- Bibliographie descriptive des imprimés du baron d'Holbach, nouvelle édition revue et augmentée by Jeroom Vercruysse
The work of a bibliographer is never easy, and things get more complicated still when inventorying the writings of an author who was in the habit of publishing anonymously or under pseudonyms. Analysing content and style may certainly help to define the limits of such a writer's corpus, but this remains an imperfect science, given every author's inevitable evolution and ability to adapt their voice and ideas to different situations or aims. In the 1960s, Jeroom Vercruysse set out to survey the writings of an intriguing but often neglected figure on the eighteenth-century French scene: Paul-Henri Thiry d'Holbach. He accomplished this task brilliantly, and his Bibliographie descriptive des imprimés du baron d'Holbach (Paris: Minard, 1971) fully deserves to be numbered, alongside Georges Bengesco's Voltaire: bibliographie de ses œuvres (Paris: Perrin, 1882–90), among the best reference works available to eighteenth-century scholars. The newly published edition of Vercruysse's bibliography is enriched with the editions of d'Holbach's works that have appeared since 1971. Other, less obvious changes have been made: for example, Vercruysse has added four titles to the list of the works that he excludes from d'Holbach's corpus, including a short text entitled 'De la raison', which Alain Sandrier has recently ascribed to d'Holbach (see his Le Style philosophique du baron d'Holbach: conditions et contraintes du prosélytisme athée en France dans la seconde moitié du XVIIIe siècle (Paris: Honoré Champion, 2004), p. 368). Le Christianisme dévoilé has been definitively assigned to 1766, despite the date shown on the title page of its first edition (1756), which, as already [End Page 118] noted by Vercruysse in 1971, is certainly apocryphal. Some pre-1800 editions (for instance, the one that Vercruysse indicates as 1763-F3) have also been added. Regrettably, several mistakes have also been made in updating the first edition. Most notably, the first edition of the Histoire critique de Jésus-Christ (1770-A4) has been erroneously inserted between 1770-D1 and 1770-D2, with the result that the second edition of this text, now also indicated as 1770-A4 (previously 1770-A5), comes before the first one. As a consequence, many of the editions listed for 1770, including the first and second editions of the Système de la nature, have been misnumbered. In addition, when justifying his inclusion of the Essai d'une histoire naturelle de [sic] couches de la terre (1759-D2), Vercruysse fails to mention that d'Holbach explicitly names himself as the translator of this work in his article 'Montagnes' in the Encyclopédie. Typographical errors are unfortunately frequent, and they occasionally affect the bibliographical descriptions (for instance on p. 195: 'p. [IV] 472 + [IV] 43' — in fact 403). One also regrets the author's choice, acknowledged in the Introduction (p. 10), not to take advantage of this new edition to include in his bibliography refutations of d'Holbach's works or, more importantly, miscellanies or anthologies featuring (excerpts of) d'Holbach's texts. The editorial decision to remove year numbers from the headers also renders the revised edition more difficult to consult than the first. That said, Vercruysse's bibliography still remains an extremely useful tool for researchers, bibliophiles, and booksellers, and the appearance of this new updated edition almost feels like an admonishment: une édition critique des œuvres du baron s'impose!