First Edition in English of Descartes Earliest Surviving Work
DESCARTES, René. Excellent Compendium of Musick: with Necessary and Judicious Animadversions Thereupon. By a Person of Honour. London: Printed by Thomas Harper, for Humphrey Moseley , 1653.
First English edition. Small quarto (7 5/16 x 5 3/8 inches; 187 x 135 mm). [16], 94, [1, errata], [1, blank] pp. Two parts in one volume. With three engraved plates, and with numerous woodcuts, including head-and-tail pieces and initials. Title-pages with woodcut vignette. Much of the illustrations are of musical notes, staffs and various charts relating to music theory. Also with a detailed and attractive engraving of a lute.

The translator, the "Person of Honour" refers to Lord Brouncker. His name has been printed neatly on the title-page in old ink by a previous owner. A separate title-page for Animadversions vpon the musick-compendium of Renat. Des-Cartes is included, but the pagination and collation is continuous.

Modern half calf over marbled boards. Morocco spine label, lettered in gilt. Newer endpapers. Front pastedown with previous owner's bookplate. Some toning and spotting throughout, the first two leaves being the worst. Tiny burn hole to top margin of two leaves in the "To the Reader," not affecting text.

Written in 1618 when he was 22, the Compendium was not published until after his death. "Although it is his earliest surviving work, the Compendium was not published until 1650, shortly after his death in Stockholm. The English translation was published in 1653 by William Brouncker, 2nd Viscount Brouncker (1620–1684), a mathematician who became the first President of the Royal Society in 1662 and was a close friend of both Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn. He is named on the title page of the Compendium as a "Person of Honour" and his commentary, the "animadversions" on Descartes work constitute his only publication. They include an unsuccessful mathematical attempt to divide the diapason into seventeen equal semitones. Descartes’ study of the mathematical basis of music was also an examination of methodology: the application of empirical, deductive, and scientific approaches to the study of sensory perception. It is thus among the earliest attempts to define the dual relationship between the physical and psychological phenomena in music." (Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto).

ESTC R13570.

HBS # 67749 $3,750

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