• Another image of PRINCIPES DE MATHÉMATIQUES. by [PRINTED THESIS SHEET.] GODOT, Joseph-Noel-Nicolas.
  • Another image of PRINCIPES DE MATHÉMATIQUES. by [PRINTED THESIS SHEET.] GODOT, Joseph-Noel-Nicolas.
Printed by Widow Michelin

PRINCIPES DE MATHÉMATIQUES. Au Chef de L’Armée du Seigneur. A Troyes, Chez la V. Michelin, Imprimeur du Roi.

1759. Large letterpress broadside, 522 x 390mm, folded into four, printed in three columns with ruled woodcut decorations; upper right corner torn with loss though not touching text, a little browned along horizontal and vertical folds, with very small hold in centre fold, further light marginal dust-soiling and staining, but otherwise clean and bright; a good example. A scarce provincial example and apparently unrecorded, of a printed thesis/public examination broadside from the mid 18th century, printed in Troyes by ‘La V. Michelin, Imprimeur du Roi’.
The tradition of publishing broadsheets announcing the public defence of an academic dissertation dates back to early modern European institutions, and was particularly a common in Catholic countries. Although the present example is not illustrated, from the early seventeenth century onwards, such prints developed into abundantly illustrated documents often accompanied by a dedication, thus affirming the laureates’ position in society and to celebrate their patrons.
As the present example demonstrates, the practice was not confined to the defence of a thesis, however, but were used to announce public verbal examinations. A note at the end of the broadsides reveals that the student being questioned on a series of mathematical principles was: "Mr. Joseph-Noel-Nicolas Godot, from Marcilly, resident, [who] will answer the questions that may be asked to him on the propositions set out above & will try to satisfy the people who are kind enough to question him, on Monday 6 of August 1759, at two o'clock in the afternoon. In the room of the College of Troyes, priests of the Oratory of Jesus." The Oratorians, together with the Jesuits, were at the forefront of French scientific education in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Dedicated to ‘Au Chef de L’Armée du Seigneur’, who may perhaps have been invited to attend the public examinations, it could be that M. Godot was destined for a military career. Whilst he is to be questioned on general mathematical principles, topics also under examination were geometry, trigonometry, ‘nivellement’ (levelling) and ‘ichnography’ or the method of surveying plans and maps, all skills of use to military personnel.
According to the BnF, the Widow Michelin was Claudé Beaumont (1718?-1762?). She married Louis-Gabrield Michelin in 1742 and on his death in 1753, the printing press and equipment were put up for sale, Claudée purchasing much of it. ‘She entrusted the management of the printing house to a former companion of her husband, Michel Gobelet. Arrested with him on June 8, 1758 for printing prohibited books, she was detained in the Bastille from June 9 - July 22, 1758. Resigned in favour of Michel Gobelet, who was appointed by decision of the Council of August 15, 1760 and that she married on November 29, 1760. Said to be 44 years old at the time of her death (July 20, 1762)’ (

Bibliography: No copies located.

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