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FIRST PUBLICATION OF DESCARTES’ COSMOLOGY, ORIGINALLY SUPPRESSED AFTER THE TRIAL OF GALILEO

DESCARTES, René (1596–1650)

Le monde de Mr Descartes , ou, le traité de la lumiere et des autres principaux objets des sens. Avec un discours de l’action des corps, & un autre des fièvres, composez selon les principes du méme auteur

Paris: chez Michel Bobin & Nicolas le Gras, au troisiéme pillier de la grand salle du palais, à l’esperance & à L. Couronnée, 1664
8vo: ¶8 A–Q8 R2; 2A–B8; 3A–B8 (blank B8), 170 leaves, pp. [16] 260; 31 [1 blank]; 30 [2 blank]. Woodcut device on title of a bird in flight with a snake in its beak with floral sprays on each side, woodcut head and tail pieces and initials and 28 woodcut diagrams in the text.
Condition: 167 x 112mm. Light browning.
Binding: Contemporary calf, gilt spine, head and tail of spine and corners worn. Joints split but cords holding, front free endleaf removed.
Provenance: ‘Delperé’, early signature on title scored out; ‘Diadoux’, 19th century signature on pastedown repeated on titlepage.
First edition, Bobin and Le Gras issue. Tchemerzine distinguishes 3 titlepages a, with the imprint of Theodore Girard; b, as the present copy; and c, with the imprint of Jacques le Gras. Titlepage a is apparently a cancel (see Norman) and is from a different setting of type from b and c which are the same except for the imprint. The privilège was granted to Jacques le Gras who made part of it over to Michel Bobin, Nicolas le Gras and Theodore Bobin. Le Gras and Girard were brothers-in-law.
Bibliography: Guibert p. 211 no. 1; Tchemerzine IV, p. 311; Norman 629.
£3,500

Le monde, suppressed by Descartes after the trial of Galileo in 1633, presents a more or less complete statement of his cosmology. His great achievement was to develop a system of physics based on a simple theory of matter and a few simple laws – very similar to Newton’s laws of motion – which also allowed him to account for all the known properties of light.
The text was edited by Claude Clerselier (1614–1684) who added, anonymously, Gérauld de Cordemoy’s ‘Discours … touchant le mouvement et le repos’ and a treatise on fevers whose author I have not identified.
Keywords:     astronomy