Volume 1, Issue 1, Fall 2012
Shaping the Republic of Letters: Communication, Correspondence and Networks in Early Modern Europe
Descartes’ Correspondence before Clerselier: Du Roure’s La Philosophie
Episodes of the wide diffusion of Galileo’s letters prompts me to consider whether the same thing could be demonstrated for Descartes. The question that interests me most is the circulation of Descartes’ correspondence before the publication of Clerselier’s edition of it, in three volumes, 1657–1667. Thus I examine the influence of Descartes’ unpublished correspondence in Jacques Du Roure’s La Philosophie divisée en toutes ses parties (Paris, 1654). It contains paraphrases of some letters by Descartes and a number of Descartes’ views whose contents were not available in the published corpus. I discuss in particular: 1. To Clerselier, June or July 1646 (about fi rst principles); 2. To Elisabeth, August 4, 1645 (about happiness); 3. To Mersenne?, May 27, 1641?, or To Mesland?, February 9, 1645? (about freedom of indifference). I also examine the evidence of a missing letter: To Mesland, February 9, 1645 (about transubstantiation and individuation). As with the case of the wide diffusion of Galileo’s unpublished letters, we can see a rather quick dissemination of Descartes’ correspondence. Th ree of four letters were circulated, if not by Descartes’ correspondents, at least by Clerselier just after Descartes’ death, even before the publication of his Lettres de Mr. Descartes.