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Pierre Bayle on religious toleration

Ce que c’est que la France toute catholique, sous le règne de Louis le Grand. A S. Omer: chez Jean Pierre, 1686. 12mo, [iv], 128 pp., beautiful mid-19th-century half red morocco binding signed by Bourlier, marbled edges and endpapers, neat early inscription on front free endpaper 'Cet ouvrage est attribué à P. Bayle', bottom few millimetres of the final 15 leaves expertly re-margined, a fine copy of an extremely scarce book.

First edition of this incendiary anti-Catholic work, Bayle’s first publication following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes the previous year. Later in 1686 Bayle published his famous set of arguments for religious toleration, Commentaire philosophique sur ces paroles de Jésus-Christ: Contrains-les d’entrer. Rarer even than the Commentaire philosophique, the present work foreshadows much of its subject matter (notably the cruelties involved in forced conversions) though in a less reasoned and more embittered tone, probably because Bayle’s elder brother Jacob had just died in prison following persecution by the religious authorities. The text takes the form of three letters, introduced to the reader by the publisher thus: ‘La 1. est la lettre d’un Ecclésiastique de France à un Hugenot qui s’est rétiré à Londres, dans laquelle on le prie de dire son sentiment sur la seconde piéce [100 pp.], qui est un Libelle violent écrit au dit Ecclésiastique, par un autre Réfugié. La 3. piéce est la réponse faite à l’Ecclésiastique par le Hugenot, auquel il avoit ecrit’. WorldCat locates only six copies in the Netherlands, six in the US and one at the British Library.

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