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Common Sense

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“THE MOST INFLUENTIAL TRACT OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION… ONE OF THE MOST BRILLIANT PAMPHLETS EVER WRITTEN”: THE RARE 1776 NEW YORK EDITION OF PAINE’S COMMON SENSE, THE FIRST TO BE PUBLISHED OUTSIDE OF PHILADELPHIA, DATED IN MANUSCRIPT TWO DAYS AFTER PUBLICATION

PAINE, Thomas. Common Sense; Addressed to the Inhabitants of America. Philadelphia Printed: New-York, Reprinted and Sold, by John Anderson, [1776]. Octavo, modern full navy morocco gilt, marbled endpapers, top and bottom margins uncut; pp. [4] 56.

Rare and important first New York edition of Common Sense, published on February 15, 1776, within weeks of the Philadelphia first edition. All 1776 editions of Common Sense are extremely rare and desirable, but this New York edition is particularly significant, since it appears to be the first to be published outside of Philadelphia. Owner notation of purchase, dated “Feb 17th 1776.”

The first edition of Common Sense was published in Philadelphia by Robert Bell on January 9, 1776, in an edition of 1000 copies. The pamphlet was an immediate success, and the demand for additional copies increased so rapidly that a new edition was soon needed. Paine planned to give his share of the profits to the cause of independence, but when Bell told him there were no profits, Paine dismissed Bell and hired Bradford to publish a new, enlarged edition. Bell published an unauthorized second edition on January 27, and Bradford’s enlarged edition was advertised as published on February 14. Paine refused to copyright the work and gave permission to all to reprint it, and it spread rapidly all over the country. What are assumed to be the earliest printings outside of Philadelphia (including the first New York, Boston, and Providence editions) used the text of Bell’s January 1776 first edition, and later printings are assumed to have used the text of Bradford’s February expanded edition. This New York edition, advertised in a New York newspaper on February 15, 1776, was printed from the text of the first edition, and is apparently the earliest known edition to be published outside of Philadelphia. Publication or advertisement dates are not available for all early editions, but the earliest known date for a city other than Philadelphia is that of New York (February 15), followed by Providence (February 24); the date of the Boston printing is unknown. New York is geographically the closest major city to Philadelphia, and presumably copies of the first edition would have reached New York before the colonies of New England. “Common Sense was by far the most influential tract of the American Revolution, and it remains one of the most brilliant pamphlets ever written in the English language” (A Covenanted People, 27). “It is not too much to say that the Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776, was due more to Paine’s Common Sense than to any one other single piece of writing” (Grolier American 14). This New York edition is extremely rare—no copies have appeared at auction in the last 30 years. Evans 14956. Gimbel CS-40. Gimbel-Yale 14. Adams, American Independence 222m. Adams, American Controversy, 423-4. Owner signature and notation of Joseph Marshall Junior, who purchased this copy on “Feb 17th 1776” (two days after its announcement in the press) from Thomas Green, probably the New Haven bookseller and co-founder of the Connecticut Journal (1767). Shelf numbers on title page and verso.

Faint scattered foxing to title page, small brown stain to gatherings E and F. An exceptionally rare and desirable early printing of this landmark of the American Revolution.