Justel, Henri (DNB00)

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JUSTEL, HENRI (1620–1693), librarian, born in Paris in 1620, was the son of Christophe Justel, a learned protestant and canonist. He succeeded his father in the office of secretary to Louis XIV. He possessed a good library, containing many rare manuscripts, and his social qualities and powers of conversation attracted many eminent men to his house. Leibnitz visited him and esteemed him highly (Ancillon, Mémoires, &c. p. xxix), and Locke frequently saw him in Paris (Le Clerc, Life of Locke, London, 1706, p. 10; King, Life of Locke, 1830, pp. 134, 155, 158, 160). He was on good terms with several Roman catholic scholars, and endeavoured to bring about a non-sectarian translation of the Bible, a project which gave offence to Bossuet (Lettres choisies de M. Simon, 1730, i. 37). In 1675 he presented through George Hickes [q. v.] to the Bodleian Library at Oxford three precious manuscripts of the seventh century in uncial characters containing the acts of the council of Ephesus, &c. (Bodl. MSS. e Mus. 100–2). In acknowledgment of the gift Justel was on 23 June 1675 made a D.C.L. by the university of Oxford. To Dr. Hickes, Justel had confided his opinion, some time before the revocation of the edict of Nantes, that the protestants would be driven out of France, and in 1681 he sold his library on advantageous terms, and set out for England (Lettres choisies de M. Simon, i. 37). He was appointed by Charles II keeper of the king's library at St. James's, with a salary of 200l. a year, a post which he retained through the reign of James II. Evelyn, who calls him ‘that great and knowing virtuoso,’ says, under date 13 March 1691, that he had put the manuscripts into excellent order. According to the ‘Biog. Brit.’ he drew up a catalogue of books and manuscripts; but Hearne, on 24 Sept. 1710 (Collections, ed. Doble, iii. 54), says that the library was useless for want of a catalogue, and that Justel ‘was a very ingenious man, but far from being learned.’ Wood designates him ‘most noted and learned’ (Fasti, ed. Bliss, ii. 350). Other contemporaries, from Bayle downwards (Nouvelles de la République des Lettres for March 1684), express a high opinion of his learning. Justel died on 24 Sept. 1693, according to Moreri, and is said to be buried at Eton; the date, however, seems doubtful. There is an indifferent portrait of him in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ for March 1788. Justel edited and published his father's ‘Bibliotheca Juris Canonici veteris, in duos tomos distributa,’ Paris, 1661. A ‘Recueil de divers voyages faits en Afrique et en Amérique qui n'ont point encore esté publiés,’ &c., published in Paris in 1674 by ‘H. J.,’ has been attributed to him. It is a mere compilation from English works. Agnew ascribes to him without offering any proof an anonymous ‘Answer to the Bishop of Condom's Book, entitled “An Exposition of the Doctrine of the Catholic Church,”’ translated and printed in Dublin in 1676. He was not, as Agnew says, ‘the chieftain of protestant controversialists,’ or he would scarcely have retained his post under James II. He seems to have been purely a scholar, with a strong bent towards mechanics and natural science, and not always on the best terms with the protestant ministers (see Ancillon, Lettres choisies de M. Simon). In 1686 Justel, who was a fellow of the Royal Society, communicated three papers to its ‘Transactions;’ not, however, of his own composition. Haag is probably right in attributing to him the letters, apparently signed ‘Fr. Justel,’ in the Harleian MSS. No. 6943. The article in Chaufepié's ‘Dictionnaire’ contains other letters of Justel.

[Mémoires concernant la vie et les ouvrages de plusieurs modernes, par M. Ancillon, Amsterdam, 1709, pp. 220–32; Nouveau Dictionnaire historique et critique, by Chaufepié, 1753; Macray's Annals of the Bodleian Libr. 1890, p. 143; Lettres choisies de M. Simon, Amsterdam edition of 1730; Biog. Brit. vol. vi. pt. ii. 1766; Haag's La France Protestante, tom. vi. art. ‘Justel,’ 1856; Didot's Nouvelle Biographie Générale, 1858; Agnew's Protestant Exiles from France in the Reign of Louis XIV, ii. 149, 150, and Index.]

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