DESCARTES, René (1596-1650). Principia philosophiae. Amsterdam: Louis Elzevir, 1644.
4o (192 x 153 mm). Printer's woodcut device on title, numerous woodcut illustrations and diagrams, some full-page. (Some pale dampstaining at corners, kk3-4 loose.) Near-contemporary calf (upper joint starting, some wear). Provenance: Robert S. Dunham (pencil signature on pastedown, sold Sotheby's New York, 11 December 1993, lot 660.)
FIRST EDITION OF DESCARTES' SYSTEM OF PHYSICS, in which he developed his theory of vortices. Based in part on his then unpublished work Le monde, which treated the creation and function of the universe in completely mechanistic terms, Descartes' Principia provides a systematic statement of his metaphysics and natural philosophy. The first part, De principiis cognitionis humanae (Of the Principles of Human Knowledge) deals with the nature of motion, rest, force, and action. He defines motion in Book II and distinguishes the difference between translation and "the force that brings about this translation." Descartes was careful in the Principia to qualify his mechanistic Copernican views with the idea that all motion is relative. Descartes' system represents a truly comprehensive look at the universe in a fundamentally new, mechanistic and non-teleological way. His vortex theory was the starting point for all serious work in physical theory in the mid-17th century, including Newton. The fourth and final part of the work contains the first scientific theory of magnetism. Guibert, p. 118; Tchemerzine II, p. 787; Norman 622.
DESCARTES, René. Specimina philosophiae: seu dissertatio de methodo ... dioptrice, et meteora. Translated into Latin from French by Estienne de Courcelles. Amsterdam: Louis Elzevir, 1644. 4o. Printer's woodcut device on title, numerous woodcut illustrations and diagrams in text. FIRST LATIN EDITION of the Discours, which omits the treatise Gometri. It includes the first appearance of the Cartesian sound-bite: "cogito, ergo sum." Although separate works, these two Elzevir publications often appear together. Guibert, p. 104; NLM/Krivatsy 3116; Tchemerzine II, p. 777; Willems 1008; Norman 623.