“WE, THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES”: VERY SCARCE EARLY ENGLISH PRINTING OF THE U.S. CONSTITUTION, APPEARING IN THE NOVEMBER AND DECEMBER 1787 ISSUES OF GENTLEMAN’S MAGAZINE
(CONSTITUTION) URBAN, Sylvanus. Gentleman's Magazine. Volume LVII, Number 5 and Number 6. London: Printed by John Nichols, 1787. Two volumes. Octavo, modern plain paper wrappers. Housed in a custom half morocco clamshell box. $3500.
First edition of two 1787 issues of England’s influential Gentleman’s Magazine for November and December, featuring one of the earliest English printings of the American Constitution, also containing a rich array of articles on science, government, religion, economics and art, along with four copper-engraved plates (one folding).
England's Gentleman's Magazine, founded by Edward Cave under the pseudonym "Sylvanus Urban," was so influential that its impact extended to America where, in 1741, Franklin's General Magazine was chiefly "patterned after London's ten-year-old Gentleman's Magazine" (Isaacson, 118). This journal soundly reflected Britain's concerns over its rebellious colonies—as seen by its inclusion of one of the very earliest complete English printings of the American Constitution (Number 5, pp. 1008-1011; Number 6, pp. 1110-12). Signed in Philadelphia in September 1787, the earliest official printings of the Constitution were published by order of the Continental Congress as broadsides and folios (extraordinarily rare and virtually unobtainable); some were printed for distribution to individual states and reprinted as pamphlets. The public first read the Constitution in unofficial newspaper printings. This volume's November issue, with its printing of the Constitution, appeared while both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were abroad on diplomatic duties. On reading the Constitution in London, Adams quickly wrote Jefferson in Paris over its absence of a bill of rights: "What think you of a Declaration of Rights? Should not a thing have preceded the model?" (McCullough, 379). There is only one non-American separate 1787 printing of the Constitution recorded by ESTC, printed for Debrett in London. Gentleman's Magazine includes reviews and articles on science, religion, parliamentary affairs, crime, economics, commerce and much more. Lowndes, 876. Sabin 26954.
Fine condition. Scarce and desirable.