"ONE OF THE GREATEST MASTERPIECES OF POLITICAL THEORY": FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH OF MONTESQUIEU'S SPIRIT OF LAWS, 1750
MONTESQUIEU, [Charles Louis] de Secondat, Baron de. The Spirit of Laws… With Corrections and Additions communicated by the Author. London: J. Nourse and P. Vaillant, 1750. Two volumes. Octavo, contemporary full speckled brown calf, elaborately gilt-decorated spines, raised bands, red and green morocco spine labels. $21,000.
First edition in English of Montesquieu's classic De L'Esprit Des Loix, an enormous influence on American and French revolutionary thought, translated by Thomas Nugent and published just two years after the first French edition, a beautiful copy in contemporary calf gilt.
"One of the most remarkable works of the 18th century… Spirit of the Laws 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 of climate; a subject of peculiar originality… The fourth and fifth deal with economic matters and religion; the last is an appendix on law… 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. Indeed, during the early and later stages of the French Revolution, Montesquieu's theories were much more important than those of Rousseau" (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). With woodcut-engraved ornamental initials, head- and tailpieces, woodcut-engraved vignettes to title pages. Volume I with rear advertisement leaf; Volume II with front advertisement leaf. Kress 5057. CBEL II:800. Goldsmiths 8571. See Hazlitt, 121-22; Allibone, 1444. Each volume with early owner signatures of W. Hagart. Volume II with small inked initials; tiny inked notations to rear blank, pastedown.
Text quite fresh with only trace of scattered foxing, joints expertly repaired. A splendid near-fine copy in contemporary calf.