"A SELF-APPOINTED MISSIONARY OF WORLD REVOLUTION": FIRST FRENCH EDITION OF PAINE'S COMMON SENSE, 1791, ISSUED THE SAME YEAR AS HIS FIRST PART OF RIGHTS OF MAN, A HANDSOME COPY
AMERICAN REVOLUTION PAINE, Th[omas]. Le Sens-Commun. Ouvrage Adresse aux Americains. Paris: Chez Gueffier, 1791. Octavo, period-style marbled paper wrappers; pp. (2) iv, 113 (1). $3000.
First French edition of Paine's Common Sense, the work that sparked the American Revolution, issued the same year he published the first part of Rights of Man, this important edition affirming his view of the French Revolution "as a natural extension of the American one," text in French.
Common Sense "turned the world upside down" (Kaye, 16). "By far the most influential tract of the American Revolution… it remains one of the most brilliant pamphlets ever written in the English language" (Covenanted People 27). The initial 1776 American edition ignited the drive for independence and led directly to the ratification of the Declaration of Independence. "It would be difficult to name any human composition which has had an effect at once so instant, so extended and so lasting" (Trevelyan, History of the American Revolution).
This first French edition of Paine's Common Sense
was issued soon after the French Revolution and the same year Paine published the first part of Rights of Man
. On leaving America for France in 1787, he often traveled between France and England as "a self-appointed missionary of world revolution… Paine is the only English writer who expresses with uncompromising sharpness the abstract doctrine of political rights held by the French revolutionists. His relation to the American struggle, and afterwards to the revolution of 1789, gave him a unique position" (DNB). At the time of the American Revolution, Paine had doubted whether Europe was "open to the kind of government that graced the New World. In Common Sense
there was a real sense that liberty had flown from Europe because its societies were too systematically corrupt" (Clemit, ed., Cambridge Companion
, 34). When this edition appeared in Paris, however, it confirmed Paine's view of the French Revolution "as a natural extension of the American one" (Hitchens, Thomas Paine's Rights of Man
, 49). Per Barbier, the translator was Antoine-Gilbert Griffet de Labaume (Loft, Passion, Politics
, 166n). Publisher's advertisement to title page verso. Gimbel, Common Sense
CS-64. Sabin 58217. Howes P17. Gimbel, 57.
Text fresh with faint marginal paper flaws, light scattered foxing. A desirable near-fine copy.