Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Fable of the Bees

Honestly, I never know what I am going to find here. In a fit of post-Christmas tidying up, I came across five books on my shelves. They’re all connected via the book, The Fable of the Bees by Bernard Mandeville, and were all published in the early 1700’s. Mandeville was a Dutch-Englishman, originally from Dordrecht, a place where I’ve actually spent several weeks!


Here’s a brief summary from Wikipedia about the book.

This essay criticized the charity schools, designed to educate the poor and, in doing so, instill virtue in them. Mandeville disagreed with the idea that education adds virtue because he did not believe that evil desires existed only in the poor, but rather he saw the educated and wealthy as much more crafty. Mandeville also believed that educating the poor increased their desires for material things, defeating the purpose of the school and making it more difficult to provide for them.

The book was primarily written as a political satire on the state of England in 1705, when the Tories were accusing John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, and the ministry of advocating the War of the Spanish Succession for personal reasons.

In The Grumbling Hive, Mandeville describes a bee community thriving until the bees are suddenly made honest and virtuous. Without their desire for personal gain, their economy collapses and the remaining bees go to live simple lives in a hollow tree, thus implying that without private vices there exists no public benefit.

The books are beautifully printed, but they’re hell to read.
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The second volume is not much easier!
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Not only did I find the two volumes of the Fable of the Bees, I found two small booklets which are in response to the books.
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Now I am not quite sure what the Fable of the Bees has to do with MedChi, or why the books are on our possession. There is a letter between what looks to be a book-binder in London to someone here in Baltimore, saying they would inexpensively re-bind the book. IMG_0015

I’ve looked on-line and some of the early volumes of these books go for about $1,000. But ours aren’t going anywhere. IMG_0014

Another mystery to be solved.

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