Les livres .. intitulez de la subtilité, & subtiles inventions, ensemble les causes occultes, & raisons d’icelles.Paris, chez Guillaume de La Nouë, 1578
8vo. ff. [xxxvi] 478 [ii]. *4, ã4 ~e8, í8, ó8, ú4, a-z8, A-Z8, Aa-Oo8. (fleuron on Oo7 recto, otherwise blank, Oo8 blank). First two quires bound out of order, but complete. Roman letter, some Italic. Small woodcut printer’s device on title, innumerable woodcut diagrams in text, grotesque woodcut initials and headpieces, early ms. autograph crossed out on title and fly, contemporary shelf mark on fly. Very light age yellowing, minor, faint water-stains to a few leaves of preliminaries, rare marginal mark. A very good copy, crisp and clean, with good margins, in fine contemporary French polished limp vellum, yapp edges, covers bordered with a single gilt rule, scroll-worked oval gilt stamped at centres, spine gilt ruled in compartments with gilt floral roll, fleurons gilt at centres, holes for ties. a.e.g.
A lovely copy of this beautifully printed, and finely illustrated third edition of the translation into French, by Richard le Blanc, of Cardano’s ‘De subtilitate libri XXI’. This edition was shared with multiple publishers at Paris: Simon Calvarin, Pierre Cavellat, Guillaume Le Noir, Gilles Beys, Guillaume Chaudière, Guillaume Julian, and Michel Sonnius. “Essentially an encyclopaedia, in De Subtilitate one can find some article on almost every subject, including substantial sections on technology, medicine, chemistry, mathematics, various branches of the occult, mineralogy, gemmology, hydrodynamics, geology, electricity, etc, and descriptions of numerous experiments and apparatus, including the pumps and the screw of Archimedes and a system of Braille writing for the blind. It is thought by some to be based on the manuscript notes of Leonardo Da Vinci; however, it is more probably the sole work of Cardano’s penetrating but erratic genius. The text also incorporates many woodcut illustrations which add considerably to the descriptions.” Curtis. “Cardano’s encyclopaedic De Subtilitate was the most advanced presentation of physical knowledge up to its time. It contains many remarkable observations and ideas, including Cardano’s distinction between the attractive powers of rubbed amber (electric) and the loadstone (magnetic), his pre-evolutionary belief in creation as progressive development, and the premise that natural law was unified and could be known through experiment.” Norman.
“Cardano wrote more than 200 works on medicine, mathematics, physics, philosophy, religion, and music. … his was the universal mentality to which no branch of learning was inaccessible. Even his earliest works show the characteristics of his highly unstable personality: encyclopaedic learning, powerful intellect combined with childlike credulity, unconquerable fears and delusions of grandeur. In 1570 Cardano was imprisoned by the Inquisition. He was accused of heresy, particularly for having cast the horoscope of Christ and having attributed the events of his life to the influence of the stars. After a few months in prison, having been forced to recant and to abandon teaching, Cardano went to Rome, where he succeeded in obtaining the favor of Pope Pius V, who gave him a lifetime annuity” (DSB). Cardano admitted he was no saint, describing himself in his autobiography as “hot tempered, single minded, given to women, cunning, crafty, sarcastic, diligent, impertinent, sad, treacherous, magician, sorcerer, miserable, hateful, lascivious, obscene, lying, obsequious, and fond of the prattle of old men.” He predicted the exact date of his death, and to be certain that he was correct, on the day in question, he abstained from nourishment to help matters along in a kind of gentle suicide. A lovely copy of this fascinating work.