Tractatus de homine, et de formatione foetus.

Amsterdam, Daniel Elzevir, 1677.

4to, pp. [76], 239, [1 (blank)]; title printed in red and black with woodcut Elzevir device, woodcut illustrations throughout; marginal toning, occasional spots; a very good copy in recent mottled sheep to period style, spine gilt-ruled in compartments with gilt red morocco lettering-piece.


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First and only Elzevir edition, and the first edition of the better Latin text of Descartes’s Traité de l’homme. De homine ‘is the first work in the history of science and medicine to construct a unified system of human physiology that presents man as a purely material and mechanical being: man as machine de terre. In conceptualizing man as a machine, Descartes helped emancipate the study of human physiology from religious and cultural constraints and validated a clinical and experimental approach to anatomy and physiology.’ (Grolier).

Withheld from the public while Descartes was alive for fear of censure by the Catholic church, the text was first printed in 1662 from a flawed manuscript. A French translation appeared in 1664, followed by the present corrected Latin edition published by Elzevir, with diagrams after la Forge and von Gutschoven and an extensive introduction by Clerselier.

Willems 1531; Wellcome II, p. 453; cf. Grolier 31.

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