A rare and precious copy
from the first issue of the first edition
of the Institutions by Madame du Châtelet,
including frontispiece and errata leaf.
The copy owned by the B.n.F. is missing the frontispiece.
Châtelet, Madame du. Institutions de physique.
Paris, Prault fils, 1740.
8vo [188 x 124 mm] of (4) ll., (1) l. for the frontispiece, 450 pp., (14) ll. and 11 folding plates.
Blond calf, armored cipher in the center of the upper cover, ribbed spine decorated with gild fillets and floral ornaments, lettering piece in red morocco, red edges. Contemporary armorial binding.
A very rare copy of the first issue of the first edition, including the famous frontispiece and errata leaf, of the first and most important of Madame du Châtelet’s works, written while in Cirey with Voltaire.
Poggendorff, I, 424 ; Barbier, II, 928-d ; Quérard, II, 621 ; Caillet, I, 3307.
The few copies mentioned on the international public market in the last 35 years have all been missing the famous allegorical frontispiece representing Madame du Châtelet.
The copy owned by the B.n.F. is also missing the frontispiece.
“Born with a singular eloquence, Madame du Châtelet writes more like Pascal or Nicole than like Madame de Sévigné.” (Voltaire)
Encouraged by Voltaire, who was her lover, and her passion for mathematics, Émilie du Châtelet wrote this brilliant work that can be seen as an overview of the most complex scientific ideas of the time and the exegesis of Leibniz’s ideas.
Considered to be one of the first influential women of science, Emilie du Châtelet studied Leibniz, and concerted with Clairaut, Maupertuis, König, Bernoulli, Euler, Réaumur.
She meets Voltaire in 1734, at a time when she is in disgrace ; she welcomes him to her house, in the castle of Cirey. He is the one who pushes her to translate Newton and she decides to tackle the Principia Mathematica.
“The first chapter of the present book remains to this day one of the clearest explanations of Leibniz’s doctrine in French. The book is so accomplished that Koenig tried to pass it off as one of his own.” (Mireille Touzerie)
The author’s proposal is to « establish an overview of foreign books [Leibniz or Newton] because there were no complete books on physics in French at the time.
On the topic of the Institutions, Maupertuis wrote : “A book has been published that will do our century proud.”
“A book of Newtonian inspiration on the principles of physics and mechanics’ – DBS. The signatures are marked ‘Tome I’ but the intention of publishing anymore had been given up by the time the title was printed. The book was written during the time of the author’s liaison with Voltaire.” (Honeyman, Collection of Scientific Books)
“The Institutions de Physique offers an overview of the systems of Descartes, Leibniz and Newton. It is also a controversial book because it disputes the theory of forces” (from the secretary of the Académie des Sciences, Dortous de Mairan ‘Chap. XXI) – a first in the history of Science because a woman is opposed to a man. She is the one the future will rule in favor of.
The complete first edition comprised of a half-title, 3 ll., 450 pages and the table of contents and 5 leafs for the privilege, errata and catalogue. The illustration is made up of a frontispiece, of 22 pretty vignettes at half-page and 11 scientific folding plates.
The famous Honeyman copy sold by Sotheby’s 28 years ago was missing the frontispiece.
A precious and beautiful copy, printed on fine paper, complete, and including the frontispiece and errata leaf, preserved in its contemporary armorial binding.
This copy belongs to the first issue of the first edition with the frontispiece before the letter.
Provenance : Library of Charles-Alexandre Eisenach (crowned cipher on the upper cover).