Essai de Philosophie Morale. Par M. de Maupertuis. 1751
First Authorised Edition. 12mo, (157 x 92 mm), pp. [ii], xxx, 125, , in contemporary dark mottled calf, extremities a little bumped and some surface wear to the covers, spine gilt in compartments, red morocco label lettered in gilt, marbled endpapers and edges, from the library of Claude Lebédel.
This is the first edition of Maupertuis’ scarce philosophical treatise to be published with his consent. The work first appeared in Berlin in 1749, printed from a manuscript copy of the text lent to President Hénault and containing numerous errors. The events surrounding this earlier publication and Maupertuis’ own resolution in printing the present official version are explained in the lengthy preface. The work is dedicated to Frédéric II, addressed as, ‘Illustre Ami’, who himself translated Maupertuis’ work.
Written during what was probably the happiest period of his life, when he was living in Berlin and enjoying the close friendship of Frédéric II, the Essai de Philosophie Morale is in effect Maupertuis’ philosophical testament. He examines the nature of good and evil, happiness and unhappiness, pessimism, stoicism, sensuality, pleasure and pain, arguing that in ordinary life the sum of pleasures surpasses the sum of misfortune and suffering. He goes on to explore ways in which the human condition might be improved and discusses the role that religion might play in this.