"HIS THEORIES UNDERLAY THE THINKING WHICH LED UP TO THE AMERICAN AND FRENCH REVOLUTIONS… THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION IN PARTICULAR IS A LASTING TRIBUTE TO THE PRINCIPLES HE ADVOCATED" (PMM): FIRST FRENCH EDITION OF MONTESQUIEU'S DE L'ESPRIT DES LOIX, 1749
MONTESQUIEU, Charles Louis de Secondat. De L'Esprit Des Loix Ou Du Rapport Que Les Loix Doivent Avoir Avec La Constitution De Chaque Gouvernement, Les Moeurs Le Climat, La Religion, Le Commerce, &c. a quoi l'Auteur a ajoute Des recherches nouvelles sur les Loix Romaines touchant les Successions, sur les Loix Francoises, & sur les Loix Feodales. Geneva [i.e., Paris]: Chez Barillot & Fils [i.e., Prault], . Two volumes. Quarto, contemporary full calf rebacked with original elaborately gilt-decorated spine compartments and red morocco spine labels laid down, raised bands; pp. (8), xxiv, 522, (1); (4), xvi, 564. Housed in a custom morocco pull-off case. $8500.
Second edition—first French edition, published one year after the Geneva first—of Montesquieu's influential masterpiece.
"In many ways one of the most remarkable works of the 18th century… in 1743 [Montesquieu] began De l'Esprit des Loix. It took four years to write, and when it was finished almost all his friends advised him not to publish it. Montesquieu paid no attention and it was printed in Geneva in the autumn of 1748. It consists of six main sections, the first dealing with law in general and different forms of government, and the second with the means of government, military matters, taxation and so on. The third deals with national character and the effect on it at the time. The fourth and fifth deal with economic matters and religion; the last is an appendix on law—Roman, feudal and modern French… The most distinctive aspect of this immense syllabus is its moderation… It is an always original survey which is neither doctrinaire, visionary, eccentric, nor over-systematic… 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… profoundly influenced constitutional thought in both America and France. Indeed, during the early and later stages of the French Revolution, Montesquieu's theories were much more important than those of Rousseau" (Charles McNamara, France in the Age of Revolution: An Exhibition). Montesquieu's anonymous work first appeared in two quarto volumes in Geneva, published by Barrillot & Fils, in October 1748 (although undated). An unauthorized edition quickly followed, published by Prault in Paris in January 1749, with the false imprint of "Bar[r]illot & Fils, Geneva", also undated. This pirated edition, the first to appear in France, is identifiable by the misspelling of Bar[r]illot with one "r", and the absence of the 14 cancels found in the original. Text in French. Bound with half titles; errata leaf at rear of Volume I. Goldsmiths' 8375. Kress 4920. Printing and the Mind of Man 197. Bookplate. Pencil gift inscription at rear of each volume.
Text clean, a bit of rubbing to corners. A handsome copy.