"NO WORK IN OUR TIME GAVE SUCH A BLOW TO THE PHILOSOPHICAL MIND OF THE COUNTRY" (HAZLITT): FIRST OCTAVO EDITION OF WILLIAM GODWIN'S ENQUIRY CONCERNING POLITICAL JUSTICE, 1796, A KEY INFLUENCE ON JEFFERSON, UNIFORMLY BOUND WITH THE FIRST EDITION OF GODWIN'S ENQUIRER, 1797, A VERY RARE ASSOCIATION SET FROM THE LIBRARY OF WILLIAM KING, FIRST EARL OF LOVELACE AND HUSBAND TO ADA LOVELACE, DAUGHTER OF LORD BYRON AND THE FIRST COMPUTER PROGRAMMER
GODWIN, William. An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, And its Influence on General Virtue and Happiness. WITH: The Enquirer. Reflections on Education, Manners, and Literature. London: G.G.J. and J. Robinson, 1796, 1797. Three volumes. Octavo, contemporary three-quarter brown calf and marbled boards. $10,500.
First octavo edition of Godwin's revolutionary masterwork, the first edition with his extensive revisions—"his passionate advocacy of individualism, his trust in the fundamental goodness of man, and his opposition to all restrictions on liberty have endured" (PMM)—a profound influence on Jefferson, viewed as Godwin's "American born counterpart," this work uniformly bound with the first edition of Godwin's Enquiry signed on the title page by William King, an especially memorable association set from the estate library of King, Eighth Baron King and First Earl of Lovelace, and his wife, Ada Byron Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron and famed as the first computer programmer in her work with Babbage, each volume with estate library inkstamps, spines with gilt-stamped "K" monograms and "suns," in contemporary calf and marbled boards.
Godwin's Political Justice, triggered by Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) and a response to Montesquieu, remains "one of the earliest, the clearest, and most theoretical expositions of socialist and anarchist doctrine… his trust in the fundamental goodness of man, and his opposition to all restrictions on liberty have endured." Godwin is famed, as well, for his marriage to Mary Wollstonecraft, author of Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). After her tragic early death, he continued to be major influence on their daughter Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein (1818). For many of that generation Godwin, "with his revolutionary opinions… seemed almost a prophet" (PMM 243). The book's initial publication in 1793 "brought him immediate renown… Hazlitt's account of Godwin's reputation, written nearly 30 years later, captures some of the reaction… 'No work in our time gave such a blow to the philosophical mind of the country… Tom Paine was considered for a time as Tom Fool to him'" (Mark Philp).
Political Justice "remains a work of real philosophical power… as eloquent a defense of individual liberty as anything in subsequent generations of liberals, including John Stuart Mill… As the founder of philosophical anarchism, the originator of the psychological novel, and as a key figure in the British response to the French Revolution," Godwin remains vital to Western thought (ODNB). Political Justice, as well, had a profound influence on Thomas Jefferson, who had the 1796 first American edition in his library (Sowerby 2359). "Only the emigrant Thomas Paine, whose Common Sense prompted Americans to declare their independence in 1776, was a half-step ahead of Godwin" (Burstein, Jefferson's Secrets, 105).
This distinctive first octavo edition of Political Justice is uniformly bound with the first edition of Godwin's Enquirer—two vital works that are rarely found together. Enquirer contains 28 essays that reconceive and point back to Political Justice. Shortly after he began Enquirer in August 1796, Mary Wollstonecraft and Godwin became lovers. To a great extent, "Enquirer was conceived, composed and published under the influence of his relationship with Wollstonecraft… the essays' philanthropic potential was evident in the effect they had on Mary. She read them in October 1796 and confessed they made her love Godwin 'more and more'" (Pérez Rodriguez, Education, Conversation and History, 81-82, 84n). Further, there "can be no doubt that Percy Shelley read Enquirer" as well (Hyde, Notes on Shelley's Reading, 16, 23). For many of that generation Godwin, "with his revolutionary opinions… seemed almost a prophet" (PMM 243). Enquirer achieved perhaps its greatest impact when it "incited Malthus to write his Essay on Population… Both Political Justice and Enquirer formed part of the central argument of Malthus' 1798 Essay" (Claeys in Mayhew, ed., New Perspectives, 55-59, 66). Overall Enquirer foregrounds a shift in Godwin's perspective that "locates him most clearly on the borderline between the Enlightenment and Romanticism" (Handwerk in Maniquis & Myers, eds., Godwinian Moments, 108). First octavo edition of Political Justice: the first to contain his revisions, second overall: with half titles. First edition of Enquirer: with half title, rear errata leaf. Enquiry: see ESTC T94275. Rothschild 1016. Goldsmiths 15825. Kress B2529. Enquirer: ESTC T94276. Kress B3397. Goldsmiths' 16911. Rothschild 1018. This rare set has an especially rare provenance. It is from the library of William King, 8th Baron King, 1st Earl of Lovelace, 1st Viscount Ockham. Each volume contains the King family monogram in gilt on the spine. The title page of Enquirer contains his owner inscription, "Ockham King." The title page of Political Justice, Volume I contains his elegant cursive making pointed comments with his inserted "& Jacobinical" between the printed "Political Justice"; his annotated "misery" above the printed "Happiness," and his annotated "Citizen" above the printed "William Godwin." Each volume's preliminary blank leaves contain the inked library stamp of "Ben Damph Forest," complete with penciled shelf numbering. King is best remembered as the husband of Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer.
Born in 1815, the only child of Lord Byron, she married King at the age of 19. Introduced to Charles Babbage in 1833, Ada Lovelace was drawn to his view of an "Analytical Engine"; she translated an Italian article about his work, expanding it with 41 pages of her appendices. Published in 1843, signed with her initials, it is most famous for "Note G," which documents her attention to mathematical detail, and "her imagination in thinking about the bigger picture… Lovelace's paper is an extraordinary accomplishment, probably understood and recognized by very few in its time, yet still perfectly understandable nearly two centuries later. It covers algebra, mathematics, logic and even philosophy; a presentation of the unchanging principles of the general-purpose computer; a comprehensive and detailed account of the so-called ‘first computer program’; and an overview of the practical engineering of data, cards, memory, and programming" (Hollings, Martin & Rice, Ada Lovelace and the Analytical Engine). Blank preliminary leaf of Enquirer with the penciled sketch in an unidentified hand of a woman's face, not Ada but possibly a family member.
Interiors quite fresh, mere trace of rubbing to boards. A handsome about-fine set with an exceptional association.