This post is part of an ongoing series featuring items from the newly acquired Julio Mario Santo Domingo Collection.
Léo Taxil was actually the pen name for Gabriel-Antoine Jogand-Pagès, a man born in Marseille who was educated by Jesuits in the mid 19th-century. He became extremely disillusioned with the Catholic faith during his time among them and eventually became known for his anti-Catholic writings of books like La vie de Jesus. The volume was originally published in 1882 by his own house, Libraire Anti-Clericale, and our copy is from 1900.
The volume points out from Taxil’s perspective the errors, inconsistencies, and false beliefs in a satiric style about the life of Jesus. It has direct quotes from the Gospels along with Taxil’s critiques.
This color poster is presumably promoting the volume and appears to take Taxil’s criticism and disdain of the Catholic Church even further if you look at the image compared to the title page of the volume. The comic illustrations in the text are by someone named Pépin and enhance this critical viewpoint.
Taxil is also famous for what is known as the Taxil Hoax. The Hoax centered on Taxil’s fake conversion to the Roman Catholic religion after a long history of anti-clerical publications. After this conversion he began publishing materials accusing Freemasons of being in league with Satan by making up eyewitness accounts of their participation in satanic rituals. The amazing part is that this hoax went on for a little over ten years from the point where Taxil apparently underwent his “conversion” until he confessed on the front page of Le Frondeur, a Parisian newspaper, in 1897. Taxil later stated that he made up such grotesque accounts to mock the Freemasons, but to his surprise people took his outlandish and outrageous statements as truth.
What is even more unbelievable is that even in present day the information and accounts from Taxil’s books are used in other anti-Masonic writings as authentic proof, even though Taxil admitted that he made it all up over 100 years ago! It would appear that the zeal of persecuting Freemasons completely erased any need for checking the authenticity of their source material.
If you want to read the original French text of La vie de Jésus /par Léo Taxil ; dessins comiques par Pépin. Paris : Librairie Anti-Clericale, [©1900] BT304.95.T39 1900 it can be found in Historical Collections at the Andover-Harvard Theological Library.
Thanks to Alison Harris, Julio Mario Santo Domingo Project Manager and Nell Carlson from Andover-Harvard Theological Library, for contributing this post.