8vo (151 x 93 mm). Collation: *8 **4 e8 A-S8 (S8 blank). , 266,  pp. Roman and italic types, shoulder notes. 16 engraved illustrations including title vignette, one plate and 14 three-quarter-page or full-page engravings printed in text quires, by Adriaen Collaert, the engraving on p. 242 signed by him; three engravings are corrections mounted over the original engravings (pp. 4, 17 & 28). Lightly washed, but a fine copy, with excellent, dark impressions of the engravings. Late 19th-century Jansenist brown morocco, turn-ins gilt, gilt edges (minor scuffing to joints and corners).***
only edition of a grim miracle book, overtly anti-Semitic, containing a disturbing reminder of the intimate historical links between persecution of the Jews and Christian piety.
The cult of the Holy Sacrament of the Miracle, of which this edition contains the first complete printed account, originated in an infamous host desecration libel, used as justification for the arrest and murder of a group of Brussels Jews in 1370, by order of the Duke of Brabant, and the subsequent expulsion of the Jews from that duchy. According to the libel, a Jew named Jonathan, from Enghien, decided to steal and desecrate communion wafers in revenge for mistreatment of his co-religionists. To do this he bribed a recent formerly Jewish convert named Jean de Louvain to steal the ciborium from the church of Sainte Catherine of Molenbeek-Saint-Jean. Jonathan was assassinated and his widow and son Abraham fled with the ciborium to Brussels, where with a gathering of fellow Jews they purportedly engaged in desecratory stabbing of the wafers, which miraculously gushed blood. The frightened Jews were then said to have consigned the ciborium and its contents to another converted Jew, a woman named Catherine, charging her with hiding it in Cologne, but she succumbed to remorse and reported the act to the local curé. While the recovered Hosts were transported in a procession to the nearby Cathedral of St Michael and St. Gudula, patron saint of Brussels, the accused Jews were burned at the stake and the Jewish community was banished. St. Gudula with its miraculous hosties became a pilgrimage site, and the reliquary containing the hosts were paraded in an annual procession. The cult of the Sacrament of the Miracle was not discontinued until after WW II.
Many subsequent alleged miracles enacted by the hosts are described here at length, as is a cold-blooded accounting of the monies taken from the Jewish victims by their persecutors. Also provided is the text of a papal indulgence for pilgrims to St. Gudula; the history of another miraculous host, at the Augustinian monastery in Louvain; and a life of St. Gudula.
The title engraving shows Saints Michael and Gudula flanking a seated God-figure wearing a papal crown holding the Golden cross which housed the miraculous hosts (also illustrated on fols. b8v and p. 72), and in which they were hidden during the Calvinist Republic (1579-1585). The remaining engravings are illustrations of scenes from the libel, a depiction of the Louvain Host reliquary, and a full-length portrait of Gudula (signed by Collaert).
In his dedication to the ruling monarch, Isabella, Infanta of Spain, dated 14 July 1605, the author, a priest and canon of St. Gudela, explains his motivation for relating this terrible tale. A few partial manuscript and printed accounts of the miracle in Latin and Flemish existed (see Adam), but none circulated in French, the international language of the people. Yden describes blushing at his French, explaining that Latin would have been easier for him, and his indecision as to whether to see his manuscript into print. (French was evidently also not the first language of the compositors, given the number of misprints and misspellings.) But besides informing the faithful, Yden explains, he intends to “confound the Heretics” (fol. *4v), referring to the Protestants, who denied transubstantiation and had publicly cast doubt on the tale of the miracle. The reliquary’s reemergence in 1585 (recounted here), when the Calvinists were chased out, became another miracle to commemorate. Isabella and her husband Archduke Albert made the annual procession of the reliquary a state occasion. This implied parallel between the Jews and the Protestants had already been spelled out in the stained-glass windows of the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament of St. Gudule, made by Jean Haeck in the 1540s, and it had become commonplace to portray the supposed desecrations by medieval Jews as prefigurations of Protestantism. That theme pervades this work, not only in Yden’s text. One contributor, in a preliminary Ode signed “C.D.P.,” calls out jointly the “pauvre Juif” and the “hereticque abominable” (fol. **2r). Similar paired epithets or exhortations are scattered through the several preliminary verses, which include an Ode and Sonnet by the poet Maximilien de Wignacourt. Thus the work’s resonance and raison d’être went beyond hagiography or miracle accounts. Renaud Adam, in the article cited below, situates Yden’s text in the context of Habsburgian efforts to maintain Catholic dominance over the Southern Netherlands, and traces a gradual softening of the anti-Protestant message in later editions of the work (starting with Yden’s own Flemish version of the text in 1608, in which he added witchcraft to his targets).
OCLC locates a single copy of this edition in North America (Houghton). Brunet V, 469; cf. Renaud Adam, “L’Histoire de Saint sacrement de Miracle d’Étienne Ydens (1605), œuvre de dévotion ou œuvre polémique?,” Revue Belge de Philologie et d'Histoire 92 (2014), 2:413-433. Item #2879