“A VAST INFLUENCE BOTH IN ENGLAND AND AMERICA”: RARE AND IMPORTANT FIRST AMERICAN EDITION OF BLACKSTONE’S COMMENTARIES, WITH THE RARE SUBSCRIBER’S LIST, IN FULL CONTEMPORARY SHEEP—ORIGINAL SUBSCRIBER’S COPY
BLACKSTONE, William. Commentaries on the Laws of England. Philadelphia: Robert Bell, 1771-72. Four volumes. Octavo, contemporary full brown sheep, raised bands, red morocco spine labels. Housed in two custom half morocco clamshell boxes. $16,000.
First American edition, first issue, of this monumental treatise that greatly influenced the development of the American legal system, this distinctive association copy with the 22-page subscribers list, rarely found, which names leading Revolutionary figures such as John Adams, Federalist co-author John Jay, John Dickinson, and this set’s original owner Richard Thomas, "Farmer, Chester County, Pennsylvania" signed and dated by him on each title page.
The first edition was published in England in 1765. This set first issue, without the 10-line correction slip pasted into Volume II (446), with all catchwords and signature marks above the footnotes in Volume II, and Volume IV with "habita-" (177:17). Volume III includes the publisher's rare octavo broadside prospectus "To the Encouragers of Literature" tipped to leaf preceding title page announcing publication of An Interesting Appendix to the Commentaries; four pages of advertisements preceding title page of Volume I; Volume IV without single advertisement leaf mounted on fly leaf preceding title page, often not present. Complete with two tables, one folding, and 22-page subscriber's list, which includes the names of Revolutionary figures such as John Adams, John Dickinson and John Jay, along with those of major colonial governors, merchants, judges and military figures. Eller 80. Hildeburn 2635/2749. Evans 11996/12327 (and 12321, octavo broadside prospectus tipped into Volume III). Harvard Law Catalogue I, 188. Marvin, 123. Sweet and Maxwell 1.29. See Rothschild 407. Original owner signatures of subscriber Richard Thomas on title pages, dated 1772-1774, and flyleaves. Thomas is described in the list of subscribers as a "Farmer" in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Later owner signature, dated 1904, to title pages as well.
Two leaves in Volume I (Y3-4) torn, with portions of text supplied in a neat facsimile. Minor expert paper repair to folding table (Volume II) near stub. Spines dried, front joints of three volumes repaired, contemporary calf showing some wear. A desirable subscriber's copy in the original American sheep binding.