Discours de la methode pour bien conduire sa raison, & chercher la verité dans les sciences. Plus La Dioptrique. Les Meteores. Et La Geometrie. Qui sont des essais de cete methode.

Leiden, J. Maire, 1637

4to: 78-[1-1 bl.]-413-[34-1 bl.] pp. (toned, occasional minor soiling or spotting, some ms. annotations and underlinings).

Contemp. Dutch overl. vellum, covers with gilt fillet, flat spine titled in ink (sl. soiled, ties gone, back cover slightly loosening), all flyleaves present. Very good copy.

First edition, published anonymously, of "Discours de la methode", which made Descartes (1596-1650) the first of modern philosophers and one of the first of modern scientists. Descartes stated that knowledge must be based on the experience of the mind. His method essentially involved reducing problems down to simpler questions and then building them back up again to more complex queries. The "Discours" was issued with three other mathematical treatises which Descartes stated would demonstrate his method, as he believed it was more important to show practice than theory. The Cartesian method is outlined in the Four Rules presented in Book II. Books III and IV contain discussions of metaphysics and physiology, the latter of which includes a reference to Harvey’s discovery of the circulation of blood. The appended essays on optics, meteorology, and geometry demonstrate the type of results that can be obtained by employing his rules of scientific investigation. His essay on optics contains important observations and experiments on refraction as well as one of the earliest mentions of Snell’s law of refraction. His brilliant treatise on geometry laid the foundation for analytic geometry. Descartes’ 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 (thus "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" (Printing and the Mind of Man). Woodcut mark on title. 7 full-page woodcuts and some 200 woodcuts or diagrams in texto. Annotation on title "Auctore Renato des Cartes. Nobili Gallo.".
Ref. Van Otegem (Bibl. Descartes) 14-19 (ext. descr.). - Breugelmans (Maire) 1637:8. - PMM 129. - En français dans le texte 90. - Dibner (Heralds of science) 81. - Norman 621.
Prov. "Ex libris H. f. de Hodiamont née de Grooteclaes, le 27 Aurill 1689" (ms. entry on front flyleaf, on verso: "emptum ... 20 Martii 1681"). - M. de Baratte (ms. entry on last flyleaf, on verso: "Monsieur a tres chere").

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