First edition in two volumes of Vallemont’s occultist analysis of divination through dowsing, a practice banned by the Catholic Church – Paris – 1693
VALLEMONT, Pierre Le Lorrain de. La physique occulte ou traitè de la baguette divinatoire, et de son utilitè pour la decouvert des sources d’ eau, des manières, des tresors cachez, des voleurs et des meurtriers fugitifs. Avec des principes qui expliquent les phenomènes les plus obsurs de la nature.
Paris: Jean Anisson, 1693
First edition in two volumes of Vallemont’s occultist analysis of divination through dowsing, a practice banned by the Catholic Church. In contemporary calf bindings.
1, Ex libris of Francois-Micherl de Verthamon, advertiser to the Parliament of Paris and first president of the Grand Council.
2, Louis Pierre Gratiolet ( 1815-1865), was a French anatomist, anthropologist and zoologist. He is a founding member of the Société d’anthropologie and professor of zoology at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Paris.
3, coat of arms is not identified.
15,5 x 9 cm
Pierre Le Lorrain de Vallemont (1649-1721) was a French abbot with an inquisitive mind inclined for natural philosophy and occult occurrences. The practice of Dowsing employed a divining rod consisting of a Y shaped rod or twig of hazel, which would be held horizontally and slowly moved from place to place and expected to twitch when locating underground bodies of water or metal. In this treatise, Vallemont attempts to explain the phenomenon through rational mechanical physics. His work was heavily based on the experiences of Jacques Aymar (c.1662) and his extensive interviews with him.
Aymar was a stonemason who popularized the practice in France, having claimed to have found springs and criminals through the use of his baguette. When, in 1692, a wine merchant of Lyon and his wife were murdered, he was called to use divination to find the criminal. Using his divining rod, he reconstructed the crime scene and accused a young hunchback, who was executed.
Vallemont’s analysis of the rod’s working mechanisms dismisses earlier claims of natural magic or sympathies, following the mechanical philosophy of René Descartes. Presenting the instrument as a particle detector instead of a magical instrument, La physique occulte was a widely popular book in the late 17th and 18th centuries, that went through many subsequent publications.
References: BM STC French, 1601-1700 p.305 8632.b.3.