Paris: Imprimerie royale, 1751. Two books. [ii], xxxvi, 280, xv, ; [xii], 266, x, viii pp. 4to. Two separate volumes. [ii], xxxvi, 280, xv, ; [xii], 266, x, viii pp. FIRST EDITION. With 6 engraved plates (5 folding), including the map of Quito, in the first work, and 3 folding plates in the second work. Engraved headpieces. Contemporary tree calf, spine gilt in compartments with morocco labels, upper front cover of both books with mild stain; some minor marginal waterstain to a few leaves of the second volume, otherwise a clean and wide-margined set. Item #13901
First edition of the account of the scientific expedition to the equator sponsored by the Academie des Sciences. The French Academy sent out two expeditions in 1735, the purpose of which was to measure an arc of the meridian in order to settle a controversy over the shape of the earth. La Condamine, along with Bouger and Godin, traveled to Equador, while the second expedition consisting of Maupertuis, Clairaut and Le Monnier went to Lapland to measure several degrees of meridian at the arctic circle.
La Condamine ultimately split from his group and traveled alone to Quito. Thereafter he journeyed down the Amazon, and thus became the first to undertake a scientific exploration of that part of South America. He returned to Paris where he published this work, two years after Bouger published his own account of the results of the group’s experiments.
The original controversy between the two sides regarding the shape of the earth (ablate ellipsoid according to Newton and Huygens, and prolate ellipsoid according to Descartes and the Cassinis) was quite polemical. Comparing the measurements taken during the expeditions of the French Academy ultimately verified Newton’s theories.