9 February 2000
DESCARTES, Ren (1596-1650). De homine figuris. Translated from French into Latin by Florentius Schuyl (1619-1669). Leyden: Petrus Leffen and Franciscus Moyardus, 1662.
4o (202 x 154 mm). Printer's woodcut device on title-page, 10 engraved plates, one with overlays showing the interior regions of the heart, numerous engravings and woodcuts in text. (Some minor browning and light spotting.) Contemporary Dutch vellum (covers bowed).
Provenance: Andrew Donaldson (signature on front free endpaper [dated by him "Decr: 31 1690"]; gift inscription to him on title-page; and his? extensive notes and diagram on rear endpages); Dr. Elwood (purchase note on front free endpaper: "Bought at Dick's Coffee house at the auction of Dr. Elwood's Books. Novbr. 29. 1740. Price. 0:1:2").
THE FIRST EDITION OF THE FIRST TEXTBOOK OF PHYSIOLOGY. Originally written as a physiological appendix to the Discours, this work was suppressed after the condemnation of Galileo in 1663, fearing that his mechanistic view of the human body might be considered heretical. "Descartes considered the human body a material machine, directed by a rational soul located in the pineal body. This book was the first attempt to cover the whole field of 'animal physiology'" (Garrison-Morton). Descartes understood the significance of Harvey's discovery, especially the circulatory motion of the blood, and includes a long description of the circulation of blood in this work. "Without Descartes, the seventeenth-century mechanization of physiological conceptions would have been inconceivable" (DSB).
This unauthorized edition is noted with title-pages in two states by Guibert, without priority. The title-page of this copy corresponds with Guibert's first noted (the second has the printer's name reversed in the imprint and bears a different printer's device). The first authorized edition of De homine figuris was published in French in 1664 (see lot 414). Garrison-Morton 574; Grolier Medicine 31; Guibert, pp. 196-97; Norman 627; NLM/Krivatsy 3120; Osler 931; Tchemerzine II, p.798 (describing two variants of the title-page, no priority mentioned); Waller 2376; Wellcome II, p. 453.
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