[DESCARTES, Ren (1596-1650)]. Discours de la mthode pour bien conduire sa raison, & chercher la verit dans les sciences. Leyden: Jan Maire, 1637.
4o (199 x 151 mm). Printer's woodcut device on title, numerous woodcut diagrams in text (one full-page cut repeated 7 times). Contemporary Dutch vellum with overlapping edges; full morocco folding case. Provenance: Early hand-lettered monogram on pastedown; Hammer Library, Stockholm (bookplate); P.W. (bookplate).
FIRST EDITION OF DESCARTES' FUNDAMENTAL WORK IN PHILOSOPHY AND ON THE METHOD OF SCIENCE. Written as a "Preface" to the three Essais and included to illustrate its range, the Discours presents an outline of Descartes' new metaphysical system, or scientific method, summed up in the Four Rules in the Part Two. The first part of the Discours is autobiographical and covers his life up to 1619; the second part includes discovery of a method as set out in the four Regulae: to accept nothing that is not evidently true, to divide the difficulty into as many parts as are needed, to start with the simplest problems, and to be so comprehensive as to leave nothing out. Part Three deals with the doctrines of the early Regulae; part four offers a metaphysical doctrine he would much more fully develop in the Meditationes. The fifth part provides a summary of Le Monde and L'Homme, including his discussion of cardiovascular physiology which mentions Harvey. In Part Six Descartes offers a strongly naturalistic account of human behaviour and an introduction to the three treatises that follow: La Dioptrique, a practical treatise which includes Descartes' derivation of the law of refraction, Les Mtors, the most straightforward and most suited for adoption as a textbook, and La Gomtrie, his application of algebra to 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" (PMM). A VERY FINE COPY. Dibner Heralds of Science; Grolier/Horblit 24; Guibert, p. 14; NLM/Krivatsy 3114; PMM 129; Norman 621.