PASCAL, Blaise.


Sur la religion et sur quelques autres sujets, qui ont esté trouvées aprés sa mort parmy ses papiers.

Paris: Guillaume Desprez, 1670 Stock Code: 148932
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Pascal's Wager

First edition, among the greatest of all theological works and a classic of French literature, defending faith in the face of an inevitable death in a vast unknowable universe.

Still widely read today even if the specific religious disputes of the time are long gone, the book resonates with each generation as an unreserved assertion of a pessimistic worldview, but so too the possibility of joy despite this. It includes the most famous and memorable of the theological arguments for faith, "Pascal's Wager" - that as the individual has little to lose from believing in God if God does not exist, but gains eternal salvation if God does exist, the logical choice is to believe in God, a thesis widely rebutted and often derided but which remains a core argument in theological debate.

Intended as a work of Christian apologetics which would amount to a comprehensive system, Pascal worked on the project for many years, but died long before the book neared a conclusion, leaving a mass of ideas and jottings at his death. His friends gathered and edited the papers for publication, imposing an order and structure to the writings, and published the book under their given title "Pensées". The order they imposed has been disputed by later editors for three centuries, but the original structure has remained a major influence on all future editions.

The first edition was published in January 1670. In March 1670 a second edition was published with the text corrected. Two issues of this second edition exist, the first without any subsequent edition statement on the title page, the latter stating "Seconde Edition". The earlier issue of the second edition is deceptively similar to the first edition, but readily distinguished by the erratic pagination 1-312, 307-330, 313-334; in the first edition, the pagination is continuous through to p. 365. There was also a piracy of the first edition, but is easily distinguished by a variant woodcut on the titlepage rather than Desprez's woodcut monogram. A "pré-originale" printing of the first edition with a title page dated 1669 is known in two surviving copies, an advance issue likely for circulation to Pascal's associates and to gain approbations.

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Large duodecimo (149 x 83 mm). Contemporary calf, spine lettered in gilt, gilt in compartments, red speckled edges. Housed in a brown cloth flat-back box by the Chelsea Bindery.


Neat contemporary ownership signature to title page. Joints and extremities expertly restored, new rear endpapers, occasional minor peripheral staining but generally crisp and clean. An excellent, wide-margined copy.


Printing and the Mind of Man 152; Tchemerzine, V, p. 71.


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