Monday, 3 August 2009

D. A. Calmet

Dom Calmet was interested in vampires from the beginning. In Dom Augustion Calmet: Un itinéraire intellectuel, Gilles Banderier reprints some unpublished letters that documents Calmet's interest in obtaining information on vampires. One of them is dated April 19 1732:

Je me suis mépris en vous demandant le 1. tome du
Glaneur. Ce n'est pas dans ce tome où parle des vampires. C'est apparemment dans le suivant, que je vous supplie de me faire tenir par le reverend Prieur de Mesnil.
Je suis dans le plus parfait respect Monseigneur
Votre treshumble et tres obeissant
Ce 19. avril
serviteur D. A. Calmet
P.S. J'ay veu les livres que vous nous avez envoiez. Mais il y en a bon nombre que nous avions déjà. Nous les renvoirons lorsque nous aurons recu ceux que vous nous destinez encore.'

Calmet was interested in reading the French translation of the Visum et Repertum printed in the Glaneur, a translation sent by the French ambassador in Vienna, Bussy, to Paris in February 1732.

More on the genesis of the Dissertation can be found in another paper by Banderier, which can be found online: (Ir)rationalité des vampires? À propos du Traité sur les apparitions ... de dom Augustin Calmet, which also includes the original French text of Gerard van Swieten's text on vampires as an appendix.

Banderier is also the editor of this recent edition of a contemporary commentary on Calmet's Dissertation:
Réflexions sur le Traité des Apparitions de dom Calmet by dom Ildefonse Cathelinot.

Which reminds me that I once wrote that it would be very nice and useful is someone published an annotated and critical edition of Calmet's work. The work by Banderier and others shows that there it could become a very interesting edition.

In the meantime, collectors with adequate resources may consider this third edition of the German translation of Calmet's work from 1757, at sale for $1.999.


Anonymous said...

Off-topic, but I thought you might be interested in this article about the discovery, at the site of an ancient (c. 12th century) city in the Mississippi Delta, of mass burial sites of what archaeologists believe were human sacrifical victims. Musing, I find myself connecting the historical phenomena of human sacrifice and reports of vampirism. The idea of human sacrifice is to kill the victim, bury it once and for all, so that the victor (the living) gains power and prevails. The victor's hegemony is ensured only if the thus-sacrificed dead remain dead. The idea of vampires is like a mirror image - what if the sacrificed victim *doesn't* remain dead, comes back to life? The dead rise from the grave - and from the point of view of those whose power is now challenged, must be put back in - stake through the heart, etc.

I feel quite inarticulate about all this (apologies!), which is perhaps the nature of these interlocking, hall-of-mirrors-like metaphors. Because to kill a sacrificial victim is a vampiric act in itself, a barbaric assertion of power, and then the innocent (dead) victim is demonized if it rises again (asserts power). So much of human nature and human history can be explained with these dual concepts - disturbingly, to this very day.

Anonymous said...

A critical edition of the first part of the Traité des Apparitions by dom Calmet is in progress.


Dr Gilles C. Banderier

Niels K. Petersen said...

Thank you for the great news!

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