Sämtliche schriften und briefe series II, volume 1 (2nd edition)
Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften (ed)
pp 641-642

Date: 18/28 October 1678

Translated from the Latin

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[A II 1, p641]

     To the illustrious Pierre Daniel Huet
     From Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz.

     It is with great joy I have learned that your outstanding and immortal work on the truth of our religion has finally seen the light of day.1 And in truth you could find no worthier subject to which this great display of erudition is addressed, which you have produced at the cost of so many sleepless nights. For what, in short, is more excellent than religion, and what makes more of an impression on mortal souls? It is surely most pleasing and wonderfully consoling, given the setbacks of this life, to appropriate immortality for us, and not any kind of immortality, but such as we can desire, that is, such as Jesus Christ teaches. To show that he is the Messiah, restorer of the human race, promised by so many oracles, is the most important conclusion there is after those two key ones about God and the mind.2 At any rate I do not see what greater utility we can expect from history and erudition. I go further: every study of antiquity seems to me to have pretty much just this one use, that we may vindicate the ancient evidence of our happiness and, so to speak, of our nobility (which we owe to Christ for restoring the regenerated), from doubts and corruptions. Indeed, first it must be shown that our sacred books are genuine and have reached us uncorrupted as regards the most important matters. But no one can do this adequately unless he understands the mysteries of the art of criticism, is able to investigate the authenticity of writings, and knows the particularities of languages, the spirit of those centuries, and their chronology. It must then be shown that the author of such great things, to whom the sacred books refer, was sent from heaven, and this is proved3 by the oracles which foretold he would be born many centuries later, the wonders performed by those to whom Christ gave his authority, the incomparable sanctity of doctrine, the constancy of the martyrs, and finally the triumph of the cross. But it cannot be demonstrated that all these things have happened as described unless the whole of universal history, both sacred and profane, has been very precisely established, and the manuscripts, coins and inscriptions and other treasures of the learned have been obtained. For credence in history depends on these things. Accordingly, I have often wished there was someone who [A II 1, p642] might furnish us with an inventory, so to speak, of this valuable treasure of all the things that remain today of the traces of antiquity, insofar as that is possible. We await such a thing about inscriptions from Marquardo Gudius,4 the greatest man in his field, while Ezekiel Spanheim and other excellent men,5 especially your Mr Carcavi,6 most worthy custodian of so many resources in this regard, will not fail us with the coins. But till now I lack a history of manuscripts in which are listed the best codices that are still extant in Europe, especially those from which copies have been made and which are unique.
     But that is said in passing. In the meantime it will be sufficient that every display of erudition, as it were the principal goal, is directed to confirming sacred history. I have no doubt that you have done this very successfully, although I have only seen a part of the unpublished work you once showed me. I think congratulations are due to better erudition, which has found in your hands its true use, and congratulations are due to you who have united reputation and utility. It is not only I who impatiently awaits the work (although I should think it is already on its way to us), but the most serene Johann Friedrich, Duke of Brunswick and Luneburg,7 awaits it too. This prince, more than one might imagine, has understanding and curiosity about all things and especially about sacred erudition. Your name is not unknown to him, and it was with the greatest pleasure that he listened to me relate your plan.

     Farewell illustrious Sir, and continue to favour the supporter of your name and talents.
     Sent from Hanover, 18 October 1678.

     P.S. You will accept these letters from the most distinguished and most learned Mr Hansen, my friend, who cherishes your reputation and talents nearly as much as I do.8


1. Pierre Daniel Huet, Demonstratio evangelica pro veritate religionis Christianae ad Serenissimum Delphinum (Paris, 1679). Leibniz incorrectly believed the book had been published at the time of writing, after being advised in July 1678 that it was nearly complete.
2. Leibniz here means the demonstration of God's existence and the immortality of the mind.
3. Reading "testatur" in place of "testantur."
4. Marquando Gudius (1635-1689), a classical scholar renowned for his collection of inscriptions.
5. Ezekiel Spanheim (1629-1710), a diplomat, ambassador, and expert on ancient coins. He published Dissertatio de praestantia et usu numismatum antiquorum (Rome, 1664).
6. Pierre de Carcavi (1600/3-1684), at the time custodian of the Royal Library of France.
7. Duke Johann Friedrich (1625-1679), Leibniz's employer at the time of writing.
8. Friedrich Adolf Hansen (1652-1711).

© Lloyd Strickland 2018