[PASCAL Blaise (1623-1662).]

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[PASCAL Blaise (1623-1662).]
PÉRIER Gilberte, née PASCAL (1620-1687). MANUSCRIT (period copy), Vie de Blaise Paschal; [followed by:] Lettres et Extraits de Lettres de feüe S. A. Madame de Longueville... ; both manuscripts by the same hand, [between 1677 and 1680] ; a small volume in-4 (230 x 160 mm) of 16 blank ff, 68 numbered pages (Vie de Blaise Paschal), 3 blank ff, 30 unnumbered leaves (Lettres de Mme de Longueville) and 8 blank ff ; contemporary binding, brown calf, spine ribbed and decorated with cold fleurons, edges speckled (skillful restorations to corners and spine); in a half black morocco case, inside covered with purple suede. Exceptional and precious late 17th century manuscript copy of La Vie de Blaise Pascal par sa soeur, one of the least faulty of the seven known and one of the two preserved in private hands. It was in the months following Blaise Pascal's death, on August 19, 1662, that Gilberte Périer undertook the writing of her brother's biography, which was probably completed at the beginning of 1663, since Florin Périer (Gilberte's husband) inserted excerpts from it in the preface to the edition he had prepared of Pascal's Traités de l'équilibre des liqueurs et de la pesanteur de l'air (Paris, Guillaume Desprez, 1663) "It is a small work that I made for my family and for some particular friends who had asked me for it", she wrote to M. Audigier. "It was consequently a writing of mourning intended to celebrate the memory of a dear one, which explains the tone of hagiography of which it is marked. However, the text did not take long to be known for the value of its testimony and the quality of its style, so that handwritten copies circulated quite early outside the Périer circle" (Jean-Marc Chatelain). We know today seven old handwritten copies of this text whose contents, dating and variants were meticulously studied by Jean Mesnard in volume I of his edition of the Complete Works of Blaise Pascal (Desclée de Brouwer, 1962). Five are preserved in libraries : Avignon (former Calvet collection, Ms 1875, fol. 1-24), Orléans (n° 1139, fol. 81-114), Bibliothèque de Port-Royal (Gazier collection) ; the one of the BnF (Manuscrits, Français 25080, fol. 178-190) was copied after the faulty edition of 1684, rather late (after 1697); that of the Bibliothèque Mazarine (Ms 4546) presents a later amplified version (after 1690-1694), probably due to Louis Périer, the second son of Gilberte. Two other copies are in private hands: one, coming from the collection of Jean-Pierre Parison (1771-1855) [Laverdet sale, March 25-29, 1856, n° 501] and acquired in the 1960s by M. Parcé; and this one, coming from the collection of Georges HAUMONT, of which Jean Mesnard (op. cit., p. 304-305) gives a very precise description. This manuscript of the old collection Haumont presents, according to the thorough study of Jean Mesnard, the original version of the text, and would emanate according to him "more or less directly from the Périer family". Indeed, Blaise and Louis Périer arrived in Paris around May-June 1675 and stayed there until 1684, and these copies would have been made on pieces that they had gathered. Considering the manuscript Haumont as "superior" and the least faulty, it is on this text that Mesnard bases his critical edition of the Life of Pascal, whose qualities he summarizes as follows: "Masterpiece of the biographical genre, it is also recommended by the charm of the expression, by the penetration and the depth associated with an extreme simplicity". The Life of Blaise Pascal, of which Gilberte Périer wished to preserve the confidentiality, was published for the first time against his will, in Amsterdam, in 1684, by Abraham Wolfgang, who integrated the same year the text into his edition of the Pensées. Incipit: "My brother was born in Clermont on the 19th June of the year 1623. My Father was called Estienne Pascal President in the Court of Aydes, and my mother Antoinete Begon. As soon as my brother was old enough to be spoken to, he showed signs of an extraordinary spirit by the little remarks he made at the right time, but even more by questions on the nature of things, which surprised everyone. This beginning which gave beautiful hopes, was never denied; because as he grew, he always increased in strength of reasoning; so that he was always much above his age"... The Life of Blaise Paschal ends here (p. 66) with the beginning of the first sentence concerning the autopsy of the body: "En suitte de quoy l'ayant fait ouvrir, on trouva &c", immediately followed (p. 66-68) by an appendix concerning Pascal's last feelings at the time of his death, intended to refute the rumors of a supposed retraction of Pascal [this addition is evoked in a letter of June 8, 1677 addressed by Blaise and Louis Périer to their mother
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