A masterpiece of French prose
Les Provinciales, 1657
by Blaise Pascal
printed by Pierre de Vallée in Cologne (i.e. by L. & D. Elzevier in Amsterdam)
'The first work of genius in prose' is how Voltaire described Pascal’s Provinciales, a major French literary masterpiece which influenced the style of Voltaire, Rousseau and others. Pascal demonstrated how a serious matter could be treated in a light ironic style as he defended Jansenist's theology against Jesuit attack. So effective was he that the Jesuits lost permanently their former position in France. Pascal’s work was so incendiary that it was banned — it had to appear anonymously and be printed clandestinely.