The Faith of a Skeptic

Michael Screech’s book on Montaigne is, as one would expect, intelligent, clear, very well-informed, and most illuminating. His wide first-hand knowledge of sixteenth-century literature, French, Latin, and English enables him to give this extremely difficult author the necessary intellectual background; for, as I argued long ago in this journal, only …

Which Side Was Rabelais On?

The original version of this book was first published in 1942 (there were reprints in 1947 and 1962). It was primarily a polemical work directed against the interpretation of Rabelais as a militant anti-Christian atheist that had been put forward by Abel Lefranc in his introduction to Pantagruel in 1922.

Closet Believers

The Family of Love was a mystical sect or society founded in about 1540 by a wealthy German merchant, Hendrik Niclaes. It was Nicodemite, that is to say, systematically secret, encouraging its members to conform outwardly to whatever religion prevailed around them. It aimed at a personal inward religion for …

Laugh-in with Rabelais

GĂ©rard Defaux, in his Pantagruel et les sophistes (1973), announced that the study of Rabelais now has its “querelle des anciens et des modernes.” By this he means a quarrel between the Ancients who follow the traditional method of interpreting texts by bringing to bear on them as much relevant …

The Power of the Press

This is a good and important book, and, in spite of its formidable length, the author’s clear and forceful style makes it a pleasure to read. Given the huge literature on the history of printing, especially in its early stages, it may seem surprising that there should be room for …

Mystery in History

I must begin this review with an apology. Being unable to read Hebrew and Aramaic, I have no firsthand knowledge of the main sources of professor Scholem’s book; indeed what little acquaintance I have with Jewish religious thought comes almost entirely from his other works, supported by some reading of …

A Secret Conspiracy Exposed!

The meaning of the term “Nicodemism” is briefly explained in the subtitle of Carlo Ginzburg’s book, namely, religious simulation and dissimulation; a Nicodemite is someone who conceals his own religious convictions, while outwardly conforming to the dominant religion of his country. The origin of the term is the title of …

The Pope’s Horoscope

This book consists of essays, articles, and lectures written by Giorgio de Santillana during the last twelve years, nearly all of them already published in various journals and collective works. I am heartily in favor of this practice. So much valuable work is otherwise effectively buried in periodicals, Fest-schriften, etc.

System Builders

The first of these books traces the history of the answers given to three questions, namely: Is the earth, which is obviously a fit environment for man and other organic life, a purposefully made creation? Have its climates, its relief, the configuration of its continents influenced the moral and social …

Subversive Activities

In the last few years a large number of books on Pierre Bayle have appeared. Most of them are of a high quality, and deserve far more space than I can give them here. All of them are based on an interpretation of Bayle’s intentions opposite to that which has, …

Moonshine

There is every reason to welcome English translations of any of Kepler’s works, and in particular of his Somnium seu Opus posthumum de Astronomia Lunari (1634), which is not even available in the critical edition of Kepler’s works by Max Caspar and others, but only in the nineteenth-century edition of …

The Originality of Montaigne

Everyone interested in Montaigne will welcome the appearance of a detailed, reliable, and up-to-date biography of him. Up till now we have still had to go back to Bonnefon’s Lives of 1893 and 1898, and laboriously supplement them with later books and articles. Professor Frame’s biography is written in a …

The Old Black Magic

This book has many virtues not common in the large literature on witchcraft: the author is evidently not himself a magician; it contains much historical information, some of it hitherto little known, in a small space; it is sane and objective. On the other hand, it has what seem to …