388J  Gisbert Cuper. 1644-1716

Gisb. Cuperi Harpocrates, Sive Explicatio imaguncluæ argenteæ perantiquæ; quæ in figuram Harpocratis formata representat Solem. Ejusdem Monumenta Antiqua Inedita. Multi Auctorum loci, multæ Inscriptiones, Marmora, Nummi, Gemmæ, varii ritus, & Antiquitates in utroque Opusculo emendantur & illustrantur. Accedit Stephani Le Moine Epistola de Melanophoris.

Utrecht: (Trajecti ad Rhenum) Apud Franciscum Halma, Acad. Typogr., 1687.       $1,800

Quarto. *4, A-Z4, Aa-Pp4, Qq2. (Two blank leaves follow Qq2 are lacking) bound in 20th century quarter calf.


This book has an engraved title, forty-one text engravings, seven folding engravings, and one text woodcut. It is in bright, crisp condition throughout, save for some water stain on the top margin of the first 20 leaves.


The frontispiece signed and dated in the plate: Joh. van der Avele invention and fecit. 1687. It   depicts Harpocrates standing on a pedestal, around him are the gods  Apollo, Hermes, Serapis and Isis, and in the foreground Tempus, who shovels for Egyptian antiquities. The printers mark on the title, motto: ‘vivitur in genio’, ‘Genuis lives on”.

This is a philological tour de force of the Dutch classical scholar Gisbert Cuper.

Metaxis (or metaxy) is the concept used by Plato in the Symposium.  To describe our mis-placedness of being  human in a world of spirits and gods. Therefore existence can be characterized as being „in-between”     The Greek term metaxy (μεταξύ) denotes the middle, the intermediate, the in-between or the center. The term μεταξύ is often transliterated as mataxu, metaxú, metaxy or metaxý. Metaxis has also been defined as the state of belonging completely and simultaneously to two different autonomous worlds (Linds 2006).

As a curious object the Harpocrates statues,were before  moving to Greece one form of idol and switched to another, from Childhood to Silence?


Harpocrates was adapted by the Greeks from the Egyptian child god Horus, who represented the newborn sun, rising each day at dawn. Harpocrates’s name was a Hellenization of the Egyptian Har-pa-khered or Heru-pa-khered, meaning “Horus the Child”. In the second century B.C., Egyptians connected Harpocrates with the mystery IMG_2708cult of the Egyptian goddess Isis. Harpocrates holds a finger to its lip for the Egyptians a symbolic gesture representing childhood. 

IMG_2719Yet the the Greeks mistook for a hush for silence., misinterpreting Harpocrates as the personification of silence, and this particular work is a study of statues and other art from classical antiquity that depict these later figures of silence. And again, the Roman interpretation added strength to the Mystery of silence.


 Cuper’s research began, he tells us in the preface, with a small silver statuette which he saw in the famous collection of his friend (and scholar) Johannes Smetius, whom he visited in 1674 in Nijmegen. The statuette was found in the ground of the collector’s hometown Nijmegen. It is a sculpture of a small boy, almost naked, and with a lotus flower on his head. He is winged and wears a small quiver on his back; the boy holds the index finger of his right hand against his lips, as if to enjoin silence. (p. 1: ‘manus dextrae digito indice premit vocem, & silentia suadet’) IMG_2702From his right arm hangs a small bucket (situla), and around his left arm coils a snake. His left hand rests on a club, around which another snake coils, and to which a goose has been attached. At the boy’s right foot sits a rabbit or hare. At his left foot a small bird of prey (accipiter vel alia avis). (p. 2) As soon as Cuper saw this aenigmatic figurine, he decided to examine it, for he could not imagine that all those attributes had been added without any intention. IMG_2713He recognized the boy from a Egyptian hieroglyph as Harpocration, whom Egyptian superstition brought to Rome. He immediately realized also that this boy did not ask for silence (non silentium tantum digito suadens), but that he represented the Sun (verum Solis imaginem referens). (p. 2) In the rest of the book Cuper closely examines all the relevant passages concerning Harpocrates’ iconography in ancient authors, in mythology, coins, inscriptions, amulets etc., to prove his point, that Harpocrates’s finger was misunderstood, from the Roman scholar Varro to Augustine, and that the boy was not a diety of Silence at all.  This 1687 edition is a reissue, considerably augmented with ‘Gisberti Cuperi Monumenta antiqua inedita’ (ca. 70 pages) in which Cuper discusses recent finds. He examines various inscriptions in leading his reflection on the various cults Hercules, Diane.  He offers a description and image of the finds, and tries to explain matters with the help of ancient sources and the work of contemporary scholars.

Appropriately at the end has also been added ‘Ad Gisb. Cuperum De Melanphoris epististola’ (30 pages) written by the French orientalist Stephanus Le Moine, 1624-1689, who lectured in Leiden from 1676. His letter is a treatise on the black clothes (melamphoroi), which the members of the Isis fraternities wore when they lamented.


Cuper was one of Pierre Bayle’s Dutch correspondents who was an important source of information for the Nouvelles de la Republique des Lettres and the Dictionnaire historique et critique was Gisbert Cuper (1644-17 i6), a well-known humanist and professor of history at Deventer. A recognized numismatist and author of several scholarly works on aspects of Roman history and culture, Cuper was also a magistrate and a deputy from the province of Overijssel to the Estates-General from i686 to I693. In recognition of his scholarly interpretations of Roman medals and coins, he was named as one of the first foreign correspondents to the Academie des Inscriptions.

Because he was in the mainstream of both the scholarly and political life of Holland, Cuper was an invaluable correspondent for Bayle. Because Cuper was an important source of material and information, Bayle could use him for his own publications. Also Bayle, who was often under attack for his unorthodox views on religion and politics, was in need of the favor and protection that can be offered by respected and influential people. Cuper was on good terms with conservative elements of Dutch society of the times, such as the Orangists, and thus was in a strategic position to be helpful.

IMG_2731Cuper and Bayle first began corresponding in July, I684, soon after the first issue of the Nouvelles (March I684), in which Bayle reviewed the former’s commentary on a cameo, L’Apotheose d’Home’re grave’e sur un marbre.  Subsequently the two corresponded on a fairly regular basis over a period of twenty years, exchanging information on scholarlv activities underway on the continent and Cuper’s work, Apotheosis seu coissecratio Homneri (Amsterdam, I683), is re- viewed in the Nouivelles for March, i684, art, VIII.

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Title page in red and black. This edition is enhanced with a letter of Etienne Le Moyne; this text has a half-title and the second text: Monumenta Antiqua. Cuper’s research are a precursor to art history and Winckelmann. Many Greek and Hebrew quotations in the texts. IMG_2722


STCN ppn 833724266; Brunet 6, no. 22603; Cicognara 3212; Ebert 5512; Graesse 2,308