Jacob Spon (Eng)

André J. Fabre                                       May, 2014

 JACOB SPON (1647-1685)  FRENCH-SWISS PIONEER 

Jacob Spon , physician and archaeologist, was a pioneer in tourist  trips to Greece

He came from a wealthy and cultured Calvinist family of bankers from Ulm, linving  in Lyon since 1551. His father was also physician and distinguished Hellenist

. Jacob was educated in Strasbourg and he met there Charles Patin[1], son of the dean of the Paris Faculty of medicine, who invited Jacob to stay for a while  in his family.

Now, decided to start medical studies, Jacob went to  Montpellier in the south of France, a very libéral unversity regarding religion, and obtained there in 1668 his doctorate. Later on he began to practice in Lyon becoming member of the Lyon College of Physicians and also, of the famed Academy of Ricoverati in Padua.

Showing a keen interest besides medicine for Sciences of Antiquity, Jacob exchanged  correspondence with all great names in the intellectual life of his time : Bossuet, Pierre Bayle and, among many others, the royal confessor, Father La Chaise [2] . He met in Lyon Jean Mabillon, the great Benedictine philosopher.

The main work of Jacob Spon remains his "Treatise on fevers", developping a study on malaria : in a 1681 letter, he  proposed as main therapy the use of " bark of Peru", later known as "quinquina"

From 1675 to 1676 , Spon traveled throughout all the Mediterranean : Venice, Greece, Constantinople and the Levant, in company of his friend George Wheler, an English clergyman expert in Antiquity[3].

After his return to France, Spon published in 1678, a two-volumes book relating his long journey in Orient : "Travel through Italy, Greece and Levant" [4] which remained for a long time a référence book for all Orient travellers : thus, Chateaubriand who confesses in "Itinerary from Paris to Jerusalem " that Spon's narration was truly  bedside reading for him.

Jacob Spon was a prolific  writer : he published in 1680 an "History of  Geneva"[5] ,followed by " Researches in Antiquity"[6]  and, in 1685, a study on Roman inscriptions[7] where  the word "Archaeologia " referring to the remains of Antique civilizations was a "première".

Long time after his death, was also published an unexpected but fascinating study on end-of-year gifts : " On the Origins of Giving Presents"[8],  dedicated to Georges- Frederic Stoffel, famed  citizen of Genova,  on January 1st,  1674.

The great drama in Jacob Spon's life occured in 1685, when Louis XIV pronounced the "Révocation de l'Edit de Nantes". This Edict had been issued in 1598, by king Henry IV to grant all Calvinist Protestants of France (also known as Huguenots)  a full right to practice their religion.  The revocation by Louis XIV, grandson of Henry IV, drove an exodus of Protestants out of France, and increased the hostility of all Protestant nations

Jacob Spon had to stop  his correspondence with Père de la Chaise who tried constantly to drive his friend out of Protestantism. Rather than convert to Catolic  faith Spon chose to flee to Switzerland.

From there, everything went worse for Spon : all his  belongings were stolen during his trip to Zurich  and he soonly  died of tuberculosis at Vevey  hospital, in the night of 1685 Christmas Eve. 

 

Toute correspondance est à adresseer à "a.fabre.fl@gmail.com"

 

 

 



[1] A complète biography of Charles Patin can be found in the last book of  A.J. Fabre, "Médecins de Venise" (Ed. L'Harmattan, Paris, 2014)

[2] Jacob Spon wii dedicace his "Travels in Orien" to Father de la CVhaise

[3] George Wheler (1650-1682) was an english clergyman and "Antiquisant" friend of Jacob Spon. He published in 1682 his own relation of the 1675-1676 travel he had together with Spon in Orient "A Journey Into Greece, by George Wheler Esq; in Company of Dr Spon of Lyons. In Six Books. Containing I. A Voyage from Venice to Constantinople. II. An Account of Constantinople and the Adjacent Places. III. A Voyage Through the Lesser Asia. IV. A Voyage from Zant Through Several Parts of Greece". His collections of marbles and antiquities brought from Greece have been legated after his death to the Oxford University.

[4] Voyage d'Italie, de Dalmatie, de Grèce et du Levant par jacob Spon, docteur médecin agrégé à Lyon et George Wheeler, gentilhomme anglais"".(Ed. Antoine Cellier, Lyon, 1678). Electronic editions are  available on Intérnet at http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k853239.r=bpt6k85322z+OR+bpt6k853239+OR+bpt6k85324n.langFR and ttp://books.google.fr/books?id=dTdYAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA318-IA14&dq=Jacon+spon&hl=fr&sa=X&ei=FrRsU-KeD8jJ0QWCtIHADA&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=Jacon%20spon&f=false

[5] Jacob Spon : "Histoire de Genève" (Fabri et Barillot Ed., Genève, 1730

[6] Jacob Spon : Recherches curieuses d'Antiquité contenues en plusieurs dissertations sur des médailles, bas reliefs, statues, mosaïques et inscriptions antiques" (Ed. Thomas Amaulry, Lyon, 1683)

[7] Jacob Spon : Miscellanea eruditae Antiquitatis" (Ed. Lyon, 1679)

[8] Jacob Spon : " De l'origine des étrennes" (Ed. Francois Ambroise Didot, dit Didot  l'aîné, rue Pavée, & Guil. De Bure, quai des Augustins, 1781)

 

 

 

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