Book Description


Octavo (233 x 152mm), pp. xix, [1 (blank)], 505, [3 (blanks)]. 8 colour-printed plates with illustrations recto-and-verso, and 3 full-page maps and plans after Reginald Piggott in the text. Original red boards, spine lettered and decorated in gilt, black endpapers, dustwrapper, not price-clipped. (Slight cracking on upper hinge, corners very slightly bumped, dustwrapper slightly faded on spine and with occasional, very light marking.) A very good copy. Provenance: Joan James (presentation inscription on title ‘For Joan, With all best wishes, John Julius Norwich’).
Dealer Notes
First edition, inscribed by the author in the month of publication. Written by the diplomat and author John Julius Norwich (1929-2018) – a self-professed ‘agnostic Protestant’ with ‘absolutely no axe to grind’ (p. xix) – The Popes was intended to serve as ‘a straightforward single-volume history of the papacy’, and, while Norwich could ‘claim some personal experience of the Vatican, having worked in its Library and having had two private audiences – with Pius XII and Paul VI – the latter when I was lucky enough to attend his coronation as dogsbody to the Duke of Norfolk, who was representing the Queen. In addition, I well remember the future John XXIII, who was Papal Nuncio in Paris while my father was ambassador there, and the future John Paul I, when he was Patriarch of Venice’ (p. xvii), the book is primarily based on published sources.

The introduction states that ‘[p]apal history can, like other varieties, be written from any number of points of view. This book is essentially political, cultural and, up to a point, social. There are moments, from time to time, when basic matters of doctrine cannot be avoided – in order to explain the Arian Heresy, the Great Schism with the Orthodox Church, the Albigensian Crusade, the Reformation, even Infallibility and the Immaculate Conception – but as far as possible I have tried to steer well clear of theology, on which I am in any case unqualified to pronounce. In doing so, I have followed in the footsteps of many of the popes themselves, a surprising number of whom seem to have been far more interested in their own temporal power than in their spiritual well-being’ (loc. cit.). The Popes was not conceived as a scholarly account, but rather ‘intended [...] for the average intelligent reader, believer or unbeliever, who would simply like to know a little more about the background to what is, by any account, an astonishing story. [...] My job has been simply to look at what is perhaps the most astonishing social, political and spiritual institution ever created, and to give as honest, as objective and as accurate an account of it as I possibly can’ (pp. xviii-xix).

The inscription is not dated, but this copy was inscribed for Joan James by John Julius Norwich at a launch party for the book on 23 March 2011 (shortly after the book’s publication earlier in the month), which was held at the antiquarian bookseller Henry Sotheran Ltd (Norwich was a director of the business from 1999 to 2015).
Author COOPER, John Julius, 2nd Viscount NORWICH
Date 2011
Publisher London: Clays Ltd, St Ives plc for Chatto & Windus

Price: £39.50

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