VIETE, François Principes de cosmographie. Tirés d’un manuscrit de Viette, & traduits en François. Corrigées & augmentées.


Rare work of astronomy by the greatest French mathematician of the 16th century

A very rare astronomical work written in the 16th century by François Viète, the precursor of algebra and guardian of Catherine de Parthenay. A very pure copy in its contemporary limp vellum.

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Rouen, Jean Behourt, 1647.

12 mo [146 x 77 mm], (8) pp., 172. Bound in contemporary limp vellum, flat spine, old handwritten calculations on covers. Light waterstain in the lower corner.

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Third edition of this very rare astronomical work written in the 16th century for Catherine de Parthenay. DSB 14, pp. 18-25.

François Viète (1540-1603) follows courses of law at the University of Poitiers, where he obtains his degree in 1560. Few years later, he decides to leave the bar in order to become the guardian of Catherine de Parthenay. At this time he is particularly interested in astronomy, and he writes his first scientific work for his pupil. The Principes de cosmographie are the only reading he made to his pupil that survived, in a French translation; they were published for the first time in 1637.

Catherine de Parthenay is the heiress of a powerful Huguenot family, the Parthenay-Lévêque. She is interested in astrology and astronomy, and when she is eleven years old, her mother gives her François Viète as guardian, one of the greatest mathematicians of that time. Viète will stay her adviser and friend during all her life.

The present work is divided into three parts: the Traicté de la sphere from pp. 1 to 24, illustrated with 2 figures in the text, the Elémens de géographie from pp. 25 to 144, where Viète describes the countries of the world, and Elémens d’astronomie, from pp. 145 to 172, where he deals with stars and planets.

Viète financed his own writings and he only printed his books in a very limited number of copies for his friends. That’s the reason why his books are so rare. He is considered as the main precursor to algebra. He was the first one to represent the parameters of an equation with letters. His writings influenced Descartes, Harriot, but also Newton and Leibniz.

The present edition is the rarest of this book. OCLC records 2 copies of the first edition dated 1637, 5 copies of the 1643 edition and only 1 copy of this edition, preserved at the Burndy Library. The B.n.F. is the only French library to own this 1647 edition. No copy is listed in ABPC.

A very pure copy of this rare and sought-after astronomical work, preserved in its contemporary limp vellum.

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VIETE, François