February 2022 Catalogue

“The ‘Jewish Socrates’”: Exceedingly Rare First Edition In English Of Moses Mendelssohn’s Seminal Work, Phaedon, 1789 38. MENDELSSOHN, Moses. Phaedon; Or, The Death of Socrates. London, 1789. Octavo, contemporary green calf gilt. $9500. Click for more info First edition inEnglish, precededby the 1767 first Germanedition, ofMendelssohn’s “classic of rational psychology” on the immortality of the human soul, a defining work by the preeminent philosopher “who launched the Jewish thinking of the modern age,” his tribute to Socrates modeled on Plato’s dialogue the Phaedo. “A legend even during his own lifetime, Mendelssohn was regarded as the embodiment of the humanist ideal” (Encyclopedia Judaica). “The greatest Jewish philosopher of the 18th century… he was called ‘the Jewish Socrates.’” He engaged in a dispute with Swiss clergyman Lavater, who “challenged him to prove the superiority of Judaism over Christianity” or convert (Encyclopedia of Philosophy). It was a challenge “Mendelssohn effectively disabled with a plea for tolerance and a series of reasons for refraining from such religious controversy” (Stanford Encyclopedia). In 1767 Mendelssohn used Plato’s famous dialogue the Phaedo as a model to publish Phädon in German. First published in English in this 1789 edition. First printing: found with “lix” numbered (this copy) or unnumbered, no priority established. Translated from the German by Charles Cullen, with his dedication to Henry Dundas dated in print “July 12, 1789.” With half title. ESTC N54707. Owner bookplate. Gilt-stamped owner name to front board. Interior fine, joints and boards with expert restoration. “It would be weakness and folly to treat life with so much indifference, and run willingly into the arms of death.” February 2022 – 39 – Bauman Rare Books