"A SYMBOL AND A BATTLE CRY AGAINST OPPRESSION": SCARCE LARGE-PAPER COPY OF THE MAGNA CARTA, 1759, A SPLENDID FOLIO PRODUCTION EDITED BY BLACKSTONE, IN CONTEMPORARY CALF
(MAGNA CARTA) BLACKSTONE, William. The Great Charter and Charter of the Forest, with Other Authentic Instruments: to which Is Prefixed an Introductory Discourse, Containing the History of the Charters. Oxford: Clarendon, 1759. Folio (10-1/2 by 13-1/2 inches), contemporary full brown speckled calf rebacked with original red morocco spine label laid down, raised bands, renewed endpapers. $11,500.
First Blackstone edition, large-paper copy, of one of the finest productions of the Clarendon Press, the monumental edition of the Magna Carta under the editorship of eminent jurist Sir William Blackstone—his "first important work."
The Magna Carta, signed by King John in 1215, is hailed as "the first great public act of the nation" (Stubbs, 571), and looms as one of history's most influential documents. "It became a symbol and a battle cry against oppression, each successive generation reading into it a protection of their own threatened liberties. In England the Petition of Right (1628) and the Habeas Corpus Act (1679) looked directly back to the famous charter… In the United States both the national and the state constitutions show ideas and even phrases directly traceable to Magna Carta" (New Britannica). The Magna Carta has "rightly [become] a sacred text, the nearest approach to an irrepealable 'fundamental statute' that England has ever had" (Pollock & Maitland I:173), and is known "as a synonym for constitutional government" (Reams, 11-12).
This exceptional edition of the Magna Carta is "Blackstone's first important work… It contains the Articles of the Barons, the issues of the Great Charter in 1215, 1216 and 1217, with several charters of confirmation, the Charter of the Forest, and the Statute of Marlebridge… In a long introduction, Blackstone traces the history of the Charter… and gives an account of the various manuscripts known to him" (DNB). In this work Blackstone establishes a textual basis for modern Magna Carta scholarship and sets forth the first proof that the Charter was signed by King John. Scholar Richard Thompson further credits this volume for its inclusion of "The First Great Charter of Henry III" (pp. 27-36), whose "very existence seemed to be unknown, even to historians, antiquaries and lawyers… until it was printed by Sir William Blackstone" (Historical Essay, 430). In "this beautiful and rare edition… The elegance of the typography is very great" (Thompson, 456). With engraved historiated initials depicting views of Oxford public buildings, engraved tailpiece vignettes of historical scenes and royal seals, and engraved dedication leaf. Text of documents in Latin; Blackstone's essay in English. Half title and Tabula bound after page lxxvi. Higgs 2105. Marvin, 127. Eller 237. Rothschild 406. Church 880. Evans 2208. Sabin 10819. Viorst, Great Documents of Western Civilization, 112.
Text clean and fine, expert restoration to contemporary calf boards. An excellent, wide-margined copy of this splendid edition.