"TOWARD A DEFINITION OF THE DEVIL AS A MOTOR OF HISTORY": FIRST EDITION OF DEFOE'S POLITICAL HISTORY OF THE DEVIL, 1726
(DEFOE, Daniel). The Political History of the Devil. London: Printed for T. Warner, 1726. Octavo, 20th-century full green morocco gilt, raised bands, all edges gilt. $2500.
First edition of the first work in an important trilogy on the supernatural by Defoe, anonymously published in 1726, arguing that notions of the "Devil as a Person being in Hell, as a Place, are infinitely absurd and ridiculous," with engraved frontispiece, handsomely bound in full morocco-gilt by Stern & Dess.
"In the 1720s, when Defoe's occult works were published, heterodox religious views were flourishing." Defoe's Political History is the first in a trilogy that includes System of Magick (1726) and Essay on the History and Reality of Apparitions (1727). While long overlooked by scholars, these are increasingly seen as "reliable expositions of Defoe's views on the supernatural as well as a key to understanding the supernatural elements in his fictional works" (Deschamps, Good and Evil Angels). In Political History, published anonymously, Defoe's "devil has certain comic elements, but for the most part he is used as a fictional angle of vision to contemplate the follies of mankind… His dwelling place is not some local hell filled with fire… He dwells with humanity itself" (Novak, Daniel Defoe, 660-661). Robert Muchembled notes that in this key work the devil tellingly "acts only on the minds of his victims. Defoe's approach to criminals was thus no longer dependent on the simplistic demonic principle previously used to explain their crimes" (History of Violence, 261), and further contends: "Like Locke and Hume, and before Kant, Defoe is moving towards a definition of the devil as a motor of history" (History of the Devil,166). Later titled The History of the Devil. With copper-engraved frontispiece. Furbank & Owens 228. Moore 480. CBEL II:508. Lowndes, 620. Allibone, 489. Defoe's name written in early ink on title page.
Light foxing to text, extremities of binding mellowed to brown. A handsome copy in near-fine condition.