Calmet defined a vampire as a person who had been dead and buried and then returned from the grave to disturb the living by sucking their blood and even causing death. The only remedy for vampirism was to dig up the body of the vampire and either sever its head and drive a stake through the chest or burn the body.
Dissertations sur les apparitions des anges, des démons et des esprits. English
Using that definition, Calmet collected as many accounts of vampirism as possible from official reports, newspapers, eyewitness reports, travelogues, and critical pieces from his learned colleagues. The majority of space in his published volume was taken up with the anthology of all his collected data. Calmet then offered his reflections upon the reports. He condemned the hysteria that followed several of the reported incidents of vampirism and seconded the Sorbonne's condemnation of the mutilation of exhumed bodies.
He considered all of the explanations that had been offered to explain the phenomena, from the effects of regional folklore, to normal but little-known body changes after death, to premature burial. He focused a critical eye upon the reports and pointed out problems and internal inconsistencies. In the end, however, Calmet was unable to reach a conclusion beyond the various natural explanations that had been offered.
Calmet's book became a best-seller. It went through three French printings, in , , and It appeared in a German edition in and in an English edition in reprinted in as The Phantom World. Calmet was immediately attacked by colleagues for taking the vampire stories seriously.
Although he tried to apply such critical methods as he had available to him, he never really questioned the legitimacy of the reports of vampiric manifestations. As the controversy swelled following publication of his book, coupled by a new outbreak of vampirism reported in Silesia, a skeptical Empress Maria Theresa stepped in.
She dispatched her personal physician to investigate. He wrote a report denouncing the incident as supernatural quackery and condemned the mutilation of the bodies. In response, in and Maria Theresa issued laws to stop the spread of vampire hysteria, including removing the matter of dealing with such reports from the hands of the clergy and placing it, instead, under civil authority. Maria Theresa's edicts came just before Calmet's death on October 25, In the generation after his death, Calmet was treated harshly by French intellectuals, both inside and outside the church.
Later in the century, Diderot condemned him.
Augustin Calmet. Dissertations Sur Les Apparitions Des Anges, des | Lot # | Heritage Auctions
Possibly the final word on Calmet came from Voltaire, who sarcastically ridiculed him in his Philosophical Dictionary. Although Calmet was favorably cited by Montague Summers, who used him as a major source for his study of vampires, his importance lay in his reprinting and preserving some of the now obscure texts of the vampire wave of eighteenth-century Europe.
Démons, merveilles et philosophie à l'Âge classique
Calmet's work was especially noteworthy as he gathered togeter as many accounts of vampirism as he could find, from all manner of sources. At the time there had been a surge of vampire reports from Germany and eastern Europe, and the phenomenon, which was all but unknown in France, was the subject of much curiosity and discussion. As described by J.
Gordon Mellon: Calmet was impressed with the detail and corroborative testimonies of incidents of vampirism coming out of eastern Europe and believed that it was unreasonable to simply dismiss them.
In addition, as a theologian, he recognized that the existence and actions of such blood-sucking revenants could have an important bearing on various theological conclusions concerning the nature of the afterlife. Calmet felt it necessary to establish the veracity of such reports and to understand the phenomena in light of the church's world view. Calmet defined a vampire as a person who had been dead and buried and then returned from the grave to disturb the living by sucking their blood and even causing death. The only remedy for vampirism was to dig up the body of the reported vampire and either sever its head and drive a stake through the chest or burn the body.
Using that definition, Calmet collected as many accounts of vampirism as possible from official reports, newspapers, eyewitness reports, travelogues, and critical pieces from his learned colleagues. The majority of space in his published volume was taken up with the anthology of all his collected data Calmet then offered his reflections upon the reports.
The importance of Calmet's work was subsequently recognised by Montague Summers, who used it as major source for his own works From the collection of Dr. Coleman, with his ex-libris seals blind-stamped on the front free endpapers. Cloth a bit rubbed overall, spine ends and corners lightly bumped and rubbed, spines a bit darkened with some chafing at ends and fading to lettering, endpapers lightly discoloured, a little light toning and creasing and some scattered spots of browning but still remarkably fresh and clean internally. Overall a tight, clean VG set of this scarce edition.
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