"THERE IS A UNIVERSAL TENDENCY AMONG MANKIND TO CONCEIVE ALL BEINGS LIKE THEMSELVES… WE FIND HUMAN FACES IN THE MOON, ARMIES IN THE CLOUDS": FIRST EDITION OF HUME'S FOUR DISSERTATIONS, 1757
HUME, David. Four Dissertations. I. The Natural History of Religion. II. Of the Passions. III. Of Tragedy. IV. Of the Standard of Taste. London: Printed for A. Millar, 1757. 12mo, contemporary full dark brown speckled calf rebacked with original spine laid down, raised bands, later red morocco spine label. $3800.
First edition of this collection of four major essays, including the first appearance of Hume's Natural History of Religion, with scarce half title and dedication pages, a handsome copy in contemporary calf boards.
This classic volume includes the first appearance in print of Hume's important The Natural History of Religion and his only works in the field of aesthetics, Of Tragedy and Of the Standard of Taste. "In The Natural History of Religion, Hume maintained that there is no evidence of any specific instinct for religious belief. Some races have no religion. In all known cases the earliest religions were polytheistic and idolatrous, with no notion whatever of an intelligent cause of the whole frame of nature. They were as truly atheistic as would be the beliefs of a contemporary person who acknowledged the existence of elves and fairies but denied the existence of God" (Encyclopedia of Philosophy), an argument which lead to Hume himself being accused of atheism. "After publication Hume withdrew the dedication 'To the Reverend Mr. Hume, Author of Douglas, a Tragedy,' but cancelled the withdrawal four days later, 800 copies having been sold without it. He never reprinted it… The fourth 'Dissertation' originally proposed by Hume was to have been Some Considerations previous to Geometry and Natural Philosophy; this he withdrew and substituted two, Of Suicide and Of the Immortality of the Soul. These two reached the proof stage before being withdrawn and replaced by Of the Standard of Taste" (Rothschild 1176). First edition, later state, with cancel leaves C12 and D1, as in all copies (Todd, 200): "ative" instead of "lative" as the first word on page 9 and corrected "lancing" as the first word on page 131. With half title following title page, and scarce dedication pages. Jessop, 33-5. Todd, 200. Rothschild 1176. ESTC T4011. With contemporary armorial bookplate of William Inglis a Scottish merchant and financier of Inverness, perhaps most noted for welcoming Robert Burns to his home for dinner in 1778. Banner with engraved motto "Nisi Dominus Frustra," long that on the Edinburgh coat of arms. It is a contraction of the first line of Psalm 127: "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain": roughly, "without the Lord, labor in vain."
Interior fresh with lightest scattered foxing, tiny hole to initial blank, expert restoration to contemporary calf.