Copia de una carta sel Señor Obispo de Marsella de seis Septembre. En que se da quanta de la peste de aquella Ciudad, y del estado en que se halla, con otras particularidades, que verà el curioso Lector. Henri François Xavier de BELSUNCE DE CASTELMORON.
The Great Plague of Marseille
Eyewitness News from the "Good Bishop"
Madrid, En la Imprenta de Francisco Fernandez, 1720.

Copia de una carta sel Señor Obispo de Marsella de seis Septembre. En que se da quanta de la peste de aquella Ciudad, y del estado en que se halla, con otras particularidades, que verà el curioso Lector.

4to [19.8 x 14.6 cm], (2) ff. Unbound, in a custom-made cloth folder. Fold of bifolium reinforced, red edges, small repair at upper margin not affecting text, some staining not affecting legibility, ink pagination and remnants of binding strings suggest the document was once part of a sammelband.

Rare 1720 Spanish-language relacion of an eyewitness account by the Bishop of Marseille, Henri François Xavier de Belsunce de Castelmoron (1671-1766), concerning the Great Plague then sweeping Marseille. Belsunce de Castelmoron, who would become famous for his extreme bravery in staying in the city to attend to the sick and dying, eventually earning the soubriquet “The Good Bishop,” here gives a report from an early period of the outbreak (the bubonic plague would rage through 1722). He describes the dire state of the city and the progress of the sickness (it sometimes killed within 8 hours of first symptoms), giving special attention to the heroic charity of the clergy and to their own mortality (a tally of how many monks and priests have been lost from the various orders is provided). Belsunce de Castelmoron notes that nearly all officials of any standing have abandoned the city and that those physicians who did remain have already died. He laments that cadavers have been left in their houses and not been afforded proper burial, and he describes the condition of the city’s various quartiers. The Bishop closes with a somber reckoning that more than ten thousand have already died (the plague would go on to kill some eighty thousand in Marseille alone).

A handful of French-language lettres and mandements by Belsunce de Castelmoron are recorded (each very rare). That the Bishop’s observations immediately would have been translated into Spanish perhaps comes as little surprise given the general fear concerning the spread of the plague in southern Europe at the time, a fear that turned out to be well founded: The Spanish populace was surely wary of the illness arriving via the Mediterranean shipping routes which linked Spain so closely with her neighbor to the north.

OCLC locates only 1 institutional copy of this tract, the example housed at the British Library; a 1720 Valencia reprint (by Antonio Bordazar) of the present letter held at the Universidad de Valencia.

* Théophile Bérengier, Mgr. de Belsunce et la peste de Marseille.

Price: $750.00