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ROHAULT, Jacques.

Tractatus Physicus

gallice emissus et recens Latinitate donatus, per Th. Bonetum D. M. cum animadversionibus Antonii Legrand.

London: G. Wells & A. Swalle, 1682 Stock Code: 127068
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"A very influential book" by a leading Cartesian

First London edition, following the Geneva Latin edition of 1674; originally published as Traité de physique (Paris: Charles Savreux, 1671). This edition is dedicated to the physician Thomas Short (1635-1685); Pepys owned a copy (item 1278 in the catalogue of his library). Through the English version of the theologian and philosopher Samuel Clarke (1675-1729) - known familiarly as "Clarke's Rohault" (1697) - it became the standard textbook for half a century, going through numerous editions. Decidedly uncommon: ESTC cites copies at just seven British and Irish institutional libraries (BL, Oxford, Cambridge, Hereford Cathedral, Newcastle, Wellcome, Trinity College Dublin), 12 copies in North America, one at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, one at Monash University Library.

"Born at Amiens, Rohault 1618-1672 studied in the Jesuit college of his home city and then moved to Paris, where he became known as a professor of mathematics. He was the son-in-law of Claude Clerselier, the editor of Descartes' unpublished writings, and as a result of this connection became a lightning rod of the Cartesian movement in France. Besides hosting some of the most famous Parisian conferences of his time - 'the Wednesday meetings' - Rohault got actively involved in the dissemination of Cartesianism by sending Pierre-Sylvain Régis to teach Descartes' philosophy in Toulouse. From the philosophical point of view, he presents his achievements as a combination of Aristotle's and Descartes' thought, to which he adds something new, namely an experimental methodology. Rohault published only two books during his life: the Traité de physique (1671) and the Entretiens sur la philosophie (1671). While the first aims at providing a textbook on natural philosophy, the second represents his answer to the increased debates about transubstantiation in France during the 1660s More systematic in structure, the Traité de physique was a very influential book from its publication up to the middle of the eighteenth century, in France and elsewhere, including Louvain, Cambridge, and Utrecht. Quickly translated and published in Latin, this book was significant for the evolution of mechanical philosophy even in the context of the birth and development of Newtonianism" (The Cambridge Descartes Lexicon). Provenance: contemporary engraved armorial bookplate of Bowes (name excised) and ownership inscription of Martin Bowes (1671-1726), admitted a fellow of the Royal Society in December 1699. A very appealing, unsophisticated copy with an attractive period provenance.

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Octavo (188 x 117 mm). Contemporary panelled calf, spine label absent, red edges.


17 engraved diagrammatic folding plates.


Joints rubbed and just split at head and tail, a couple of neat old tape repairs to verso of plates, occasional toning. A very good copy.


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