“THE FUNDAMENTAL IDEAS ON WHICH THE AMERICAN REPUBLIC WAS FOUNDED”: FIRST FRENCH EDITION OF PAINE’S RIGHTS OF MAN, 1791
PAINE, Thomas. Droits de l’Homme; En Reponse a l’Attaque de M. Burke Sur la Révolution Françoise… Tradiut de l’Anglois, par F. S[oules]. Avec des Notes et une nouvelle Préface de l’Auteur. Paris: F. Buisson, Mai 1791. Octavo, contemporary tan paper wrappers, contemporary paper spine label in manuscript hand, uncut; pp: xii, 227. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $4800.
Rare first French edition, second state, of the first part of Paine’s Rights of Man (published the same month as the first and only two months after the first English), “the clearest of all expositions of the basic principles of democracy” (PMM), with a special preface by Paine for this French translation, in scarce contemporary wrappers.
“One of the most remarkable political writers of the modern world… Thomas Paine wrote both parts of Rights of Man with the United States in mind… Celebrating America and the extension of the struggle for liberty, equality and democracy to France… Rights of Man became a phenomenal success in America” (Kaye, 4, 97-9). Paine finished the first part of Rights of Man on January 29, 1791, his 54th birthday, and the next day gave the manuscript to Johnson, a London publisher “who set about printing it in time for the opening of Parliament and Washington’s birthday on February 22.” But fearing governmental reprisals, Johnson halted its release. Paine hurriedly borrowed money to buy Johnson’s sheets and found another London publisher J.S. Jordan. Paine entrusted friends to supervise the publication and “packed his trunk for Paris, where he planned to arrange a French translation.” The London edition of Rights of Man finally saw publication on March 13, 1791 and “made Paine the most controversial public figure of the day” (Keane, 304-6). Paine, then in France, had “brought with him from London a copy of the [original sheets]… for translation into French” (Woodward, 199). With the publication of a new French edition of Common Sense and, in May 1791, the appearance Droits de l’Homme [Rights of Man], French newspapers declared Paine “the most determined champion of republican principles.” Paine’s steadfast goal in this Part I of Rights of Man “was to defend the cause of individual rights and liberty” (Fruchtman, 250-1). Rights of Man stands as “the earliest complete statement of republican principles. It set forth the fundamental ideas on which the American republic was founded” (Woodward, 211). Shortly after publication of this initial part Paine began work on Part II, which appeared in February 1792. Second state, appearing the same month as the first: with “fous” instead of “faux” (p. 162, li. 9). An edition of 148 pages, identified by Stephans as “a pirated edition, probably printed in Holland or Germany,” was also issued by Buisson in 1791. With half title, Paine’s dedication to Washington and his Preface for this French edition. Text in French. Stephans, 101-2. Howes P31. See Sowerby 2825; Gimbel-Yale 59; Stephans, 103. Trace of owner signatures. Contemporary marginalia to wrapper versos. Spine label with “Payne” and French title in manuscript hand. Two small letters to upper corner of front wrapper.
Text generally fresh with only lightest occasional marginal dampstaining, not affecting text, small expert archival repair to corner of half title, not affecting text; two small ink smudges, mild edge-wear to fragile wrappers. An extremely good copy in contemporary wrappers of fundamental and important work.