William Cave

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The reputation of church historian William Cave principally rests upon two works: Antiquitates apostolicae: or the History of the Lives, Acts and Martyrdoms of the Holy Apostles of Our Saviour, … (London, 1676; rev. edn, London, 1677), and Scriptorum ecclesiasticorum historia literaria: a Christo nato usque ad saeculum XIV. facili methodo digesta …, 2 vols (London, 1688; Geneva, 1688–98). See: BBK, vol. 1, cols 962–3; LThK, vol. 2, p. 985; ODNB.

On 21 June 1676, William Cave pens a letter to Placcius. Cave writes to his Hamburg correspondent that in De scriptis et scriptoribus anonymis atque pseudonymis syntagma (On Treatises and Anonymous Authors as well as on Invented Pseudonyms)a dictionary published by Placcius in 1674 that marks the beginning of the field of cryptonomyhe had written nothing about the ‘Theological-Political Treatise’ or its masked author. Cave in his letter provides the German scholar with information about the life and writings of Spinoza. In the early 1690s, Placcius would start reworking his dictionary into what eventually would become the bulky Theatrum anonymorum et pseudonymorum, the first comprehensive bibliography of pen names and anonyms. In Theatrum, Placcius restored the earlier omission noticed by Cave and wrote a substantial entry on Spinoza (Placcius, 1708, ch. 2, pp. 176–9, no. 889 and ch. 14, p. 566, no. 2242 (Reflexions curieuses)). 

Placcius identifies Spinoza as the disguised author of Tractatus theologico-politicus and states that the treatise was also published in the French language under the titles Reflexions curieuses d’un esprit des-interressé sur les matieres les plus importantes au salut, tant public que particulier and Traitté des ceremonies superstitieuses superstitieuses des Juifs tant anciens que modernes. Placcius also mentions Spinoza as the author of the Opera posthuma and of Philosophia S. Scripturae interpres. In the same entry, he also mentions and quotes from some of the early refutations of Spinoza. In addition, in Theatrum he also points to the offer to become professor in Heidelberg. About the title-page of the ‘Theological-Political Treatise’, he further contends that the imprint at the foot of its title-page (‘Kühn Rath’) is fictitious and puts forward that the book had been printed in the Netherlands. In the same entry, Placcius also hints to the letter sent to him by Cave on June 21.


Vincent Placcius