2 June 2004
PASCAL, Blaise (1623-1662). Lettres de A. Dettonville contenant quelques-unes de ses inventions de geometrie. Paris: Guillaume Desprez, 1659.
Half-sheet 4° (242 x 175mm). 4 folding engraved plates. Headlines written in an early hand in first 6 parts. (Headlines occasionally shaved, 2 leaves stained at upper corner, plates just shaved and with a little staining at top and bottom.) Contemporary French vellum over thin pasteboard (small loss at spine, spine label missing); modern black morocco solander case. Provenance: Marquesses of Bute, Luton Park, Bedfordshire (18th-century armorial bookplate; sale Sotheby's 4 July 1961, lot 413, £800 to Dawson).
FIRST EDITION of a forerunner of integral calculus. Having perfected his theory of indivisibles to solve infinitesmal problems concerning the cycloid, he challenged other mathematicians to a contest to solve these problems. At the end of the contest he published 4 pamphlets under the pseudonym A. Dettonville (an anagram of Louis de Montalte, a pseudonym under which he had published his Les Provinciales) setting out his method and its applications. They were collected and published together as the present work. 'Among [its] outstanding contributions are the discovery of the equality of curvature of the generalized cycloid and the ellipse; the deepening of the concept of the indivisible; a first step toward the concept of the definite integral and the determination of its fundamental properties; and the indirect recourse to certain methods of calculation, such as integration by parts' (DSM). ONLY THREE OTHER COPIES HAVE BEEN SOLD AT AUCTION IN OVER 50 YEARS. The present copy has the separate title to the first letter, described by Tchemerzine in the Clermont-Ferrand copy, and separate title to the eighth part (letter addressed to Mr Sluze), not called for. Tchemerzine IX, 61-62 ('extrêmement rare').
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