Brethren Archive
The Year 1889

Catalogue of the Library of the Late John Nelson Darby, Esq. Comprising Important Works Relating to Theology, History, Geography, Archaeology, Voyages and Travels... Which Will Be Sold by Auction by Messes. Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge ...On Monday, 25th of November 1889

Roger Holden said ...
What a fascinating document! Although the first 2 pages seem to be missing. A far wider collection than would have been allowed by his later "followers" in the Taylor Brethren, having some of these of your shelves would probably have got you into big trouble - Darwin, Kant, Schleiermacher... Of course having books in your library goes not necessarily mean that you read them. I wonder if this is after some of it had already gone to other people? Do any of these volumes still exist?
Tuesday, Mar 1, 2022 : 06:01
Nick Fleet said ...
Darby said somewhere (something along the lines of), 'I only read bad books and the Bible', meaning he spent much of his time writing against the errors of his day. Someone else will, no doubt, be able to give the exact words and context.
Tuesday, Mar 1, 2022 : 19:21
Timothy Stunt said ...

Roger Holden rightly reminds us that 'having books in your library does not necessarily mean that you read them', but as a young man JND claimed that 2 Timothy iv.13 'saved me from selling my little library'.  It is also worthy of note that several of the books which we know JND read (eg. J H Newman's Apologia, F W Newman's Phases of Faith, J S Mill's System of Logic, not to mention some of the writings of Edward Irving,) do not appear in this catalogue. Perhaps they were the 'bad books' to which Nick Fleet's quotation refers.  Whether JND consciously decided that (unlike Darwin, Kant and Schleiermacher) they were not worth keeping in his library is another question.   Timothy Stunt

Wednesday, Mar 2, 2022 : 04:42
Martin Arhelger said ...

J. N. Darby wrote in a Letter (1851, letters, vol. 1, p. 189): “My books are quite alarming, as if I was regularly settled in the world; however, my life would hardly bear out the charge. But I use them diligently now.”

W. Scott wrote in “Truth for the Last days” 3 (1904), p. 152:  “Are we right with God in the literature we read? We have no sympathy with the absurd statement, ‘You should only read the Bible;’ nor should we advise you to act upon the remark made to the writer by the late eminent Mr. J. N. Darby. We were accompanying him to the railway station and carrying for him a large book. ‘What is this work upon?’ we enquired. ‘O that is a German infidel work,’ adding, ‘I only read the Bible, and bad books.’ These latter, of course, for examination and exposure. He could do that without being specifically defiled; we could not. There are certain papers, books, and magazines which we used to read, but not now. If tired with study or otherwise, read a good biography, book of travel, or history.”

W. B. Neatby: A History of the Plymouth Brethren, p. 47, informs us: “In after years Darby’s library was not little, and possibly he modified his more extreme views, though he certainly never permitted himself the mere luxury of culture. It is reported that he said, ‘I read nothing but bad books and the Bible'; and the story, as Newman would say, if it is not true, is startlingly well invented.”

M. S. Weremchuk wrote (John Nelson Darby, a Biography, 2021, p. 146): “There is a story that a sister once asked Darby what books he read; he replied, ‘Only bad books, Madam.’” But Weremchuk does not say where he got this from.

It seems that W. Scott’s story is the one which is not by hearsay, but a personal experience.

Wednesday, Mar 2, 2022 : 05:41
Martin Arhelger said ...

It is interesting to see how J. N. Darby seems to have used his books in difficult passages when translating. Take as an example the יְרַד in Judges 5:13. In the German Translation of the OT (1871) he gives it as “(er) ließ herrschen” (“he let … rule”), which seems to reflect the Hebrew-German lexicons of Fürst (1857) and Gesenius-Tregelles (1846) as a short form piel of רדה, similar to the King-James-Version. But in the French translation it is „descends, toi“, and so also in the English JND Version (1884): “come down, thou”. This is obviously interpreted as a qal imperative of ירד which JND might have taken from Davidsons Lexicon (1867). The second edition of the German translation (1890) has “Da zog hinab“ (Then went down), similar to the B-text of the Septuagint (τότε κατέβη) interpreted, perhaps, as Aramaic form for יָרַד. But this last was probably not under the influence of JND.

Wednesday, Mar 2, 2022 : 06:14
Roger Holden said ...
I wonder if John Calvin and John Owen, both of whom appear here, were included in the ‘bad books’? The Brethren came to believe that they could learn nothing from earlier Christians. As a result they began re-inventing the wheel, going back over old debates and accepting ideas that had been considered centuries ago and rejected as inadequate. As in F. E. Raven’s speculations on the person of Christ which led the rejection of eternal sonship by James Taylor. Both Raven and Taylor accepted that Darby in fact held ‘orthodox’ views on the subject.
Friday, Mar 4, 2022 : 20:07
D said ...
Extract from JND Letters Vol 2 p 401
If you are troubled by objectors as to the age of man, there is a book published at Philadelphia by Lippincott, Southall on "The Recent Origin of Man," who has made mincemeat of the Lyells, Lubbocks, Geikies, Evans', and company, and is thoroughly versed in the subject - a much more complete thing than your Blending Lights. I had read enough to throw them overboard, as having no solid foundation, but this man is thoroughly up in the subject, and has not left them a leg to stand on. I have been reading the German rationalists, Ewald, Bleek, and even Kuenen (Dutch), having to meet it everywhere. I find it poor and impudent, rejecting all idea of inspiration out and out, and making a system of legends and compilations each after his fancy, and even changing from edition to edition. - has on his own leave published my (Pacific) notes on Mill, quite unfit to be published.* I only hope they may be useful to some. If a trumpet be blown, the Lord will sometimes come in if it be His trumpet. I have gone through what is material in Kant too, and noted - a real labour from his style, but I have sifted it. I do not wonder, though he did not mean it, in its un-deifying God in Germany and deifying man: his system does it. But we must wait on Him; He only has power, and He works in grace. Prayer and supplication to Him will surely be answered. Constant dependence in the sense of our own nothingness, and in us no good thing, and Christ all, and the utmost simplicity of truth fed by the word, and that in our ministry, and we shall be happy with Him and serve Him.
*"Collected Writings," vol. 32., p. 80, etc.
Friday, Mar 4, 2022 : 21:47
C Gribben said ...
Roger, interesting thought! But while Kelly uses Calvin a lot in his commentaries - sometimes suggesting that he finds him less helpful than he anticipated - brethren generally use Owen positively (but not on justification). Kelly draws on Owen's view that believers should not now be using the Lord's prayer; Darby interacts with Owen in the Sufferings book; William Lincoln has an entire appendix from Owen in his Javelin; and I'm told that JG Bellett engages with Owen in Son of God, though this only comes out in the revised edition which I do not have. Kelly's library is similarly broad, but unfortunately it was never catalogued, and has almost entirely gone into storage. We know that Darby interacts with more puritan writers than are listed in this catalogue. Always important to remember that we're just getting here a snapshot of his library at his death - it would have had different contents at other stages of his life.

What really intrigues me in the JND catalogue is the number of books devoted to Hinduism, and to India generally. Can anyone explain this?
Thursday, Mar 10, 2022 : 04:14
Rodger said ...

This seems relevant, and I always wondered about it:

Was Darby interested in interacting with the rise of Oriental interest, particularly in its religious aspect, in the 1800s?

Thursday, Mar 10, 2022 : 06:27
Timothy Stunt said ...
Dr Crawford Gribben's enquiry about JND's apparent interest in Hinduism brings to mind a curious memory of an episode, in which I was involved more than fifteen years ago. 'Wikipedia' has for many years claimed to be 'open' to 'corrections/alterations' suggested by its readers. In December 2005 I was amazed to find that the article on JND had recently been 'doctored' and now claimed that Darby had spent some months of 1831-2 in India studying Sanskrit in Varanesi. I wrote to the wikimedia help desk saying that I had never heard of such a visit and asking whether the contributor could substantiate his claim. The unauthenticated claim was removed fairly quickly but other errors of detail were left unchanged. I was far too busy at the time to follow up the matter any further, but the books in JND's library have certainly caused me to wonder! Timothy Stunt.
Friday, Mar 11, 2022 : 04:36
Tom said ...

Here is the Wikipedia edit that Timothy refers to, fwiw


Friday, Mar 11, 2022 : 05:22
Roger Holden said ...
Another intriguing thing is the number of works on geology: Geological Society’s Transactions, 1811-1856; Geology of Oxford and the Thames Valley; Geology of Extinct Volcanoes of Central France; Geologie und Petrefactenkunde; Lyell, Principles of Geology; Tracts on the Geology of Canada; Phillips’ Manual of Geology. There are of course places in the Collected Writings where he called on this knowledge e.g. Vol. 9 “What has the Bible Taught? And What has geology proved?”

James Taylor said: We may thank God for one, as we might say in our time, whom He raised up to meet all the current questions of Christendom. Every question, religious or scientific, that the enemy could bring up to nullify the truth that was recovered was adequately met, and we have now a treasure in the writings of the one whom the Lord employed to meet these questions, so that we are not now baffled by any of them. I do not suppose any of us are troubled by infidelity or religious developments or spiritualism. (NS vol. 18, pg.88). The ‘one’ of course being JND. So that is why there was no need for his followers to study these ‘bad books’ for themselves.
Sunday, Mar 13, 2022 : 05:49
C Gribben said ...
Of course, there's also Darby's review of Lyell's "Antiquity of man" (this includes Darby's diagram of his journey up the river Broye, in Switzerland) and Cox's "The mythology of the Aryan nations" (1870), which appear in Notes and Comments 4.
Thursday, Jun 9, 2022 : 06:09

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