“AMONG THE TRUE HIGH POINTS OF MAN’S EFFORTS TO BRING REASON AND DIGNITY TO HIS WORLD”: FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH OF PLATO’S REPUBLIC, VERY SCARCE LARGE-PAPER COPY, 1763, IN HANDSOME CONTEMPORARY CALF BOARDS
PLATO. The Republic of Plato. In Ten Books. Translated from the Greek by H. Spens. With a Preliminary Discourse Concerning the Philosophy of the Ancients by the Translator. Glasgow: Printed by Robert and Andrew Foulis, 1763. Quarto, contemporary full calf boards sympathetically rebacked in calf gilt, raised bands, original red morocco spine label.
First edition in English of the greatest of Plato’s dialogues, printed at the Foulis Press, one of a scant number of large-paper copies published by Glasgow’s renowned Foulis brothers, handsome in contemporary calf boards.
A cornerstone of Western philosophy and politics, Plato’s extended dialogue on justice and the ideal state contains one of the most powerful descriptions of the human condition in world literature, his allegory of the cave (in Book VII). “Of all Plato’s works, this is perhaps the most important and widely read. Ranging from a discussion of the ‘Good’ to an examination of the nature of the State, it remains among the true high points of man’s efforts to bring reason and dignity to his world” (Jenkins 404). “The Republic is a very famous dialogue, built up from a minor one, which survives as its first book, to a huge set piece. Its setting and its characters are full of political meaning. Its arguments are tantalizing and its fables fascinating… [Plato’s] utopia is alarming and his metaphysics are intoxicating. It is all an essay in how the state might be governed and man as a citizen governed by the vision of goodness and truth” (Levi, 348). This translation by the Rev. Henry Spens is “very faithful… containing not only a general epitome of the Republic of Plato, but an accurate delineation of the characters, manners, and philosophy of the ancient Greeks” (Lowndes, 1878). “That Plato should be the first of all the ancient philosophers to be translated and broadcast by the printing press was inevitable. Plato’s central conception of a universe of ideas, Perfect Types, of which material objects are imperfect forms, and his ethical code based on action according to human nature, developed by education, which represents the authority of the State, fitted in as well with the philosophical, religious and political thought of western Europe in the 15th century, striving to free itself from the shackles of scholasticism, as it did with those of the Byzantine Greeks, by whom Plato was repopularized in the western world… The dialogues are pervaded by two dominant impulses: a love of truth and a passion for human improvement” (PMM 27). “The Republic is the model for all ideal commonwealths, e.g. More’s Utopia [and] Bacon’s New Atlantis” (Harris, 115). “The preface alone is worth the purchase of the book to a curious reader” (Brueggemann, 154). The Foulis brothers were known for books “plainly printed with no extraneous ornament, and soon established a reputation for their carefully edited editions of Greek and Latin classics” (Glaister, 182). Bound without advertisement leaf [3H4] at rear. Moss II:450. OCLC lists 5 large-paper copies.
Occasional light foxing. Boards with expert restoration to extremities. A beautiful copy.