Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-cjp7w Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-16T22:13:31.188Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Correspondence

from ENTRIES

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2016

Theo Verbeek
Affiliation:
Universiteit Utrecht
Erik-Jan Bos
Affiliation:
École normale supérieure de Lyon
Lawrence Nolan
Affiliation:
California State University, Long Beach
Get access

Summary

Like most seventeenth-century intellectuals and scholars, Descartes entertained a correspondence, letters being in this period the main channel for the communication of scientific news. Letters were often shared with others, and this was one of the reasons why their authors usually kept an archive of minutes, first drafts, or full copies. In Paris and other centers of learning, there were mostly informal circles of friends (often called “academies”), in which letters were read and discussed on a weekly or even a daily basis. Usually they constitute an essential part of a philosopher's or scientist's legacy, not only because they illuminate the various stages through which an idea passed before being known to the public, but also because they give insight into, for example, secret or immature thoughts or discarded plans. All of this can also be said of the correspondence of Descartes, whose letters serve by and large the same purpose as those of other philosophers and scientists of the period – to react to news and gossip, to discuss plans, to propose and solve problems, to deal with objections, and to discuss and communicate data. However, in some respects his correspondence is peculiar. First of all, by its quantity: the volume as we know it (and much of it was lost) is almost twice that of his published works and four times that of his posthumous works. Moreover, although Descartes was in contact with many of his contemporaries, few people wrote to him directly: most of the French correspondence passed through the hands of Mersenne. Finally, the way in which Descartes’ correspondence survives poses an enormous challenge.

Before leaving the Low Countries in the autumn of 1649, Descartes entrusted Cornelis Van Hogelande with a trunk containing letters and papers, instructing him that these should be burned in the event of his death. Presumably, these were mainly letters written to Descartes since he took the minutes of his correspondence and his unpublished manuscripts with him to Sweden. Whether Van Hogelande did burn the letters we do not know. In one case (that of Constantijn Huygens), it is certain that he restituted the letters to their sender. After Descartes’ death, an inventory was made of his possessions. Chanut, the French ambassador in whose house Descartes died, sent personal belongings to the Descartes family but kept his scientific writings, including the general correspondence.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2015

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

Descartes, René. 2008. Lettres, ed. Armogathe, J.-R. and Belgioioso, G., 6 vols. Lecce: Conte (reproduction of the Exemplaire de l'Institut).Google Scholar
Descartes, René. 2007. The Correspondence between Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia and René Descartes, ed. and trans. Shapiro, L.. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Descartes, René. 2003. The Correspondence of René Descartes: 1643, ed. Verbeek, T., Bos, E.-J., and Van de Ven, J.. Utrecht: Zeno Research Institute. [This is the first volume of a projected complete edition of Descartes’ correspondence.]Google Scholar
Descartes, René. 1936–63. Correspondance, ed. Adam, C. and Milhaud, G., 8 vols. Paris: Alcan/PUF (reprint, Liechtenstein: Krauss, 1970).Google Scholar
Descartes, René. 1926. Correspondence of Descartes and Huygens, 1635–1647, ed. Roth, L.. Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
Descartes, René. 1897–1913. Œuvres de Descartes, 12 vols. with supplement, ed. Adam, C. and Tannery, P.. Paris: Cerf.Google Scholar
Descartes, René. 1824–26. Œuvres complètes, 11 vols., ed. Cousin, Victor. Paris: Levrault.Google Scholar
Descartes, René. 1724–25. Lettres de Monsieur Descartes, 6 vols. Paris: Compagnie des libraires.Google Scholar
Descartes, René. 1657–66. Lettres de Mr. Descartes, 3 vols., ed. Clerselier, C.. Paris: Angot (Renati Descartes Epistolae, 3 vols. Amsterdam: Daniel Elzevier, 1668–1683).Google Scholar
Regius, Henricus. 2002. The Correspondence with Henricus Regius, ed. E.-J. Bos. Utrecht: Zeno Research Institute (Ph.D. diss., Utrecht University).
Adam, Charles. 1933. “Correspondance de Descartes: Nouveau classement,” Revue philosophique de la France et de l’Étranger 115: 373–401.Google Scholar
Armogathe, Jean-Robert, and Belgioioso, Giulia, eds. 1999. La biografia intellettuale di René Descartes attraverso la “correspondance”: Atti del Convegno Descartes e l'Europe savante, Perugia, 7–10 ottobre 1996. Naples: Vivarium.Google Scholar
Bos, Erik-Jan. 2010. “Two Unpublished Letters of René Descartes: On the Printing of the Meditations and the Groningen Affair,” Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 92: 290–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dibon, Paul. 1990. “Clerselier, éditeur de la correspondance de Descartes,” in Regards sur la Hollande du siècle d'or, ed. Dibon, P.. Naples: Vivarium, 495–522.Google Scholar
Thijssen-Schoute, C. L. 1967. “Andreas Colvius: een correspondent van Descartes,” in Uit de Republiek der letteren, ed. Thijssen-Schoute, C. L.. The Hague: Nijhoff, 67–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

  • Correspondence
  • Edited by Lawrence Nolan, California State University, Long Beach
  • Book: The Cambridge Descartes Lexicon
  • Online publication: 05 January 2016
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511894695.069
Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

  • Correspondence
  • Edited by Lawrence Nolan, California State University, Long Beach
  • Book: The Cambridge Descartes Lexicon
  • Online publication: 05 January 2016
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511894695.069
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Correspondence
  • Edited by Lawrence Nolan, California State University, Long Beach
  • Book: The Cambridge Descartes Lexicon
  • Online publication: 05 January 2016
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511894695.069
Available formats
×