Paris: Guillaume Desprez, 1670.
1st Edition. Hardcover. Near Fine. Item #003610
12mo (152 x 86 mm). , 365 ,  pp. Signatures: ã12 ē12 ī8 o8 u1 A-P12 Q4 R8 S2. With 'Approbation des Prelats' leaf, 2 leaves of privilege with errata on verso of second, and the table on content. Title with printer's monogram device, engraved headpiece on p.1, woodcut initials and type-ornament head- and tailpieces, bound with the final blank leaf S2. Leaf K9 misbound before K8. Bound by Aussourd in early 20th-century fine red morocco, spine lettered and tooled in gilt and with 5 raised bands, boards, board edges and turn-ins ruled and tooled in gilt, all edges gilt, marbled endpapers. Housed in custom-made slip-case. The text crisp and bright throughout, fore-edge of leaves G1-3 with some tilt and slightly shorter (originally bound crooked and here straightened). Provenance: Mis de Castelnau (incribed on title). A tall, exceptionally well preserved copy. ----
PMM 152; Tchemerzine V 70; En français dans le texte 96; Brunet IV, 398; Le Maire 2. - FIRST (OFFICIAL) EDITION and the earliest obtainable of Pascal's literary masterpiece. Published at the behest of his nephew, Etienne Perier, Pascal's great Christian apologetic has a privilege dated 2 January 1670. The earlier issue of 1669 is known in two copies only (Paris and Troyes) and can be regarded as unobtainable. Appearing without approbation, privilege, table of chapters, errata, and avertissement, it was not formally published and the few copies produced were presumably a trial run. The BnF catalogue entry for the 1669 edition describes it as "edition 'préoriginale'", while their entry for the present edition reads "edition originale". (See BnF FRBNF31062667; 31062666 for the 1669 edition).
"When Pascal (see also [PMM] 140) died, he left a considerable amount of unpublished material, some of which has only recently been printed. It was however only eight years after his death that there appeared the first edition of his Pensées, with an introduction by his nephew Perier, from which it appeared that these 'Meditations' were fragments of a vast apology for Christianity, which Pascal had planned long since. These fragments were in themselves confused, and it is difficult to believe that they formed part of any such grand design. In fact, they were a selection made under the authority of a group of distinguished Jansenists, and the book carried the imprimatur of a number of others, all testifying to its orthodoxy. It is patently clear from these circumstances, and indeed from the still extant manuscript, that the text was considerably modified (a fact which would have caused little surprise or horror at the time) to avoid provoking any further outburst against the Jansenists -- in 1670 Port Royal was enjoying an unaccustomed lull in its troubles. From then on, the text of the Pensees has been the subject of endless controversy, as has Pascal's purpose and standpoint in writing them. In 1776 Condorcet ([PMM]246) even published a revised selection in the interests of unorthodoxy, and it was not until 1844 that Faugère produced the first text with any pretensions to accuracy. Modem scholarship is still wrestling with the problem. "What then are the Pensees"? They are certainly not a mere defence of orthodoxy, nor an appeal to faith from one whose scientific attainments had brought with them a fear of scepticism; even less are they concealed free-thinking. But if they attack rationalism as seen in the works of Descartes ([PMM]129) or scepticism as typified by Montaigne ([PMM]95), it is with the methods of reasoning developed by Descartes and in a style which acknowledges its debt to Montaigne. To the rational sceptic, Pascal proposes a deeper scepticism, which he called Pyrrhonism. If the sceptic denies everything that cannot be demonstrated by reason, Pascal denies the power of reason also, whose capacity to reach conclusions exists only in the power of God; 'Cogito, ergo sum' is only true if there is a Being which can give the existence and grant it the power of thought. Thus he goes beyond the scope of 'natural theology' to explain all the contradictions and vicissitudes of human experience entirely in terms of faith and revelation, the one justifying the other. It is impossible to elevate the disconnected reflexions of the Pensées into a system, or a complete answer to other systems. The reader will find questions asked and unanswered which take him far beyond the age-old controversy between faith and reason, and an equally penetrating light cast on some relatively minor problem. Pascal's work has, in fact, the marks of genius, exploring and stating all that can be said on both sides of the question it investigates. Since these are notes, and unfinished, conclusions are not always reached. This is not a book which one can measure as a totality in terms of orthodoxy or the reverse. It is, however, a book for which the enquiring mind has had solid reason to be grateful from its first imperfect publication to the present day." (PMM 152).
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