Maillet, Benoit de; Telliamed Ou Entretiens D'Un Philosophe Indien| Avec Un Missionnaire François Sur la Diminution de la Mer, la Formation de la Terre, l'Origine de l'Homme, &c. Mis en ordre sur les Mémoires de feu M. de Maillet. Par J. A. G***. A Amsterdam. Chez L'honoré & Fils, Libraires, 1748. 2 volumes, octavo. Volume 1, pp. 12, errata, cxix, 1, 8, 208. Volume 2, pp. 2, 231, 1 plate.
The rare first edition with both volumes complete and in a contemporary full tree calf with gilt spine panels and titles and marbled end sheets. The bindings are tight, very upper margin of first four pages in volume one with a very light damp stain. The remaining text in both volumes is clean and bright. In very good condition.
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A French beauracrat, Maillet (1656-1738) was the French General Consul in Egypt and then consul in Livorno, and finally inspector of the French Factories in the Levante and the Barberi. The above work is his only one and it was published posthumously by a friend. This treatise on the origin of the Earth and life made Maillet a precursor of Lamarck, and Darwin. This remarkably enlightened and evolutionary treatise was treated with skepticism by scientists of the times, although its theories have largely been proven correct. When it was published, the ideas it contained were enough for the publisher to disguise the author's true name with an anagram to read "Tallimed" (the reverse of Malliet). By using the device of an imaginary voyage to India by a French missionary, and by presenting the work's philosophy as the beliefs of an Indian mystic, Maillet sought to present his pre-Darwinian theories of evolution. Malliet denied that God was not an omniscient overseer, states that the earth is more than two billion years in age, and believed in the possibility that life in the sea could be transformed into life on the land. He further concludes that such transformations happened not only in the distant past but is continuing to the present time. It is thought that Diderot was heavily influenced by this work in his shift from deism to atheism. The work is remarkable because Maillet anticipated a number of geological and biological theories, and was also highly praised by Voltaire, Buffon and Cuvier.