pages are all subtly different, with different elements rubricated in the different volumes, although the basic design and the woodcut remain the same throughout. The contents are also laid out differently, with the later volume opening with a table of contents and lacking a preface. Henry Schelte (spelt ‘Henri’ by 1713) specialised in publishing books in French for the Protestant market, a key element of the Dutch printing trade at the time.