London: Constable, 1936. First edition. 12 mo. (7 3/4 inches tall), original blue cloth, original illustrated dust jacket, original glassine wrapper. Mild spotting to the fore-edge of nearly fine book, very scarce original glassine wrapper worn and chipped but complete. A near-fine copy. Item #976
"THESE MEN, BY THE VERY EXAGGERATION OF THEIR LIVES, STAMPED INFINITY ON THE IMAGINATION OF THE WEST" First edition of Helen Waddell's lives and sayings of the early Christian anchorites of the Egyptian desert—a beautiful copy complete with the original dust jacket and glassine wrapper. Perhaps best known for her novel Peter Abelard (1933), the Irish medievalist's selections are 'Englished' from the Latin translations of the mostly Greek original texts. Waddell describes a fundamental truth in these ten chapters: "solitude is the creative condition of genius." A collection of Waddell's end Notes crediting her primary source—the second revised edition of the Dutch Jesuit Heribert Rosweyde's massive Vitae Patrum (Antwerp 1628)—follows the text. The Desert Fathers was issued with a printed title page and illustrated with a second architectural title taken from Rosweyde's first edition. With Waddell's brief Preface (dated, "Primrose Hill April 1936") and a lengthy and valuable Introduction (in two parts) discussing the spiritual legacy of the men, and women, who followed the call into the Desert: "Yet one intellectual concept they did give to Europe: eternity. Here again they do not formulate it: they embody it. These men, by the very exaggeration of their lives, stamped infinity on the imagination of the West."