Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie

Richard HOOKER

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"THE BEGINNING OF THE ENGLISH ENLIGHTENMENT… THE FIRST GLIMMERING OF ITS DAWN": HOOKER'S AMBITIOUS AND INFLUENTIAL LAWES OF ECCLESIASTICAL POLITIE, 1611, A LANDMARK OF ENGLISH CONSTITUTIONAL HISTORY AND SIGNIFICANT INSPIRATION FOR AMERICA'S CONSTITUTIONAL FRAMERS

HOOKER, Richard. Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie. Eight Bookes [Books I-V]. London: Printed by William Stansby (to be sold by Matthew Lownes), 1611. Small folio (8 by 11-1/2 inches), contemporary full limp vellum, manuscript title to spine, yapp edges. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $5500.

Second collected edition of "the earliest statement of the original contract as the basis of government… [and] the first statement of the principles behind the English Constitution," Richard Hooker’s significant theological and philosophical articulation of the concept of law, eventually an important influence on the United States Constitution, with the engraved general title and the separate letterpress title page for Book V dated 1611, in contemporary vellum.

Philosopher Richard Hooker, Master of the Temple Church in London, was, with Thomas Cranmer and Matthew Parker, one of the most formative of Anglican theological intellects. He shared the Temple pulpit with Calvinist divine (and his relation by marriage) Walter Travers. Travers challenged the orthodoxy of Hooker's sermons, especially Hooker's acceptance of the Church of Rome as a branch of "the true church of Christ," and his belief that God in mercy saved thousands of church fathers who lived prior to the Reformation. "Hooker's reply to these objections lays the groundwork of the philosophical and theological system expounded later in" the present work (Pyle I:447). "In the course of its eight books, the Laws deals with issues between conformists and nonconformists, Episcopalians and Presbyterians, and Rome and the Church of England in greater depth than any previous treatment" (DNB). Its impact would, however, ultimately be felt far beyond doctrinal controversies.

Hooker intended this "monumental work… as a defense of the Church of England as established in the reign of Elizabeth I, and more particularly as a defense of Episcopacy and the government of the Church against the objections of the Presbyterians. In fact he proceeded to consider the ultimate principles in which all authority rests, which he finds in the concept of law 'whose seat is the bosom of God, whose voice the harmony of the world.' Law, operating in nature, controlling the character and actions of individual men and visible in the formation of societies and governments, is equally to be seen as part of the divine order according to which God himself acts… Applying his principles to man in society, [Hooker] derives the force of government from the general approbation… 'To be commanded we do consent, when that society whereof we are part hath at any time before consented, without revoking the same after, by the like universal agreement.' This is the earliest statement of the original contract as the basis of government, which had originated in France and was to become a major issue in the political struggles of the 17th century. Hooker's theory formed the basis of Locke's Treatise of Civil Government and can thus be considered the first statement of the principles behind the Constitution of England" (PMM 104). The book's considerable influence extends as well, both directly and indirectly through Locke's Two Treatises, to the foundation of American constitutionalism. "Madison and the other framers made frequent reference to Calvin, Richard Hooker and the New England divines in their political writings, and were vitally aware of the long history of compacts in America. Through them, the principles of covenants and compacts became a part of the Federal Constitution" (Lutz & Warren, A Covenanted People: The Religious Tradition and the Origins of American Constitutionalism, 64). "An American political philosopher proclaimed [Hooker's] importance as a pioneer of enlightenment: 'If there is any single point that must be chosen as the beginning of the English Enlightenment, as the first glimmering of its dawn, then that would have to be the publication in 1593 of the first four books of Richard Hooker's Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie" (DNB). Hooker originally planned this work in eight books, as indicated on the title page; however, before his death in 1600, he published only five (the preface and the first four appearing in 1593, the fifth in 1597). Books six and eight were published in 1648; book seven, in 1661. Besides the first edition of the first four books of the Laws in 1593 and book 5 in 1597, there were several early 17th-century editions of the first five books together, Spenser's in 1604, followed by this one printed by William Stansby, which includes the first appearance of the title page engraved by William Hole, which recurs, with altered imprint, in all London editions, until 1723. General title page undated; part title to Book Five dated 1611. STC 13714. ESTC S119096. Early owner ink signatures to upper margin of title page; later owner pencil signature to front flyleaf. Occasional penciled marginalia.

Expert paper repairs to upper corner of title page, just touching border, and first two leaves of text; paper repair to last text leaf, not affecting letterpress. Mild toning to text. Expert restoration and light soiling to contemporary vellum. Very good.

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