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The Three Impostors

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For more information and to order prints, please email us on threeimpostors gmail. The text is based on extensive interviews with Selway himself before he passed away in October , and with those who knew him and his work.

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The result is a beautifully illustrated book about both artistic integrity and exceptionalism with a genuine painting talent beating at its heart. In short, he quitted the world like a philosopher, that is to say, without having adhered to the opinions of the vulgar.

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Now, was not this sufficient to get him proclaimed an enemy to three religions which he had contemned? Giovanni Boccacio, a learned Italian, of a jovial, merry disposition, and consequently no friend to, nor fit for bigotry, lived in the middle of the 14th century. A certain fable of the three kings, which he ventured to insert in one of his performances, was looked on as a plan of that execrable book, whose author was sought for a long time after his death.

[Forgotten Pagan Rites & Secret Society: Occult Horror] The Three Impostors

Michael Servetus, who, through the merciless persecution of Calvin, was burnt alive at Geneva, had not already written enough against the Trinity and the Redeemer; but it was thought necessary still to augment the catalogue of those impious books of his, by inserting also this now in question. Stephen Dolet, a printer at Paris, and one who was ranged among the leamed, being condemned to the stake in as a Calvinist, which he bore with a courage and resolution equalling the intrepidity of primitive martyrs, was on that score deemed to merit, as a wicked wretch, and be esteemed the author of the book De Tribus Impostoribus.

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Lucilio Vanini, a Neapolitan, was, at the instigation of his enemies, condemned as an atheist to the fire by the parliament of Thoulouse. It little availed him to produce proofs to his judges, how firmly he believed a God and Providence. The many things which celebrated critics have from time to time advanced and published with relation to this book, have excited the curiosity of the great and learned to search after it, but in vain. I had, like abundance of others, heard of it, though I was only a searcher after antiquities, or a collector of manuscripts; yet I accidentally met with the very treatise at a time when I had not the least thought of it or its author.


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Certain affairs having occasioned my going to Frankfort upon the river Maine in April , a fortnight after the fair annually held there, I found a friend of mine, named Frecht, a Lutheran doctor. Being one day at his house, I desired him to accompany me to the shop of a German bookseller, to serve me as interpreter.

Arthur Machen’s The Three Impostors () – Victorian Gothic (Justin Sausman) : The Gothic

By the way we met with a certain Jew, whom we took along with us. Being come to the bookseller's, whose warehouse was extremely well stocked with all kinds of printed books, we were examining his catalogue, when we saw come in a German officer, who asked the bookseller, if he did not design, in the name of all the devils, to conclude the bargain he had begun? Aly friend Frecht knowing him, whose name was Taussendorf, saluted him, and renewing their acquaintance, took occasion to inquire what the affair was between him and the bookseller?

Taussendorf replied, that he had a couple of manuscripts, and a very ancient book, whereby he wanted to raise a small sum of money, to fit him out for the approaching campaign, and the bookseller and he differed about 50 dollars, offering him only , whereas he insisted on having for those three books. So large a sum for only two manuscripts and a little old book, raised our curiosities.

Frecht, therefore, asked the officer if he might not have a sight of those pieces. Immediately Taussendorf drew out of a great pocket he had in his surtout coat, a parchment bundle, bound about with a yellow silk twist, in which were the three books. The Jew and I, who hitherto had been only spectators of what had passed, drew near to Frecht, who had them, and was going to look over them in another part of the shop.

The first opened was a printed book in Italian, the title whereof had been torn; instead of which had been written, Specchio de la Bestia Trionphante. The impression of this book did not appear to be of any great antiquity.


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I believe it is the same piece the English version of which Toland caused to be printed some years ago, and which carried so high a price. This title had no date, nor any name of either author or printer. We thence passed to the second, which was a manuscript in Latin, and without a title. On the first was this inscription, in large capitals, Othoni Illustrissimo amico meo Charissimo, F. The work begins with a letter or epistle, whereof the translation is at the end of this dissertation.

The third manuscript was also in Latin, without a title.

We made no long stay on the Italian book, which our Jew, who was well versed in that language, amused himself with in running over, and found that it contained satirical strokes against religion, and likewise arguments to form a complete system of atheism. But it was the other manuscript concerning which we had heard so many problematical discourses, as of a work proper to destroy whatever relates to such religions as are grounded upon revelations and miracles, which alone monopolized all our attention, and seemed to us extremely fit to illuminate and clear up those multitudes of different histories which have been published on this famous and important subject.

This induced Frecht to take aside his friend Taussendorf, and having cautioned him not to make any abatement in the sum of rix-dollars, which he demanded of the bookseller for those three pieces, we quitted the shop, and went away directly to Frecht's house ; and he, in order to procure an opportunity of passing a more leisurely examination on that MS. This recital was accompanied with so many military digressions, and with such a quick succession of bumpers, that the liquor having at length begun to attack the brain of this champion, Frecht, who, during all these interruptions, was poring over the manuscript, run the hazard of exposing himself to a refusal, and requested his friend to leave with him the little tract till the morrow.

Taussendorf being somewhat intoxicated wth swallowing so much wine, which hindered him from making serious reflection, did not refuse Frecht's request.

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The Three Imposters

But yet, on agreeing to lend him his manuscript, he exacted from him a solemn oath, that he would not either copy it himself, nor get it copied by any other; which assurance having been given him, he delivered the manuscript into Frecht's hands, saying, he would call again for it on the Sunday following, when he intended to empty a few more bottles of that same wine, which he found very much to his palate and liking. No sooner had our obliging officer left us, being on Friday night at ten o'clock, but Frecht and I set about deciphering the MS.


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But having at length somewhat accustomed ourselves to that piece of conjuration, the reading became much easier, and more familiar to us; when we found the contents so very rational, and the subject handled with such care and perspicuity, that both of us grew extremely desirous of obtaining a copy; and to this purpose, used much Jesuitical equivocation. He told me, at length, that without falsifying the oath taken, ad mentem interrogantis - respecting his meaning, it is probable, that Taussendorf s intention, in extorting the oath not to copy the book, was only that we should not actually transcribe it, but that his opinion was, we might very safely make a translation.

This method of his, seemed to me not over and above equitable; however, the strong desire I had to be possessed of this rare and celebrated treatise, made me consent to the expedient, considering withal, that I myself had not given Taussendorf either oath or promise, not to translate or transcribe his MS. The French version, which we took in hand, was completed on Saturday towards midnight, and having some time after revised our performance at leisure, we took each a fair copy. Taussendorf fetched away his book, which he disposed of for rix-dollars to the same bookseller, who was commissioned to purchase it by a Prince of the House of Saxony, who knew of its having been conveyed away out of the Munich Library, when, on the defeat of the French and Bavarians at Hochstet, possession was taken of that city as aforesaid.

Thus have I related how this book came into my hands. Abundance of People would much rather we could ave produced the original; but our abilities would not admit our making such a purchase; and besides, the bookseller who bought it, had a precise order from the said Saxon Prince not to spare any cost to procure it, in case he could discover where it was. This made him give so great a price for it to Taussendorf, who in a few days went abroad, having treated us in his turn.