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Discours de la Methode Pour bien conduire sa raison, & chercher la verité dans les sciences.

Plus La Dioptrique. Les Meteors. Et La Geometrie. Qui sont des essays de cete Methode.

Leiden, Jan Maire, 1637 Stock Code: 134577

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First edition of Descartes's fundamental work in philosophy and on the method of science. "It is no exaggeration to say that Descartes was the first of modern philosophers and one of the first of modern scientists The revolution he caused can be most easily found in his reassertion of the principle (lost in the Middle Ages) that knowledge, if it is to have any value, must be intelligence and not erudition" (PMM). The Discours presents the outline of Cartesian scientific method in the form of a preface to three practical treatises: La Dioptrique, which includes his derivation of the law of refraction; Les Meteors, the most straightforward and best suited for adoption as a textbook; and La Geometrie, his application of algebra to geometry. Descartes's purpose was "to find the simple indestructible proposition which gives to the universe and thought their order and system. Three points are made: the truth of thought, when thought is true to itself (hence cogito, ergo sum), the inevitable elevation of its partial state in our finite consciousness to its full state in the infinite existence of God, and the ultimate reduction of the material universe to extension and local movement. From these central propositions in logic, metaphysics and physics came the subsequent inquiries of Locke, Leibniz and Newton; from them stem all modern scientific and philosophic thought" (op. cit.) This work, one of the first European works of philosophy not to be written in Latin, also introduced modern exponential notation, an advanced theory of equations, and made further contributions to many other scientific fields including meteorology and optics.

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Small quarto (204 x 155 mm). Contemporary Dutch vellum over pasteboard, spine lettered by hand in black, preserved in a custom made cloth box.


Engraved frontispiece portrait from another work laid in opposite title. Printer's woodcut device on title, numerous woodcut diagrams in the text (one full-page cut repeated seven times).


Provenance: Small cloth monogram book label of Christian Lazare to the front pastedown; Carl-Bertel Nathhorst (1907-85), his sale at Christie's, 2 June 2004, lot 54. Short crack to head of front joint, added portrait window-mounted; one or two short marginal tears, lower outer corner with pale damp mark, leaf edges toned, with some light spotting throughout; a crisp copy with generous margins.


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