- AVANT PROPOS
- Introduction to the Critical Online Edition of Du Châtelet’s Avant-Propos
- I. Avertissement and Avant-Propos: Versions and Variants
- II. Short Survey of the Versions B, E, H, J, and L
- III. When were the two manuscript drafts of the Avertissement/Avant-Propos written?
- IV. A few significant differences between the versions B, E, H, J, and L
- V. Note on the technical and editorial presentation of the edition
Introduction to the Critical Online Edition of Du Châtelet’s Avant-Propos
I. Avertissement and Avant-Propos: Versions and Variants
Since the Paris manuscript BNF Fr. 12265 reveals many revision stages, it was crucial for the editors to make explicit the main stages of revision in structure and content made by Émilie Du Châtelet, through establishing them as textual versions on their own, rather than placing them in the variant apparatus. On the one hand, this makes it easier for the reader to perceive the differences by presenting the versions as distinct texts so that the reader does not need to reconstruct all revision stages from the entries in the variant apparatus, which at times is quite a complicated task. On the other hand, in order to analyze the differences between the revision stages in detail, the reader needs to compare the online edited versions by arranging them in separate windows on the screen or display. This might be demanding at times, yet it is still easier than reconstructing all revision stages from the variant apparatus.
However, in order to make the comparison between the distinct versions easier, we decided to offer, in these introductory notes, a survey of some striking differences between the versions. We continue to provide a variant apparatus, however, representing the finer-grained revisions made by Émilie Du Châtelet.
By consequently establishing versions and variants as texts on their own, and as distinguished by the amount of changes in structure and content, we also establish revision stages as variants which might only consist of one word being changed.
With regard to the handwritten drafts of the Avant-Propos (AP), the revisions made by Du Châtelet were remarkable. Two manuscript drafts of the AP were revised thoroughly by Du Châtelet, both separately and in relation to each other.
We can count up to 5 revision stages of the first draft (Sigla A to E) and 5 revision stages of the second draft (Sigla F to J).
Of those ten revision stages, we decided to establish four distinct textual versions: B and E from the first draft, and H and J from the second draft. The very first draft A is accessible in the variant apparatus of version B, the revisions C and D are part of the variant apparatus of version E, those of F and G are made accessible in the variant apparatus of version H, and revision I is presented in the variant apparatus of version J.
In addition to the edition of the manuscript drafts, we also edit the 1740 Paris printed version (version L) and document the printed proofsheets sent to the Prussian Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia, in spring 1740 (K) as well as the revised 1742 Amsterdam printed version (M) in the variant apparatus of version L.
|VERSIONS AND VARIANTS||SOURCE|
|A = VARIANT DOCUMENTED IN THE VARIANT APPARATUS OF VERSION B||Émilie Du Châtelet: Institutions de physique, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 12265, 2r-10v|
|B = MAIN TEXT = VERSION|
|C = VARIANT DOCUMENTED IN THE VARIANT APPARATUS OF VERSION E|
|D = VARIANT DOCUMENTED IN THE VARIANT APPARATUS OF VERSION E|
|E = MAIN TEXT = VERSION|
|F = VARIANT DOCUMENTED IN THE VARIANT APPARATUS OF VERSION H||Émilie Du Châtelet: Institutions de physique, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 12265,12r-24v|
|G = VARIANT DOCUMENTED IN THE VARIANT APPARATUS OF VERSION H|
|H = MAIN TEXT = VERSION|
|I = VARIANT DOCUMENTED IN THE VARIANT APPARATUS OF VERSION J|
|J = MAIN TEXT = VERSION|
|K = VARIANT DOCUMENTED IN THE VARIANT APPARATUS OF VERSION L||Émilie Du Châtelet: Institutions de physique, Staatsbibliothek Berlin, Mv 4645 (proofsheets Paris 1740), 1-14|
|L = MAIN TEXT = VERSION||Émilie Du Châtelet: Institutions de physique, Paris: Prault, 1740, 1-14|
|M = VARIANT DOCUMENTED IN THE VARIANT APPARATUS OF VERSION L||Émilie Du Châtelet: Institutions physiques, Amsterdam: Depens de la compagnie, 1742, 1-15|
II. Short Survey of the Versions B, E, H, J, and L
It can easily be seen that the five edited versions (four from the Paris manuscript, one printed version) are quite different in length.
B is the shortest version – its title is, as in A, still „Avertissement,“ changed to „Avant-Propos“ only from C onwards – increasing in length in E and in H, which is the longest handwritten version. J appears to be shortened again, while the printed version from 1740 is apparently as long as H. In H and L there are unique passages that can only be found in these versions.
Large parts for instance of section 12 of the Avant-Propos, including the footnote * with reference to Christian Wolff, can only be found in the printed versions L and M, with one exception: in the proofsheets sent to the Prussian Crown Prince Frederick in April 1740 (K) section 12 is added in handwritten form only, though it is not written in Du Châtelet’s hand. The reference in footnote * to Christian Wolff’s works, however, is only part of the published 1740 Paris print edition.
In version H, and only there, Du Châtelet quotes from Willem Jacob ’sGravesande’s Praefatio to his Physices Elementa Mathematica, Experimentis Confirmata Sive Introductio ad Philosophiam Newtonianam (Tomus Primus, Editio Secunda, auctior & emendatior, Leiden: Petrus Vander, 1725), and translates the Latin quote into French on the bottom of pages 23v and 24r. This programmatic passage, part of version H, was then cancelled in the later versions of the Institutions.
These are just a few examples in order to indicate revisions which had some impact on the length of the versions as edited here.
III. When were the two manuscript drafts of the Avertissement/Avant-Propos written?
One of the advantages of working closely with the stages of revision of the text is that we may be able to determine more or less precisely when the single revision stages and drafts were written. This bears on the important question of how and when Du Châtelet changed her first version of the Institutions de Physique, which she, as is well known, withdrew while part of it was already printed. In the „Avertissement Du Libraire,“ located in front of the 1740 edition in Paris, Prault, the printer and librarian, writes:
„Ce premier Tome des Institutions de Physique étoit prêt à être imprimé dès le 18. Septembre 1738. comme il paroît par l’Approbation, & l’Impression en fut même commencée dans ce temps-là; mais l’Auteur ayant voulu y faire quelques changemens, me la fit suspendre; ces changemens avoient pour objet la Métaphysique de M. de Leibnits, dont on trouvera une Exposition abrégée au commencement de ce Volume.“
As can be seen in the mentioned „Approbation“ from September 18th, 1738, which is attached at the end of the 1740 edition, the royal censor Pitot noted that „cet Ouvrage“ would expound „les principes de la Philosophie de M. Leibnits & ceux de M. Newton.“
Taking both testimonies into account, it seems that Du Châtelet already referred to Leibniz in the very first version of the Institutions, but, as the publisher Prault mentions, wanted to work more thoroughly upon Leibnizian metaphysics. Prault also speaks of the first volume, which might imply that Du Châtelet could have conceived of a second volume of the Institutions.
Nonetheless, the two handwritten drafts of the AP make it at least possible to determine which versions of the AP were written before September 1738 and which revisions were made after that.
In the first draft of the AP, on page 3r, Du Châtelet mentions Jean-Antoine Nollet’s „Avertissement“ as published in the Mercure de France in September 1737 (Mercure de France, Sept. 1737, 2032-2033). Thus, it is evident that the first draft of the AP (versions B and E) was written after September 1737. Only from the second draft onwards (see page 18r/18v) does Du Châtelet refer to Voltaire’s Élémens de la philosophie de Newton as having been released „cette année.“
Therefore, the first draft of the AP was most likely written between September 1737 and either April 1738 (the first publication date of the Élémens de la philosophie de Newton) or July 1738 (when the second corrected version of the Élémens de la philosophie de Newton was published by Prault in Paris). The second draft (H and J) was thus worked upon between April or July 1738 and the date when Du Châtelet sent proofsheets of the first eight chapters of the planned print of the Institutions to Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia in April 1740. Those proofsheets can still be found in the Staatsbibliothek Berlin.
IV. A few significant differences between the versions B, E, H, J, and L
Instead of giving a full account of the differences between the five edited versions, and in addition to the differences already mentioned above, we want to highlight a few changes that were made by Émilie Du Châtelet, so that the reader of this online edition may get an idea of their possible impact. As editors we will not, however, provide interpretations of the changes Du Châtelet made.
But what kind of differences do we find in the the several versions of the Avant-Propos?
First of all, it is striking that the Avant-Propos was titled Avertissement in version B (and also in A, which is documented in the variant apparatus of B).
Then there are many smaller changes, which are open to further interpretation and contextualisation: for instance in the opening passage of the Avertissement/Avant-Propos where Du Châtelet, in version B, speaks of „lheritage le plus sacré des peres et des meres“; in version E, however, she talks of „lheritage le plus sacré des peres“; and in the final versions we find „lheritage le plus sacré des hommes.“
Other smaller changes concern the replacement or addition of the names of early modern thinkers. A striking example is the first mention of Leibniz within the manuscript: In B we read (5r-5v): „Ns ns Elevons alaconnoissancede laverité come ces geans qui Escaladoient les cieux en montant sur les Epaules les uns des autres, ce sont les travaux de Kepler et les theoremes d’huguhens qui ont fait decouvrir amr. neuton cette force universelle repandue dans toute la nature qui fait circuler les planetes autour dusoleil, et qui les retient dans leur orbite.“ In E this mention appears after „les uns des autres“: „ce sont descartes et galilée qui ont formé les hughens, et les leibnit[s], et c’est en profitant des travaux de Kepler et des theoremes d’huguhens que mr neuton a decouvert cette force universelle ... .“ As can be seen, it is not only Leibniz who is mentioned in version E. Compared with version B, in E there is a remarkable addition of early modern thinkers: Du Châtelet explicitly mentions Descartes and Galileo.
Finally, there are additions and revisions which are more comprehensive. To give just a few examples:
1. In the first passages of version B Du Châtelet makes clear that she wants to write according to the capability of apprehension of her addressee: „a la portée devotre conception“. In version E Du Châtelet adds a passage which suggests what she may mean by „a la portée devotre conception“: „Laphisique estune Etude qui paro[it] faitte pr lhomme, elle roule sur la nature des choses qui ns environnent, et plusieurs denos besoins en depende[nt] ie tacherai pr lamettre a votre portée dela degager de cet art admirable, quon nom[me] algebre, et qui separant les choses des images, se derobe aux sens etne parle qu’a l’entendement. Vs netes point encore en Etat dentendre cette langue qui paroit plutot celle des intelligences que celle des hommes, cette etude est reservées pour faire leducation des annéesde votre vie qui suivront celles ou vs etes ainsi je ne vs enposerai que les verités qui peuvent se comprendre par le seul secours dela geometrie commune que vs possedés.“
2. In B Du Châtelet maintains that it is the torch of experience given to us by nature, which helps us to overcome our blindness, experience being the engine of the sciences, of „nouvelles lumieres“ and „nouvelles connoissances.“ „Souvenés vs toujours mon fils,“ she writes, „dans toutes vos Etudes que lexperience est leflambeau que lanature ns a donné ans autres aveugles pr ns conduire dans nos recherches, ns ne laissons pas avec son secours defaire quelque chemin, mais ns ne pouvons manquer detomber si ns cessons dens enservir on peut apliquer a la philosoph[ie] connoitre les qualités phisiques, et c’est anotre raison a en faire usage et a entirer denouvelles lumieres et denouvelles connoisances.“ In version E Du Châtelet adds, among other changes, a discussion of the capability of reason: „Souvenés vs toujours mon fils dans toutes vos Etudes que lexperience est le baton que lanature ns a donné ans autres aveugles pr ns conduire dans nos recherches, ns ne laissons pas avec son secours defaire quelque chemin, mais ns ne pouvons manquer detomber si ns cessons dens enservir cest alexperience dens faire connoitre les qualités phisiques et c’est anotre raison a en faire usage et a entirer denouvelles lumieres et denouvelles connoisances.“
V. Note on the technical and editorial presentation of the edition
As for the technical presentation, there are still changes to come. The design and structure as well as the information implemented in the XML files will be refined. Due to the work required to program all these refinements, it will take some time until the final edition can be presented online.
For now, we show a preliminary version, a work in progress, which is the basis for all future refinements.
Still lacking is also the commentary on the texts. The editors’ work on the commentary is part of a broader research which is yet to be done.