"HIS THEORIES UNDERLAY THE THINKING WHICH LED UP TO THE AMERICAN AND FRENCH REVOLUTIONS, AND THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION IN PARTICULAR IS A LASTING TRIBUTE TO THE PRINCIPLES HE ADVOCATED"
MONTESQUIEU, Charles Louis de Secondat. The Complete Works of M. de Montesquieu. London: T. Evans, 1777. Four volumes. Octavo, contemporary full speckled brown calf, raised bands, elaborately gilt-decorated spines, red and blue morocco spine labels, marbled endpapers. $6000.
First edition in English of Montesquieu's collected works including his seminal Spirit of Laws, beautifully bound in contemporary calf-gilt.
In his historical and political writings, Montesquieu spoke strongly against despotism and in favor of a continual reevaluation of all systems of government. Although popular in his own time for his discerning analyses and revolutionary theories, it was not until after his death in 1755 that his ideas began to see their greatest life. His role in bringing about the French Revolution was extraordinarily significant. His monumental Spirit of Laws is "in many ways one of the most remarkable works of the 18th century… The scheme that emerges of a liberal benevolent monarchy limited by safeguards on individual liberty was to prove immensely influential… his theories underlay the thinking which led up to the American and French revolutions, and the United States Constitution in particular is a lasting tribute to the principles he advocated" (PMM 197). "One of the greatest masterpieces of political theory and a pioneering work in sociology… its emphasis on the separation of powers of government and on a system of checks and balances profoundly influenced constitutional thought in both America and France" (McNamara, France in the Age of Revolution). "The theories of Montesquieu had a most important and far reaching influence on the thinking of the framers of the United States Constitution" (Sowerby III:2325). Includes Persian Letters, and The Grandeur and Declension of the Roman Empire, along with other works, in addition to Spirit of Laws. The first collected edition in French was published in 1758. Pencil annotations.
Interior generally fine, light staining to a few leaves in Volume I; binding exceptionally lovely.