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    D'Alembert's Study of Jean-Philippe Rameau's "Demonstration of the Principles of Harmony"

    Jean le Rond d'Alembert. Élémens de musique théorique et pratique, suivant les principes de M. Rameau, éclaircis, developpes et simplifies...Nouvelle édition, revue, corrigée & considerablement augmentée. Lyon: Chez Jean-Marie Bruyset, 1772. Third edition (first published in 1752). Octavo (7.75 x 4.75 inches; 196 x 120 mm.). [2, half-title (verso blank)], [2, title (verso blank)], 236, [3, "Approbation and Privilege du Roi"], [1, blank] pages. Signature collation: [pi]2 a-b8 c2 A-P8. Ten folding engraved plates of music at the end. Title-page printed in red and black with type ornament vignette; type ornament head-pieces.
    Contemporary French mottled sheep with covers ruled in blind; spine decoratively panelled in gilt in compartments with five raised bands and brown leather label ruled and lettered in gilt; board edges ruled in gilt; marbled endpapers and edges. Green silk ribbon bookmark (causing slight browning in the gutter of pages 160 and 161). Binding somewhat rubbed and worn, with areas of surface loss on the covers, top of spine (one-eighth inch), bottom of spine (one-half inch), and both lower joints; top compartment of spine with vertical crack; boards exposed at corners. Hinges cracked, but holding firm; lower corner of front free endpaper renewed. Paper slightly browned; occasional light foxing; a few small rust spots. Tiny spot of green ink in the gutter margin of C5-D2 (pages 41-51), just touching a few letters. Paper flaw lower corner of H4 (pages 119/120); small hole lower blank corner of O4 (pages 215/216). Otherwise this is a very clean and crisp copy, and would be a good candidate for rebinding. The plates are in fine condition, with only a tiny bit of marbling visible at the outer edges of a few plates.
    Early ink signature on title-page: "Ladereze ingénieuse [flourish]." Small bookseller's ticket on front pastedown: "Theodor Front / 1046 S. Holt Ave. / Los Angeles 35, Calif." From the library of John Carroll Collins, with his booklabel on front free endpaper.
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    More Information:

    Eitner I, page 103 ("Sein epoche-machendes Werk in der Theorie der Musik"). Gregory & Bartlett, Catalogue of Early Books on Music, page 11.


    French philosopher, mathematician, and music theorist Jean le Rond d'Alembert (1717-1783) "submitted his first paper to the Royal Academy of Sciences in 1739, and published his important Traité de dynamique in 1743...D'Alembert's interests were wide-ranging, and he agreed to help Diderot edit and produce the great Encyclopédie project. He penned its celebrated Discours préliminaire in 1751, ambitiously mapping out the entire development and current state of human knowledge, as well as prescribing a general method of inquiry that relied upon both deductive and empirical components. While responsible mainly for writing and editing the articles on science, d'Alembert also supervised work on a number of other topics, including Rousseau's articles on music...D'Alembert's first exposure to music theory came in 1749 when he reviewed for the Academy of Sciences a Mémoire submitted by Rameau. (The Mémoire was apparently written with the help of Diderot, and became the basis of Rameau's Démonstration du principe de l'harmonie of 1750.) Impressed by the strongly deductive character of Rameau's theory, which he always saw as the ideal scientific model, d'Alembert wrote a glowing review on behalf of the Academy. Two years later, he attempted to reinforce more strongly this synthetic structure in a comprehensive résumé of Rameau's ideas, the Elémens de musique théorique et pratique suivant les principes de M. Rameau. He also used the occasion to purge Rameau's theory of scientific arguments he deemed insupportable or extravagant. Drawing largely upon Rameau's Démonstration...the Elémens was a stunning example of d'Alembert's talent for conceptual synthesis and clarity; it quickly became the most widely read source for information of Rameau's theory, both in France and in Germany...Yet the Elémens is not an entirely faithful account of Rameau's thought. Despite the composer's initial gratitude, d'Alembert's penchant for reduction ironically did a disservice to the empirical richness and musical sophistication of Rameau's theory. Rameau eventually turned on his erstwhile advocate in the course of voicing his increasing dissatisfaction with Rousseau's Encyclopédie articles on music, which lead to a series of bitter exchanges between the two tempestuous personalities. In a lengthy preliminary discourse to the revised second edition of the Elémens in 1762, d'Alembert attempted a definitive rebuttal to Rameau's arguments, summarizing the major issues of dispute" (Thomas Christensen in Grove Music Online).

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2015
    8th-9th Wednesday-Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 0
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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