BURNET, Thomas (ca1635-1715). Telluris Theoria Sacra, originem & mutationes generales Orbis Nostri,.. Amsterdam: Joannem Wolters, 1694.

  • $ 4,500.00
    Unit price per 


Four parts in one volume. Small 4to., (8 x 6 inches). Title-page printed in red and black, additional engraved frontispiece title-page, two fine folding engraved plates, and thirteen engraved vignettes. Contemporary vellum over thin paste-board (paste-downs lifting).

Provenance: With the 19th-century ink library stamp of the Convent and Priory of Saints Mary Magellan and St. Maximilian on the title-page.

Complete edition, first published as such in 1684, with 2 fine folding maps of the eastern and western hemispheres of the world showing the continents in outline and also marking hypothetical lands before the Flood. "The Western hemisphere [is shown on an] azimuthal equal-area projection [with an] attempt to show the ocean floor in relief.... California as an island similar to second Sanson model but with a more angular northwest tip, as by Colom and Doncker" (McLaughlin).

The first two books which discuss the deluge, the dissolution of the earth at the flood, the primaeval earth, and paradise, where published in 1681. "Burnet claimed that the original surface of the world had been smooth and uniform, that it had been oval in shape, but flattened out on two sides so as to resemble an egg. Prior to the flood, it had been particularly suited to sustaining life, being covered with a moist, oily earth. The earth's axis had been aligned differently, so that there was perpetual spring in paradise, and vapours condensing out of the warmer parts of the earth fell as rain at the poles, forming rivers which flowed towards the equatorial regions. All this had been changed at the deluge, when the surface of the earth had been fractured, liberating the waters of the abyss beneath, and creating in time the corrupted modern world, marked by its mountains and seas... Burnet had discussed various aspects of his theory with Isaac Newton, in a correspondence conducted in the winter of 1680-81, where he made explicit his view that the account of the creation given in Genesis was a simplified one, adapted by Moses in order not to bother the primitive Israelites with philosophical truths which were not immediately apparent to vulgar observation... The second part of Burnet's theory, containing the third and fourth books, was completed by May 1688 and published in the following year along with a reprint of the first two books. In it Burnet discussed the completion of the sacred history of the earth in the coming conflagration of the world and the creation from it of a new heaven and a new earth, similar in form to the original, pristine world, which would last for a thousand years in which the saints would practise devotion to and contemplation of the divine. After the day of judgment, the earth's final state would be that of a star, like the sun. Despite the stirring times in which he was writing, Burnet did not attempt to set any clear timetable for the arrival of the millennium, remarking that: "the difference there is betwixt the Greek, Hebrew, and Samaritan Copies of the Bible, makes the Age of the World altogether undetermin'd: . Seeing therefore we have no assurance how long the World hath stood already, neither could we be assur'd how long it hath to stand". (The Theory of the Earth, the two last books, 1690, 31)" (Scott Mandelbrote for DNB). (McLaughlin, California as an Island 77, state 2). (Shirley 507n).