LES FARFADETS by BERBIGUIER DE TERRE-NEUVE DU THYM, Alexis-Vincent-Charles.

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Attacked by Goblins - psychotic hallucinations or Demonic possession?

LES FARFADETS ou tous les demons ne sont pas de l'autre monde. Paris, Chez l'Auteur et P. Gueffier... et chez tous les Marchands de nouveautés des quatre parties du Monde.

1821. Three volumes, 8vo; pp. lciv, 1 - 176, 173-362; pp. 463, [1] blank; pp. 477, [1]; with three lithograph frontispieces and a further 6 (one folding) lithographs; aside from some occasional light foxing and marginal browning, generally clean and crisp, though with a couple of small burn holes (Vol. II, p. 15, and Vol. III p. 209), a small paper flaw affecting upper blank gutter of Vol. I p. 281, with a few neat marginal repairs (Vol. I, p. 82, Vol. II, pp. 186-8, 265-7, 317-9, 461-4, and Vol. III half-title), with upper gutter of Vol. III pp. 67-69 nicked; recently rebound in modern calf, with new labels in red and green on spine, lettered in gilt. First edition of this extraordinary work, of note for the striking plates drawn by Quinart and lithographed by Langlumé, and considered by many to be one of the strangest publications of the 19th century. Alexis-Vincent-Charles Berbiguier (1765-ca. 1851) ‘believed himself to be plagued by a host of demons whom he referred to as farfadets (”goblins”). He claimed not only to have been repeatedly victimized by these demons (among other things, they were responsible for the death of his pet squirrel, Coco), but he also allegedly carried out extensive correspondence with them, both sending and receiving letters from the various emissaries of Hell. Berbiguier wrote and illustrated his three-volume autobiography and published it between the years of 1818 and 1821, for the benefit of others who might learn how to battle with demons through his own experiences. He titled the massive, rambling work, Les Farfadets... (Goblins, or Not All Demons are from the other world)’ (Belanger, p. 69). For some time he was treated by Philippe Pinel (1745-1826) at the famous Hôpital de la Salpêtrière, but without success, indeed Berbiguier coming to believe that Pinel himself, was a ‘representative of the Devil’ (Vol. I. p. 4), Pinel coming under frequent attack throughout the work, and accused of colluding with occult forces. Limited to a small print run, Berbiguier eventually destroyed almost all of the copies after publication, though whether from remorse or from fear of retribution from the forces of evil, remains unknown to this day.
This rare and curious ‘autobiography’ has given rise to numerous studies and publications, both from a medical and literary point of view. The work is discussed at length by Massimo Introvigne in ‘Satanism: A social History’ (ff. 74): ‘In 1821, Alexis-Vincent-Charles Berbiguier published a book... that few approved of but many read. In elegant Paris of the Restoration, reading Berbiguier became almost an obligation. References to him by several contemporary authors show the popularity of Berbiguier, later usually listed among the “cranks” or simply consigned to psychiatry... Les Farfadets...is, effectively, a paradoxical and wonderful work, which deserves its fame. The portrait decorating the first of Berbiguier’s three volumes, a marvellous lithography that became a rarity sought by bibliographers, portrays him as the “scourge of the farfadets”. Farfadet in French, means “leprechaun”, but the author defined farfadets as “the élite secret service of Beelzebub”. Although the demons themselves are occasionally defined by Berbiguier as farfadets too, there is no doubt, through his three volumes, comprising almost one thousand five-hundred pages, that most farfadets are human beings, who became “agents” of the Devil and Satanists.
The work of Berbiguier opens with an erudite introduction, a Preliminary Discourse that was probably written by François-Vincent Raspail (1794-1878) who, together with lawyer J. B. P. Brunel (1789-1859), edited Berbiguier’s manuscript giving it a literary form... Theology and experience, Berbiguier argued, prove not only that the Devil does exist, but also that there are men and (more often) women who bond with him through a demonic pact... Animated by the Devil, farfadets can manipulate nature, causing rain and snow, and invisibly sneak into the houses of their victims. The can also modify the behaviour of animals and even “animate” inanimate things. The pious man can however defeat Satanists through prayer and the use of herbs such as laurel and thyme, where are feared by the devils themselves.
The first volume portrays the poor Berbiguier, who at the age of thirty-two moved from his birthplace in Carpentras, where he was born in 1764, to Avignon. He worked there as an employee for the Lottery, and then as the bursar in the Hospice of Saint Martha. One of the housemaids convinced him to consult tarot cards with a soothsayer known as “La Mansotte”. This initial excursion into occultism was the event that “put him in the hands of the farfadets” and was the source of all evils for Berbiguier. The poor man never slept again from this moment on: the Satanists, invisible, crept into his house and into his bed and tormented him with every sort of offence... He approached for help both an exorcist and several doctors in Avignon: among whom two named Bouge and Nicolas who, unfortunately for him, were disciples of Mesmer and tried to “magnetize” him. Berbiguier saw in magnetism and mesmerism, just like in tarot reading, an artifice of the Devil, so he did not regard his declining condition as a surprise... The pilgrimage to different doctors continued, among others to the famous Philippe Pinel (1745-1826) of the Salpêtrière Hospital. Pinel sent him to an exorcist priest, who however did not believe in the diabolical nature of his ills. Pinel and his collaborators for a while indulged Berbiguier, suggesting placebos and ceremonies both bizarre and harmless to free him from spirits they regarded as imaginary, but eventually sent him away and treated him as a lunatic. Berbiguier ended up believing that almost all doctors were farfadets and that Pinel was actually the “representative of Satan” on Earth’ (Introvigne, and see Vol. I. p. 4).
Berbiguier provides extensive information about what he perceives to be the court of Hell, and throughout the three volumes recounts numerous encounters between himself and other ‘Satanists’, both male and female, including a failed priest, Étienne Prieur, a magician Adélio Moreau (1789-1861), and other personalities including Marie-Anne Lenormand (1772-1843), the famous tarot card reader of the period, and whom Berbiguier believed to be a leading Satanic Grand Mistress. ‘The most famous pages of the book are those dedicated to the epic of the squirrel Coco, Berbiguier’s only inseparable friend, destined to a cruel fate... The farfadets, in their nocturnal visits... in invisible form, lashed out at Coco, and finally killed him by inducing him to go in between the mattress and the bed of his unhappy owner, who at the same time was violently thrown on that bed by a farfadet, causing the immediate death of the little creature’ (ibid, and see Vol. II. 78-79).
‘Berbiguier ruined himself by sending copies of his luxuriously bound text to sovereigns, newspapers and libraries. He later had all the remaining copies burned, an action which makes his work today a bibliographic rarity, we don’t know if out of fear of being considered a madman or of further persecution by the farfadets. Although other sources considered him “healed” and dead in Paris in 1835, it appears that in 1841 he was still chasing after farfadets, in spite of his miserable condition, in the Carpentras home for the aged’ (ibid).
As Introvigne notes, some scholars have subsequently questioned whether the whole work in fact that of the editors, hoping perhaps to create a literary sensation and capitalise upon the 19th century fascination with the occult. Barbier certainly seems to suggest that it is more the work of Raspail and Brunel. Many contemporaries widely regarded him as a madman, but a madman who told certain truths, and the work certainly found a wide contemporary readership, and was cited by several authors and known to the eminent demonographer Collin de Plancy, who cites the work in the ‘Dictionnaire Infernel’. Today, it is widely believed that Berbiguier was indeed suffering from some form of monomania or psychosis, and indeed the Dictionnaire encyclopédies des sciences médicales, of 1868-69 devote a passage to Berbiguier describing him as the ‘most famous of the hallucinated monomaniacs’, who ‘devoted all of his time defending himself from the insults and attacks of goblins, to hunting down these fantastic beings, to imprison them in boxes or in bottles, to prick them with pine like butterflies’.
Of his name, Berbiguier notes that the addition of ‘de Terre-Neuve du Thym’ was not through some improbably claim to nobility, but more simply from the idea that Terra Nova fishermen catch many fishes, as he hoped to catch many farfadets, and from his desire to retire and cultivate thyme, a plant that was effective in driving out demons (Vol. I, pp. xiii-xiv). A second edition was finally published in 1990.

Bibliography: Barbier, II. p. 14; Caillet, 973; Vicaire I, p. 338; for a detailed discussion see Massimo Introvigne, Satanism: A Social History, ff. 74; see Belanger, The Dictionary of Demons, p. 69; see Grillot de Givry, Witchcraft, Magic & Alchemy, ff. 141; see Ariane Gélinas, Le ‘Fléau des farfadets’, http://oic.uqam.ca/sites/oic.uqam.ca/files/documents/p-11-2-gelinas-le_fleau.pdf; On Berbiguier as a psychiatric case, see A. Blavier, Les Fous littéraires, cit, pp. 467-468; and Jacques Lechner, ‘A. V. C. Berbiguier de Terre-Neuve du Thym, ‘L’homme aux farfadets’. MA Thesis Strasbourg School of medicine, 1983.

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