MERTEN, Oscar (fl. 1875); [Edison, Thomas]

Éléments de Philosophie Populaire

Par O. Merten, Professor de Philosophie a L’université De Gand [Also, “Éléments de Philosophie Morale,” and a hand-colored diagram of Thomas Edison’s newly invented light bulb]. Namur: Librairie de Ad. Wesmael-Charlier, 1876.

Mid 19th-century maroon cloth, spine lettered in gilt; (extensive underlining to text, lightly toned at edges). Near Fine. 12mo (171 x 108mm). 144pp., bound with 81 numbered pages of dense manuscript transcription of Merten’s later publication Éléments de Philosophie Morale which was published in two volumes in 1884 and 1885. The manuscript is in the hand of one of Merten’s students, Oscar Livolls, his name inscribed to printed title-page and in at least two other places. Manuscript in uniform hand throughout, sometimes changing ink color, the second manuscript part in 88 pages separated into sections titled “Logique” and “Psychologie,” the text is identified on short title as originating from coursework with Merten and Professor R.F. Fillet (at Ghent University where they taught). Third manuscript part in 128 pages titled “Pharmacognosie” with final section paginated separately (15 pages) but continuing in contents and ending with “Fin. Bruxelles, le 15 juin 1885” and signed again by “OLivolls.” After which are 18 manuscript pages of conclusions, formulas and tables.

Of utmost rarity, one copy of the 1876 Éléments de Philosophie Populaire was found in the US, in Brown University, the only other in South Africa, University of Johannesburg. Merten’s work proposed to demonstrate the chief results obtained from the application of the empirical method of observation to philosophy. The rarity of the printed work along with the presence of accompanying inscribed material by Merten’s student is a superb survival and unique association. Of particular importance to the manuscript is a hand-colored diagram of Thomas Edison’s newly invented light bulb (p. 56 in “Pharmacognosie”).

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