The Reading Room

John Toland’s Tetradymus: From the Liberty Fund Rare Book Room

One of the great joys of working at Liberty Fund, and of working with our websites, in particular, is the chance to learn about so many new things. Without Walter Donway's recent posts on the Irish Enlightenment--and about John Toland in particular--I would never have noticed this small volume from the Hamburger collection.
The book is a first edition of John Toland's Tetradymus. For the sheer joy of it, it is worth sharing the book's full title, which is as follows:
Tetradymus. Containing I. Hodegus; or the Pillar of Cloud and Fire, that guided Israelites in the Wilderness, not Miraculous: but, as faithfully related in Exodus, a thing equally practis'd by other nations, and in those places no onely useful but necessary. II. Clidophorus; or of the Exoteric and Esoteric Philosophy, that is, of the External and Internal Doctrine of the Antients: the one open and public, accommodated to popular Prejudices and establish'd Religions; the other private and secret, wherein, to the few capable and discrete, was taught the real Truth stript of all disguises. III. Hypatia; or the history of a most beautiful, most virtuous, most learned, and Every Way Accomplish'd Lady; who was torn to pieces by the Clergy of Alexandria, to gratify the pride, emulation, and cruelty of their Archbishop Cyril, commonly but undeservedly stil'd Saint Cyril. IV. Mangoneutes: being a Defense of Nazarenus, address'd to the right reverend John lord Bishop of London; against his Lordship's Chaplain Dr. Mangey, his Dedicator Mr. Patterson, and (who ought to have been nam'd first) the reverend Dr. Brett, once belonging to his Lordship's Church.
It's a glorious summary of the text inside, and while I confess to not having read it, I'm now eager to discover the sort of venom that Toland is clearly preparing to sling at Drs. Mangey and Brett, not to mention Mr. Patterson. What can they possibly have done? The red ink used in the printing makes for an exciting and eye-catching title page. It also suggests that the publisher may have expected the book to sell well, a two color printed was something of a luxury in the period.

The book's Hebrew tag, which translates as "I will express riddles from the days of yore" (Ps 78:2) probably refers to the book's first essay, which seeks to explain biblical miracles through reason rather than faith. It's a topic that undoubtedly would have appealed to many of Toland's Enlightenment readers and shocked many others. Either way, I suspect it was a book you'd have wanted to get your hands on.Speaking of getting your hands on books, it's probably worth mentioning that it is possible to apply to be a reader at the Liberty Fund library. You can come have a look at Toland, or anything else you like. See below for a link to the application.