"THE FIRST JEWISH AUTHOR TO HAVE A LAW BOOK PUBLISHED IN THE UNITED STATES": FIRST AMERICAN EDITION OF ENGLISH ATTORNEY JOSEPH MONTEFIORE'S COMMERCIAL AND NOTARIAL PRECEDENTS, 1803
MONTEFIORE, Joshua. Commercial and Notarial Precedents: Consisting of All the most approved Forms, Common and Special, which are required in Transactions of Business: With an Appendix, Containing Principles of Law relative to Bills of Exchange, Insurance, and Shipping. Philadelphia: James Humphreys, 1803. Octavo, contemporary full brown tree sheep, red morocco spine label; pp. (i-iii), iv-vi, (vii), viii-xvi, (1), 2-350 (2). $7800.
First American edition of the groundbreaking work by Montefiore, the Jewish attorney born in England but long barred from practicing except as a notary public, this rare edition containing his substantial revisions to the 1802 English edition in his notes "scattered throughout… exclusively useful" to American legal principles, published less than ten years before he traveled to America and later made it his home, with Jefferson possessing a copy of an 1804 three-volume edition issued with a first American edition of Montefiore's Commercial Dictionary (1804), in contemporary full brown sheep.
Montefiore, an English attorney, soldier and author, was a descendant of Moses Montefiore, the prominent philanthropist and financier. Joshua Montefiore, born in 1762 and educated as a attorney, was prevented from practicing and was constrained to working as a notary public. In 1787 he traveled to Jamaica but when he formally petitioned to be admitted to the Jamaican bar, was denied on the basis of a 1711 statute that "excluded Jews along with 'mulattos,' 'Indians,'' and 'negros' [sic] from… holding public office, serving on juries and acting as court clerks or attorneys." Also impeding his admission was "controversy in the court over an apparent erasure on his certificate of Notary Public. The word 'Christ' was deleted and the word 'God' was inserted in its place. On these grounds the bar moved to have his credentials confiscated to prevent him from using them in… Jamaica or in England." The court, however, refused to so, conceding Jews were permitted to practice as a notary public in England. After returning home in 1791, he joined a group of adventurers planning to create colony without slavery on the island of Boloma, which ultimately failed. In 1792, back in England, he authored one of his first influential legal works, Commercial and Notarial Precedents, initially issued in London in 1802. Its publication in Philadelphia in 1803, in this first American edition, "made Montefiore the first Jewish author to have a law book published in the United States" (Dorn, Joseph Montefiore, Library of Congress).
On settling in Philadelphia circa 1811, he authored more legal, financial and maritime works, and died on his farm in New England in 1843. First edition of first American edition, first printing; preceded by the English 1802 first edition. As described in the Preface, this Philadelphia edition was substantially revised by Montefiore, with notes not present in English edition "scattered throughout the book… exclusively useful to this country," along with his considerable revisions of legal principles concerning insurance and other aspects specific to the United States. The Library of Congress holds both a London 1802 edition and a Philadelphia 1803 edition of Commercial and Notarial Precedents. Jefferson had a copy of an 1804 Philadelphia edition that was issued together in three volumes with Montefiiore's Commercial Dictionary (1804); that 1804 copy, sold by Jefferson with his library to the Library of Congress. Shaw & Shoemaker 4671. Kress B4706. See Sowerby 3544; Sabin 50100 (1804 3-volume w/Commercial Dictionary, 1804). Owner inkstamps to title page and rear text page. While unconfirmed, they likely belong to Hoval A. Smith of Arizona who resigned from his position as Chairman of the Republican Territorial Senate Committee to unsuccessfully run for the U.S. Senate in a 1912 Arizona election. Separate bookplate with small inked nunber, "580."
Text fresh with lightest scattered foxing, rubbing to boards, front joint starting but strong. A memorable extremely good copy in contemporary tree sheep.