"THE CLEAREST OF ALL EXPOSITIONS OF THE BASIC PRINCIPLES OF DEMOCRACY" (PMM): PAINE’S RIGHTS OF MAN, PARTS I & II, 1791-1792, SCARCE 2ND EDITION OF PART I, ISSUED WITHIN DAYS OF THE FIRST, WITH THE EXCEEDINGLY RARE FIRST EDITION OF PART II, WHERE PAINE “FULLY DEVELOPED HIS GREAT POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY”
PAINE, Thomas. Rights of Man: Being an Answer to Mr. Burke's Attack on the French Revolution. Second Edition. By Thomas Paine, Secretary for Foreign Affairs to Congress in the American War, And Author of the Work Intitled "Common Sense." BOUND WITH: Rights of Man. Part the Second. Combining Principle and Practice. London: J.S. Jordan, 1791, 1792. Octavo, modern half brown calf; pp.[iii-vii], viii-x, , 8-171; [iii-v], vi, [vii], viii-xv, [xvi], , 2-174, , 176-178. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $25,000.
Extremely rare 1791-1792 editions of Paine’s revolutionary classic, containing the scarce second edition of Rights of Man (Part I), issued within days of the first edition, together in one volume with the rarely found first edition, first issue of Part the Second. Paine's Rights of Man, one of his most important, influential, and best-selling works, is "the clearest of all expositions on the basic principles of democracy" (PMM), and remains "one of the most ardent and clear defenses of human rights, liberty, and equality in any language" (Fruchtman). Paine hoped the work "would do for England what his Common Sense had done for America" (Gimbel), but it resulted in the prosecution of Paine, his publishers and booksellers, and forced Paine to flee to France.
Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France "appeared November 1, 1790. Paine read the book the day after it was published, and a few days later he began work on his refutation–destined to become the most important essay on political democracy of that era" (Fast). "The publishing history of the [first part of Rights of Man] is of interest…. as showing how fragile the right to dissent actually was in those years. Having completed Part One on his 54th birthday, 29 January 1791, Paine made haste to take the manuscript to a printer named Joseph Johnson… [who] he took fright after several heavy-footed visits from William Pitt's political police" (Hitchens, 51-52). "Unnerved by the prospect of arrest and bankruptcy, Johnson suppressed the book on the very day of its scheduled publication. Alarmed by the prospect that the work would be stillborn, Paine reacted fast. He agreed to a deal with another publisher, J.S. Jordan on Fleet Street, and with the help of friends and a horse and cart delivered to him Johnson's printed, unbound sheets. Paine scurried around for money to pay for the work… then packed his trunk for Paris, where he planned to arrange a French translation… Paine passed on several bound copies of the original Johnson edition into private hands, but only a few of these have survived" (Keane, 304-5).
Jordan took Johnson's unbound sheets of the text and added a new title page with Jordan's imprint and a preface that Paine sent him from Paris. Jordan published that first edition, second issue on March 13, 1791, and it sold out in hours. "Curiosity and word-of-mouth advertising kept sales brisk. Jordan had set a new edition in type [this stated 'second edition,' with different pagination] during Paine's absence from London and had it on the market [on March 16] three days after the first appeared. It sold out within a few hours" (Hawke, 223-4; emphasis added).
In January 1792 Paine finished the second part of Rights of Man but had difficulty getting it published. Johnson and Jordan both refused to allow their names on the title page, though they agreed to sell it in their bookshops. "Johnson had been told by a friend who had read the unfinished manuscript that 'if you wish to be hanged or inured in a prison all your life, publish this book.'" Thomas Chapman agreed to print it but never finished, as when he began to read the proof pages he became frightened that the work was seditious. Within a week Paine found someone else to finish the printing. "Johnson now agreed to help underwrite publication costs in return for the right to sell part of the first printing, and Jordan, reversing his earlier stand, allowed his name to appear on the title page as publisher for a similar right. To protect both men in case the government decided to prosecute the work as seditious, Paine signed a statement that he alone was both the 'author and publisher of that work.'" The second part of Rights of Man was published by Jordan "on 16 February 1792, priced at three shillings, with a first printing of 5000 copies. Within two weeks the book had gone through four printings" (Hawke, 238-40). "While the first part of Rights of Man was relatively mild… Part the Second fully developed his great political philosophy" (Gimbel-Yale 66).
Written "with a force and clarity unequalled even by Burke, Paine laid down those principles of fundamental human rights which must stand, no matter what excesses are committed to obtain them… Rights of Man was an immediate success… The government tried to suppress it, but it circulated the more briskly. Those who bought it as the work of an inflamed revolutionary were surprised by its dignity and moderation: even Pitt could say that he was quite in the right—'but what am I to do? As things are, if I were to encourage Tom Paine's opinions we should have a bloody revolution'… [Rights of Man is] the textbook of radical thought and the clearest of all expositions of the basic principles of democracy" (PMM 241). "Paine's attack on the monarchy went farther than he had attempted on Common Sense or the Crisis series… Rights of Man was one of the most ardent and clear defenses of human rights, liberty and equality in any language…For Paine, human rights were part of life itself… The rights of man were inherent in all men, and they were the same in every person, regardless of economic or social status… Like Locke, Paine wrote that people have rights naturally, and as they joined together to form society and then government, they transformed a number of their natural rights into civil rights… Rights of free speech, opinion, conscience, association (in America those rights became embodied in the first amendment to the Constitution in the same year the first part of the Rights of Man appeared) were all part of the natural rights which a properly constituted government must protect" (Fruchtman, 225). The British government considered prosecuting Paine for sedition shortly after the publication of Part I, but decided against it at the time because "Paine had tempered argument and language so skillfully that it would be hard to make a charge of sedition stick in court. To prosecute would provide free advertising. Also it could lead to embarrassment; the book was dedicated to the president of the United States, with whom the government now wanted to have good relations" (Hawke, 223-4). But in 1792, after the publication of the more incendiary Part II and the rapid spread of both parts, the British government took action against Paine, his publishers and booksellers. Jordan was arrested in May 1792 for publishing Part II and pleaded guilty, and many "booksellers were imprisoned, some for as long as for two years, for selling Rights of Man" (St. Clair, 624). The Pitt government quickly issued a summons for Paine "to appear in court… on charges of seditious libel. The summons… appeared to signal the government's desire to get its hands on the throat of political dissent, but in retrospect it was designed to force Paine into exile. The authorities reasoned that a midsummer show trial was too risky, in that it might antagonize the democratic opposition to the point of taking openly revolutionary action" (Keane 334-7). Paine at first refused to leave, but as the threats to his life increased, eventually fled to France. "Paine was in France, sitting as a member of the French National Convention, which was acting as a jury in the trial of Louis XVI, King of France, when his own trial as the author of seditious literature (Part II of Rights of Man) began in London on December 18, 1792. Despite the brilliance of Paine's attorney, Thomas Erskine, Paine was found guilty, declared an outlaw, and Rights of Man contraband" (Gimbel-Yale, 425).
The first edition, first issue of Part I (with Johnson's title page imprint) is historically so rare that it has been considered virtually unacquirable. The first edition, second issue, with Johnson's text sheets and Jordan's title page and preface, is exceptionally rare. This stated second edition, issued by Jordan only three days later, is one of the earliest obtainable. First issue, variant a with press figures: 38(none), 39(1), 42(1), 71(1), 74(4), 84(1), 114(1), 126(none), 133(4), 138(1), 146(4), 159(none), 165(none) (Gimbel-Paine, 88). Containing Paine's "Preface to the English Edition"; dedication to George Washington. First edition of Part the Second, with the following variant points, no priority determined: uncorrected catchword "Anothe" (vii); "CHAP. IV" corrected (instead of "CAAP. IV"); press figure 105-5. Both parts bound without half titles; Part II bound without two rear leaves of publisher's advertisements. Rights of Man: ESTC T5866. Gimbel-Paine, 88-89, 97. Howes P31. Gimbel-Yale 59. Part the Second: ESTC T5882. Gimbel-Paine, 104. Gimbel-Yale 66. Sowerby 2826. Howes P32.
Scattered light foxing, title page of Part I restored along inner margin. A very good copy.