Paris: Thomas Moette, 1696. 12mo. [xii], xii, 47 pp. FIRST EDITION. Both blanks present. With 35 full-page plates. Tree skin calf binding, gilt spine, edges stained red; corners slightly rubbed. An excellent copy. Item #12965
First edition of this extremely scarce treatise on swimming, considered one of the earliest books on the subject. In the introduction, the author notes only two earlier works known to him, Digby's De arte natandi (1587) and Nicholas Wynman's dialogue, Colymbetes (1538). Translated into English in 1699, Thévenot's manual became the standard eighteenth-century reference for learning to swim. Among many topics, he discusses ways of getting into the water, various aquatic feats and maneuvers, and stroke technique. Following Thévenot's description, the breaststroke became the most common swimming motion for centuries. The text is complimented by lively illustrations throughout engraved by Charles Moette.
An amateur scientist, Thévenot (1620-1692) studied astronomy, physics, medicine, and magnetism. Born into nobility, the wealthy and erudite Thévenot was also an important patron to innumerable scientists and mathematicians. He was equally a renowned cartographer and traveler, served as a diplomat in Italy, and was the Royal Librarian to King Louis XIV.