PASCAL, Blaise (1623-1662). Les Pensées. Paris: Guillaume Desprez, [2 January] 1670.
12° (154 x 84mm). Printer's monogram device on title, engraved headpiece, type-ornament tailpieces, decorated initials. Pages ruled in red. (Occasional discolouration.) Contemporary red morocco gilt, gilt edges; red morocco slipcase by Mme Alix of Paris. Provenance: Montedor[e] (contemporary title inscription) -- [sold Paris, Ader Picard Tajan, 29 March 1984, lot 78, 331,674 FFr to Fleming] -- Haven O'More, Garden Library (sale, Sotheby's NY, 9 November 1989, lot 126) -- Amsterdam, Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica (bookplate; sale Sotheby's, 5 December 2001, lot 117).
FIRST EDITION. AN EXTREMELY FINE, BIBLIOPHILE COPY OF PASCAL'S GREATEST WORK. Pascal's comprehensive Christian apologetic, unfinished at the time of this death, is a thorough investigation of human nature in its all aspects: psychological, social, metaphysical and theological. He sets out to show that the ultimate solution to problems inherent in human nature may be found in a fundamental belief in God; through true knowledge of God, true happiness may be found. This conviction reflects Pascal's own experience of intense religious conversion and zealous adherence to Jansenism, and his exacting analysis reflects the application of rationalism and scepticism to faith.
At the time of Pascal's death in 1662 the Pensées were a collection of only partly ordered fragments. Its publication was undertaken by a group of leading Jansenists at the behest of Pascal's nephew, Etienne Perier and his family. Etienne Perier provided a preface outlining his uncle's life and work and the travails in publishing the Pensées.
The first edition was published in 1670 with an 'achevé d'imprimer' dated 2 January 1670. It followed an 'édition préoriginale', known in 2 copies only (Paris and Troyes), which appears to have served as a trial or proof edition, since it was issued without approbation, privilege, table of chapters, errata, and avertissement. THE PRESENT COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION IS PERHAPS THE FINEST TO SURVIVE. Its contemporary French red morocco binding is completely unrestored.
Pascal, Oeuvres complètes II Edition, ed. Michel le Guern, Paris: 2000; Le Maire 2; PMM 152; Tchermerzine 9:73.