BARCLAY, Robert (1648-1690). Theologiae ver Christianae Apologia. Amsterdam: Jacob Claus for Benjamin Clark (London), Isaac van Neer (Rotterdam), and Heinrich Betke (Frankfurt), 1676.
4o (208 x 162 mm). Collation: *-***4 A2 B-Z4 Aa-Zz4 Aaa-Ddd4 Eee2. 212 leaves. Half-title, final errata leaf. Contemporary English dark blue morocco, covers tooled in blind and gold to a triple-panel design, spine in seven compartments, red morocco lettering-piece in the second, the remainder gold-tooled, board edges and turn-ins gilt, gilt edges (minor scuffing to joints and extremities). Provenance: Princes Georg-Adam and Ludwig Starhemberg (inkstamp, sale Cologne, 16 September 1956, lot 941).
RARE FIRST EDITION OF THE CLASSIC EXPOSITION OF THE QUAKER PHILOSOPHY. Following the foundation of the Society of Friends by George Fox in 1647, its adherents issued a large body of polemical pamphlets and tracts, most of negligible literary merit. Barclay, the descendant of an ancient Scottish family, possessed "a degree of learning and logical skill very unusual amongst the early quakers" (DNB), and was the first to rationally set forth the tenets of the Society. In 1675 he published his Theses theologiae, a series of 15 propositions spelling out quaker beliefs. The Apologia, which Barclay had printed in Amsterdam during a period of travel or voluntary exile, is a reasoned defence of each of the 15 theses set forth in the earlier work. As expressed by Barclay, the essential principle of the quaker philosophy is that each human being possesses an "inner light", by which the soul perceives the truth of divine revelation; it follows from this that outward ceremonies and sacraments are irrelevant. Barclay's "recognition of a divine light working in men of all creeds harmonises with the doctrine of toleration, which he advocates with great force and without the restrictions common in his time" (DNB). "One of the most impressive theological writings of the century" (ibid.), the work remains remarkable for the clarity and logic of its exposition. It was first published in English in 1678, widely translated, and is still in print.
This original Latin edition, of which no copies have appeared at auction since the mid-1950s, was undoubtedly printed in a very small number. Copies of the work were sent in February 1678 to each of the ambassadors at the peace congress of Nijmegen; the present large, attractive copy appears to have been bound for presentation, and may have been one of them. Wing B-736A.