DESCARTES, René. Lettres de Mr Descartes Où sont traittées les plus belles Questions De la Morale, Physique, Médecine, & des Mathématiques.


First edition of Descartes’ correspondence
First edition of Descartes’ scientific and philosophical Letters addressed to the Queen of Sweden and the Palatine Princess. Attractive copy preserved in its contemporary vellum.

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Paris, Henry Le Gras, 1657.

4to [222 x 162 mm] of (1) bl.l., (15) ll., 663 pp., (1) p. of errors to correct. Bound in full soft vellum, flat spine with the handwritten title on the foot. Small tear on the foot of the spine. Contemporary binding.

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First edition of Descartes’ correspondence. Tchermerzine, II, 785; Guibert p.77; De Backer, 688.

“This work encloses 119 French and Latin letters. Most of them are addressed to the Queen of Sweden, the Palatine Princess, Mr. Mersenne, Mr. Chanut, Mr. le Roy, Mr. Morin. They are sometimes decorated with woodcuts.” (Guibert).

Descartes evokes physics, mathematics, philosophy and medicine subjects.

“Claude Clerselier gathered these letters from the minutes their author had himself made and archived through his so many travels, showing there the very importance he had for them, like a custodian of his ideas, a file of his discoveries” (Jean-Robert Armogathe).

“During several years, from 1642 to the end of 1649, René Descartes (1596-1650) exchanged a regular correspondence with Princess Elisabeth, daughter of Frederick V, elector palatine and king of Bohemia. She was a very cultivated woman and especially keen about the mathematical sciences; she had read with deep interest and admiration his ‘Méditations métaphysiques’. […] This friendship was to last until Descartes’ death. He writes again from Sweden, praising the Queen Kristin (October 1649). It’s his last letter; Descartes died in February 1650. This correspondence is extremely interesting ; because, after questions from his interlocutor, Descartes finds himself amiable to rethink some problems and to give a clearer and more complete description than in his works; but mostly, this is the only direct document presenting him in his intimacy and, within it, the man and not only the philosopher anymore. We learn he had planned to write a Treatise on erudition; we also win interesting details about his life, entirely secluded and dedicated to studying and mostly to meditation, that he led in Holland, and about the few months he spent at the Queen of Sweden’s court.” (Dictionnaire des Œuvres, IV, 138-139).

The text is illustrated with many woodcuts.

An attractive wide-margined copy preserved in its first contemporary limp vellum binding.

Provenance: handwritten ex-libris on the title Bibliotheca Melletensis catal. Inscriptus.

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