COURS DE MATHÉMATIQUES A L’USAGE DE MADEMOISELLE DE CHARPENTIER, by…

COURS DE MATHÉMATIQUES A L’USAGE DE MADEMOISELLE DE CHARPENTIER, by [FEMALE EDUCATION.][BOSSUT, Abbé Charles.] < >
  • Another image of COURS DE MATHÉMATIQUES A L’USAGE DE MADEMOISELLE DE CHARPENTIER, by [FEMALE EDUCATION.][BOSSUT, Abbé Charles.]
  • Another image of COURS DE MATHÉMATIQUES A L’USAGE DE MADEMOISELLE DE CHARPENTIER, by [FEMALE EDUCATION.][BOSSUT, Abbé Charles.]
  • Another image of COURS DE MATHÉMATIQUES A L’USAGE DE MADEMOISELLE DE CHARPENTIER, by [FEMALE EDUCATION.][BOSSUT, Abbé Charles.]
  • Another image of COURS DE MATHÉMATIQUES A L’USAGE DE MADEMOISELLE DE CHARPENTIER, by [FEMALE EDUCATION.][BOSSUT, Abbé Charles.]
  • Another image of COURS DE MATHÉMATIQUES A L’USAGE DE MADEMOISELLE DE CHARPENTIER, by [FEMALE EDUCATION.][BOSSUT, Abbé Charles.]
Teaching ‘sublime [higher] geometry’ to young ladies during the French Revolution

COURS DE MATHÉMATIQUES A L’USAGE DE MADEMOISELLE DE CHARPENTIER, Pensionnaire de la Maison de St. Pierre Les Dames de Rheims. Arithmetique, Algébra, Géometrie e Sections Coniques. Reims, 1791-

1792. Bound manuscript, 4to; ff. [3] blank, [15], [9] blank, [22] ‘Section Seconde’, [7] blank, [28] ‘Section 3e’, [23] ‘Seconde Partie’, [1] blank, [9] ‘Elements de Trigonometrie’, [11] blank, [18] ‘Application de l’algébre a la géometrie’, [7] blank; penned in a single neat, legible hand throughout, with a number of pen and ink figures, some shaded in pencil; some occasional light foxing and soiling, with sporadic dampstain affecting lower margins, a little more prominent towards end of ‘Section 3e’, some edges still uncut; a couple of gatherings seemingly blue tinted paper; in contemporary full marbled calf, spine in compartments with raised bands, tooled in gilt with red morocco label, head and tail of spine and joints lightly rubbed, covers with some loss to areas of marbling, red ink stain affecting lower fore-edge and corner of rear cover, extremities lightly bumped, corners worn; an appealing example. An elegantly compiled, and surprisingly complex and advanced manuscript course of mathematics, penned in the early years of the French Revolution. Focusing in particular upon arithmetic, algebra, geometry and conical sections, this neatly executed work was composed for the specific use of Mademoiselle de Charpentier, at the time a student of the renown school for girls at St Pierre les Dames in Reims, established by the nuns of the Congrégation Notre-Dame in 1638. The first free school for girls in the town, the order simultaneously opened a fee-paying boarding school for wealthier students, of whom, no doubt, Mademoiselle de Charpentier was one. The Abbey and convent was also renown for being the final resting place of Mary of Guise, the mother of Mary, Queen of Scots, her sister Renée de Guise, being Abbess at the time. Indeed some historians suggest that the future Queen of Scots may have received some of her early education at the convent, although this is dismissed by others. What is more certain, however, that she did spend time at the abbey when mourning the death of her first husband, Francis II of France. With such aristocratic connections, it is perhaps unsurprising that the Abbey was to fall victim to the Revolution, presumably not long after the completion of this manuscript, with the schools closed, the nuns expelled, and the church and convent sold and destroyed.
The present manuscript has not been penned by Mlle de Charpentier herself, but rather by an anonymous tutor, who reveals in the opening preface that the manuscript ‘Cours’ derives in fact from the lessons of the noted mathematician Abbé Charles Bossut (1730-1814). A protégé and close fried of the encyclopaedist Jean d’Alembert (1717-1783), Bossut was a prolific educator, and his textbooks were famed and widely used throughout France, the present manuscript drawing in particular from his Cours de mathématiques of 1781. It seems probable that the tutor was male, presumably with some connection to Saint Pierre les Dames, though bearing in mind the uncertain and volatile times, possibly seeking to secure future patronage and employment, through this endeavour. ‘To save those students truly worthy of my care, from any inconvenience, I have extracted the following lessons in mathematics... I believed in the principle of limiting myself to notions of elementary geometry, but the intelligence and happy dispositions that I found in my students led me to drive boldly into the arid plains of sublime geometry, ‘un sexe injustement trop décrié pour être à coup sûr trop peu connu’. Such a venture into the realms of the higher parts of geometry relating to the properties of curves and calculus, as found in the final section of the present manuscript, ‘Application de l’Algébre a la Géométrie Sections coniques’, especially when directed towards a female audience, is unusual.
The manuscript is divided into three sections, further sub-divided into chapters and parts, providing initial definitions, and then including numerous theories, problems and corollaries. Numerous neat illustrations accompany the text, and number of which have been shaded in pencil.
As a footnote at the end of the preface reveals, Mademoiselle de Charpentier was not the only dedicatee, the praising ‘Mesdemoiselles de Charpentier et de Champ[a]gne [?]’. Whilst we have been unable to trace Mademoiselle de Champagne, it is our understanding that Mademoiselle de Charpentier, the main dedicatee, was in fn fact Anne Marie Françoise Charpentier d’Audron (1772-1838), who is listed as having studied at St Pierre les Dames de Reims in ‘Revue de Champagne et de Brie’, (Vol 13, p. 167). This goes on to reveal that she later married Vincent Charles de Broca. Her daughter, Anne Charlotte de Broca (1806-1881), married Achille-César Frémyn de Sapicourt, and their descendants later owned the Château de Marteville near Vermand (northern France), where the manuscript was “taken” during the First World War, as noted by an inscription in German on the first flyleaf: ‘Im März 1917 aus dem Schloß Vermand bei St. Quentin mit Bewilligung des Ortskommandanten entnommen... [Taken in March 1917 from Vermand Castle near St. Quentin with the permission of the local commandant...]’. The Castle was destroyed during the war, and though later rebuilt, has no remaining ties to the family and descendants. After due process to ascertain any potential claim, the manuscript was approved for export by the French authorities in March 2023 (a copy of the licence to be supplied).

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