"Cologne" [i.e. Paris]: Chés Pierre de la Vallée, 1657. First edition, first issue, the 18 separate letters, plus the refutation, bound together. 23.7 x 17.5 cm. Letters 1-15 have 8 pages; 16-18 have 12 pages. "Refutation de la reponse a la douziéme lettre" bound before the 12th letter. Full brown morocco, gilt, a.e.g., by Riviere. Small chip at the top of the spine; joints neatly repaired, edges lightly rubbed; former owners' signature and bookplate. Fifth letter lightly browned; small hole repaired with loss of a few letters on 18:7/8. First state of advertisement leaf with spelling"advertisement". "These letters were originally issued clandestinely in eighteen parts as a series of separate publications by a variety of different printers between 23 January 1656 and 15 January 1657. No detailed or authoritative information on these separate issues is available," PMM. Item #28515
"The Lettres Provinciales, as they are called, are the first example of French prose as we know it today, perfectly finished in form, varied in style, and on a subject of universal importance....[Pascal] was an infant prodigy, whose work in mathematics and natural science attracted considerable attention before he was sixteen... [But he] will always be chiefly remembered as a moralist, more especially as the great apologist for Jansenism, the seventeenth-century French ascetic movement of reform inside the Roman Catholic Church...At the end of 1655, the movement had been much under attack from the Jesuits, and Pascal was persuaded to write a rejoinder...[his] counter-attack took the form of a brilliant exposure of the casuistical methods of argument employed by the Jesuits...Pascal's weapon was irony, and the freshness with which the gravity of the subject contrasts with the lightness of the manner is an enduring triumph. The vividness and distinction of his style recalls Milton at its best.," Printing and the Mind of Man, 140.