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Mathematical Treasure: Descartes’ Collected Letters

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

As with many other intellectuals of the 17th century, Réne Descartes (1596-1650) was a frequent correspondent with the scientists and philosophers of the period. Several collections of his correspondence have been made. One of the first of these collections was Lettres de MR Descartes, published in three volumes in 1663, 1666, and 1667. The first volume in this series contains 118 letters, most of which were directed to Marin Mersenne (1588-1648).

Title page for 1663 edition of Descartes' correspondence with Mersenne.

The image above is presented courtesy of the University of Pennsylvania Libraries.

Index to Mathematical Treasures


Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Descartes’ Collected Letters," Convergence (October 2016)