TOLAND, John, Amyntor, or A Defence of Milton’s Life. Containing I. A general Apology for all Writings of that kind. II.
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A Catalogue of Books attributed in the Primitive times to Jesus Christ, ... III. A Complete History of the Book, Entituld, Icon Basilike, proving Dr. Gauden, and not King Charles the First, to be the Author of it ... which last Piece is now the first time publish’d at large. London: Printed, and are to be Sold by the Booksellers of London and Westminster, 1699. Crown octavo. pp. 172. Recent half calf on marbled boards, title in gilt direct on spine. From the library of Franz Pollack-Parnau with his bookplate. Signature of Mabella Gould on page one. Occasional foxing. A very good copy. Very scarce. Sweeney 5110. Wing T 1760.
John Toland was an Irish speaker born according to local tradition at Ardagh in the parish of Clonmany, Inishowen Peninsula in 1670. Daniel Harkin told the Rev. Philip O’Doherty in 1864 that a woman of the name Toland who was born at Clonmany and then aged over seventy, tearfully told Harkin, she had often heard her father and grandfather say that Toland, who belonged to their family, “had left the country, given up his religion, and had written against it”. In 1856 one Michael Toland, then a very old man and a native of Ardagh in Clonmany recalled his recollections of John Toland who was known locally as Eóghan na Leabhar or John of the Books, which name local legend has it he obtained, when herding cattle he fell asleep and when he awoke there was a book mysteriously placed under his head.
He was brought up as a Catholic but he rejected that religion in his teens probably on account of the support of a Protestant patron. He was educated in Redcastle, near Derry and later at the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. He visited the Universities of Leiden and Utrecht and studied under the famous scholar Freidreich Spanheim. He was involved in religious and political controversy all his life and was engaged in correspondence with all the major thinkers of the day (Locke and Leibniz). He was a prolific and provocative writer and has had a seminal influence in the fields of heterodox theology and republican politics. He spent much of his life after leaving Ireland in the 1690s in London and on the Continent and died destitute in Putney in 1722. John Locke’s great friend William Molyneux wrote: “This poor man, by his imprudent conduct, has raised against himself so universal a commotion that it was dangerous to be known to have spoken with him even once”. ‘Amyntor’ was written by Toland to defend his biography of Milton and contains much of Toland’s ideas on Republican political thought
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