More Rare Books: Apostolic Fathers

While we’re on the subject of rare books… another book I needed to hunt down—this time for Josiah—was an 18th century edition of the letters of Saints Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, and Polycarp of Smyrna, all first and second century Christian bishops.

For a variety of reasons, religious matters interest Josiah, to the point that he’s something of an armchair theologian. Like most Bostonians at the time, he’s a Congregationalist, but he has a lot of questions. And he’s not one to accept another’s say-so with having first examining matters himself.

Such things run in Josiah’s blood; he’s the grandson of a minister. And thanks to the father of my main character, he received a private education that included the study of Latin. In the 18th century, knowing Latin opened intellectual doors: most everything worth reading could be read in Latin. And Josiah has a knack for languages.

Following the Reformation, theologians were increasingly interested in the writings of the early Church Fathers, as the differing Christian factions sought to establish themselves against Catholicism. The argument was that the Catholic Church has veered from its apostolic moorings and needed to be purged of its accumulated trappings. (Disclosure: I’m a practicing Catholic.)

Being married to a theologian and patristics scholar, I knew that if my character was going to read the Church Fathers, then I had better find the actual book, double-check its contents, and come up with a plausible account for how my character acquires said book. Not the easiest task! Fortunately, Josiah is an officer on a merchant ship, and with that comes mobility. When one travels the world, one is more likely to find things that other people wouldn’t.

What I found was this:

Bibliotheca Patrum ApostolicorumLibrary of the Apostolic Fathers

Once again, hat tip to Google Books.

This edition was edited by a Lutheran divine name Littig, who published the volume in Leipzig in 1699. It includes an opening essay by Professor Littig, followed by the letters of Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp in both the original Greek and Latin translation on facing pages.

A rare book, indeed! And when Josiah finds it in a Savannah, Georgia bookshop owned by a grumpy French ex-pat, he knows that this is the book he wants!

But will he manage to haggle his way to a bargain? When that surly Frenchman knows exactly what kind book he has, beyond a shadow of a doubt?

Good luck, son. Good luck.

Story Research: Current Go-To Books on the Bookshelf

I love perusing other people’s bookshelves. Don’t you?

As a historical fiction writer, I spend much of my time doing research. Below is a sampling of the books currently sitting on my bookshelf. Have fun browsing!

Bulfinch’s Boston, 1787-1817
by Harold and James Kirker
Oxford University Press, 1964

This book provides a charming, if somewhat biased, view into Federalist Boston through the lens of Charles Bulfinch, the famous Boston architect. Reading it, I feel as if I am walking the same streets as the characters of my story.

The Reshaping of Everyday Life, 1790-1840
(Everyday Life in America series)
by Jack Larkin
Harper & Row, 1988

Larkin covers nearly every aspect of early American daily life in this comprehensive social history.

The American Heritage History of the Making of the Nation, 1783-1860
Ralph K. Andrist, series editor
American Heritage/Bonanza Books, 1968

Coffee table books have their uses! A helpful historical survey.

Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century
The Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute

Another coffee table book, and gorgeous, too! The Kyoto collection is online, but nothing beats seeing large, glossy spreads and close-ups of historical fashions. All the details!

The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking
by Lauren Stowell and Abby Cox
Page Street Publishing, 2017

My main character is a mantua-maker (dressmaker). I am not. My story could not have been written without this book. I reference it constantly.

America and the Sea: A Maritime History
by Benjamin W. Labaree, et al
Mystic Seaport Museum

And my other main character is a merchant seaman. Another book I couldn’t do without!

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