Source:

Lettres et opuscles inédits de Leibniz
Louis-Alexandre Foucher de Careil (ed)
pp 224-225, 228



Date: 7 April 1703

Translated from the French

Note - the portion of this text that is included in my Shorter Leibniz Texts is not included here.


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LEIBNIZ TO BERNARD LE BOVIER DE FONTENELLE


[FC p224]

     Sir, in giving you the thanks that I owe for doing me the favour of sending some essays published in Paris from time to time which relate to the plan of the Royal Academy, I will not abuse the kindness that you have had of deferring to it, by asking your bookseller to take some to Mr Brosseau, for fear that you may truly say I am making you my errand-boy.

[FC p225]

     I wrote to Father Bignon1 in the last post, and time did not permit me to write to you also, Sir. I reserved it for today in order to tell you that the Chinese figure of Fuxi allows us now to speak, I believe, of this arithmetic in the Papers of the Academy; but I implore you, Sir, to insert there not my old manuscript, but the one I have just sent to Father Bignon that is shorter and talks about the agreement that Reverend Father Bonnet told me of, for it is he who has deciphered the enigma of Fuxi with the assistance of our binaries.2 I had feared that the public would despise a speculation of which the fruit does not appear at first, but that remark perhaps renders it acceptable.

......

[FC p228]

     I am not at all laconic, Sir; and I know not if I sin against what is owed to you in using this prolixity when I speak to such a penetrating mind as yours. Nevertheless I believe that one is always reasonable when one tries to explain clearly. For when one is not understood, this is most often the fault of the one who speaks rather than of the one who listens.
     Your very humble and very obedient servant.





NOTES:

1. Jean-Paul Bignon (1662-1743), director of the French Academy of Sciences and Arts and editor of the Journal des Savants.
2. Leibniz is referring here to his essay 'Explanation of binary arithmetic', which was published in the Memoires de l'Academie Royale des Sciences (1703). An English translation of this essay is available here.


© Lloyd Strickland 2004
With gratitude to Elizabeth Vinestock for advice and suggestions