I Found It at the JCB

This month

June 2010


Whose Empire Is It?


Antonio Maria Bonucci, Epitome chronologico genealogico & historico, Lisbon, 1706.
Original in the John Carter Brown Library.

Unknown Book Discovered at the JCB 
by Maria Ana T. Valdez

I unexpectedly found a book at the JCB the existence of which I was completely unaware.

As I was digging through the catalogue because of a reference that António Vieira made in his book Clavis Prophetarum that considered the time of the Antichrist as if it represented the fifth empire, I found the book Epitome Chronologico, Genealogico, & Historico, Dividido Em Quatro Livros, writen by Antonio Maria Bonucci. Bonucci was António Vieira’s secretary for the last ten years of his life.

Is this a rare book? Well, not exactly, since we could track down almost two dozen copies. However, why is it that nobody mentions its existence? In no journal articles or works regarding Vieira and his Sermons or the Clavis Prophetarum can one find a reference to a book by Bonucci. Furthermore, there were no references connecting this book with Vieira’s work.

Why is this so important? Since Bonucci was Vieira’s secretary until his death in 1697 and was well aware of the content of Vieira’s work, it is surprising that he wrote and managed to get a book published in 1706 in which he seemingly follows some of Vieira’s ideas regarding the succession of time.

In fact, when one reads the first “book” of this work, one has the impression that the content and the structure are very much similar to some passages of Vieira’s Clavis Prophetarum. Surely, a thorough study of this book will provide further light on Vieira’s interpretation of the succession of empires, particularly when analyzing his chapter on “how the time of the Antichrist should be understood as the Fifth Empire, while Christ’s empire would thus be counted as the sixth empire.”

For the time being, finding this book and a simple reading of its content has been opening the doors to several questions I have had about, for example, the authorship of the book, the division of time into six periods of time, and particularly about how much was Bonucci involved in Vieira’s project.

Maria Ana T. Valdez, University of Lisbon, Portugal and Yale University, was a Truro National Heritage Trust Fellow at the John Carter Brown Library in the spring of 2010.


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