Boston: Tichnor and Fields, 1864. First American edition. 12 mo. (7 1/8 inches tall), blind-stamped boards with gilt spine, coated endpapers, all edges red. Early owner signature to upper title page, faint toning to spine, slight wear to corners and spine ends with very short tear to upper spine. Now housed in a custom clamshell box. A nearly-fine copy. Item #1334
"THUS JESUS CHRIST, WHO DOETH GOOD AGAINST EVIL, IS OUR VERY MOTHER"
First American edition detailing the mystical revelations of Mother Juliana, an Anchorete of medieval Norwich. Thought to be the earliest surviving example of a book written by a woman in English, the Sixteen Revelations is also the earliest surviving work written by an English anchorite or anchoress. An uncommon Victorian edition including Father Isaac Hecker's introduction to Julian of Norwich for American readers.
The late fourteenth-century witnessed a "proliferation of new forms of religious expression. Much of the new spirituality emerged from lay people aspiring to lives of holiness outside of conventual religious orders. The yearning for a personal, experiential faith contributed to a flowering of nonmonastic Christian mysticism" (Robert Ellsberg). The Revelations of Divine Love describes the sixteen visions or "shewings" Mother Juliana received in 1373 (when she was in her thirties). Much of what we know about the mysterious Julian comes from the first copyist of the manuscript: "Here is a vision shewn by the goodness of God to a devout woman whose name is Julian. She is a recluse at Norwich and is living yet in this year of our Lord 1413." Despite the relative anonymity of Julian's life history, the details of the revelations are quite clear. Julian was ill with fever when "suddenly the revelations began, it was four o'clock on the morning of May 8, 1373 when the revelatory experiences began, and three in the afternoon when they ended" (Frank Magill).
A confessor for the English nuns at Cambrai, Serenus de Cressy published a translation of the Paris manuscript (probably in England) in 1670. Cressy's book was later reprinted in 1843 by George Parker, in an edition which included biographical details about Cressy, and a detailed glossary. Shortly after founding the Society of Missionary Priests of St. Paul the Apostle (now called the Paulist Fathers), the convert and priest Isaac Hecker reprinted Cressy's book in 1864, introducing Mother Julian to an American audience. Hecker's brief Preface to the Present Edition (dated, "I. T. Hecker / New York, September, 1863"), describes this book as "showing what hearts beat in English cloisters in the olden time, and how sweetly the voice of piety sounded in our good old Saxon tongue." Julian clearly resonates with the modern reader: "There are many themes in Julian's writings that speak directly to the heart of contemporary spirituality. Among these is her frequent recourse to the feminine images of God. Jesus, she says, is our true Mother, who bears us in the womb of his love and nourishes us with his own flesh" (Robert Ellsberg). Robert Ellsberg. All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses in Our Time. Frank Magill. Masterpieces of Christian Literature.