Rene Descartes (1596–1650)The mathematician, scientist, and philosopher Rene Descartes was born in France but spent the majority of his working life in the Dutch Republic.
CKCC’s 20,020 records represent the largest single dataset contributed to EMLO during the second phase of Cultures of Knowledge. The metadata and transcripts for Rene Descartes’s correspondence (Adam and Milhaud edition, see below) were supplied to CKCC by Utrecht University under the supervision of Erik-Jan Bos. EMLO would like to thank Walter Ravenek for his careful preparation of CKCC metadata, Miranda Lewis for her work on the people and place records associated with the correspondence, and Erik-Jan Bos for the text on this introductory page.
Key Bibliographic Source(s)The metadata and texts for the transcriptions published in ePistolarium were prepared by Erik-Jan Bos and Dirk Roorda (DANS). ContentsThe manuscripts of the letters recorded in EMLO, 727 in total, span the years 1619 to 1650, the year of Descartes’s death. A link is provided from the metadata of each record in EMLO to the online transcription in the ePistolarium catalogue where, it should be noted, the Gregorian calendar is used throughout. As the texts in the ePistolarium are based ultimately on the edition by Adam and Milhaud, the French orthography is modernized and letters discovered since 1963 are not included. Detail of the letter from Descartes to Joachim de Wicquefort, 2 October 1640 (Berlin, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin  – Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Slg. Letter from Descartes to Jacobus Golius, 9 May 1635 (Leiden, University Library, HUG 29 A). Descartes to Constantijn Huygens, 10 July 1643, Waller Collection, Uppsala University Library. Theo Verbeek, Erik-Jan Bos, and Jeroen van de Ven, The Correspondence of Descartes: 1643 (Utrecht, 2003).
Jean-Robert Armogathe and Giulia Belgioioso, Lettres: esemplare annotato dell’Institut de France (edizione di Claude Clerselier, 1666-1667), 3 vols (6 bindings) (Lecce, 2005).
John Cottingham, Robert Stoothof, Dugald Murdoch, and Anthony Kenny, eds, The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, vol. Lisa Shapiro, ed., The correspondence between Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia and Rene? Descartes (Chicago, 2007).
Note: If the letter was incorporated in the new edition of Adam and Tannery (1964–1974), this is indicated using the abbreviation AT followed by volume and page number. A new historico-critical edition of Descartes’s correspondence, complete with English translations, is being prepared by Roger Ariew, Erik-Jan Bos, and Theo Verbeek, to be published by Oxford University Press. Please Login to add a comment!This photo has been shown 548 times since it was added to the site.
He was educated at the Jesuit college in La Fleche and, after studying law at Poitiers, moved to Breda in 1618, where he met Isaac Beeckman, and enlisted in the army of Prince Maurice of Nassau.


The project began by digitizing the metadata and curating existing full-text transcriptions of c.20,000 letters to or from nine prominent intellectuals resident in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic. The re-publication of these records within EMLO marks the inauguration in 2014 of the rolling incorporation of major new catalogues which will continue into 2015 and beyond. They are based upon the exquisite work by professors Katsuzo Murakami (University of Tokyo), Meguru Sasaki (Ecole normale superieure d’Hokkaido), and Takehumi Tokoro (University of Chyuo), who had carefully converted the edition of Charles Adam and Gerard Milhaud, Corrrespondance de Descartes, 8 vols (Paris, 1936–1963), into a computer readable text in the 1990s. The majority is written in French (85%) and Latin (14.5%), but a few letters are in Dutch as well. The most important collections of these autograph letters are at the Bibliotheque national de France (Paris), the library of the Institut de France (Paris), and Leiden University Library (Leiden). Correspondance, 2 vols, (Paris, 2013; offers French translations only of Latin and Dutch texts). After further travels to Denmark and Germany, he returned to France in 1622 and from there travelled to Italy where he remained until 1625. In 2013, this material was published as open access in a sophisticated web application — the ePistolarium — which provides scholars with multiple means of exploring and analysing both metadata and full texts across all nine correspondences. As well as integrating CKCC’s metadata into an expansive union catalogue, EMLO’s records link back to the original letter texts published within the ePistolarium.
In his correspondence Descartes both raises topics he does not explore in print and discusses in greater details many of the theories that appear in his publications and his letters to Marin Mersenne (1588–1648), his most significant and regular correspondent outside the Dutch Republic, is particularly revealing. Apart from a small amount of contemporary manuscript copies, the greater part of the correspondence is known solely from the publications by Claude Clerselier (1614–1684) (Lettres de M. Hans Bots, ‘Descartes, le bon Francais: Lettre inedite de Jan Van Foreest a Descartes’, in XVIIe siecle, 92 (1971), pp.
Dino Pastine, ‘Caramuel contro Descartes: Obiezioni inedite alle Meditazioni’, in Rivista critica di storia della filosofia, 27 (1972), pp. Judith Esze, ‘Deux documents inedits sur Descartes’, in Acta Litteraria Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, 15 (1973), pp. Erik-Jan Bos and Corinna Vermeulen, ‘An Unknown Autograph Letter of Descartes to Joachim de Wicquefort’, Studia Leibnitiana, 34 (2002), pp. Herbert Breger, ‘Ein wiedergefundenes Autograph von Descartes’, Studia Leibnitiana, 34 (2002), pp.
Jeroen van de Ven and Erik-Jan Bos, ‘Se nihil daturum—Descartes’s Unpublished Judgement of Comenius Pansophiae Prodromus (1639)’, British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 12 (2004), pp. Erik-Jan Bos, ‘Two Unpublished Letters of Rene Descartes: On the Printing of the Meditations and the Groningen Affair’, Archiv fur Geschichte der Philosophie, 92 (2010), pp.


For the following three years he lived in Paris, before settling once more in the Low Countries in 1629.
As well as conducting full-text searches, mapping and graphing the metadata, and extracting people mentioned, the ePistolarium is capable of interrogating the entire corpus to analyse and visualize co-citation networks, and produces the results of keyword extraction and experimental topic-modelling. Other important correspondents include the Dutch statesman and poet Constantijn Huygens (1596–1687), Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia (1618–1680), and the Utrecht professor of medicine Henricus Regius (1598–1679). Descartes, 3 vols, Paris, 1657–1667) and Descartes’s biographer Adrien Baillet (1649–1706) (La vie de Monsieur Des-Cartes, 2 vols, Paris, 1691). All his publications, including the Discours de la methode and Essais, the Meditationes, and the Principia philosophiae were written during this second period in the Dutch Republic.
The standard edition of the correspondence is Charles Adam and Paul Tannery, ?uvres de Descartes, 12 vols, Paris, 1897–1913 (vol.
Published again by Paul Dibon, ‘Sur deux lettres de Descartes a Regius’, in Nouvelles de la Republique des Lettres, 1985-II, pp. Mesnard, ‘Quelques pieces exceptionelles decouvertes au minutier central des notaires de Paris’, Revue d’histoire litteraire de la France, 79 (1979), pp.
In 1649, at the invitation of Queen Christina, he moved to Sweden, where he died in February 1650. 12 containing a biography by Adam, and supplements); the correspondence is in volumes 1–5 and 10. This was reprinted without the biography in 11 volumes (Paris, 1964–1974), with additional notes and new material by P. Confronted with the rediscovery of the almost complete correspondence between Descartes and Constantijn Huygens (1596–1687), edited by Leon Roth (1926), Adam revised extensively the dates of many other letters (1933).
His conclusions found their way into a new edition of the correspondence in eight volumes, which he undertook together with Gerard Milhaud. The Adam-Milhaud edition offers French translations of the Latin texts, no critical apparatus, hardly any annotation, and the orthography of all French texts were modernized.



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