"ONE MAY JUSTLY HAIL ROUSSEAU AS THE DISCOVERER OF THE CHILD": ROUSSEAU’S EMILE, RARE 1762 FIRST EDITION—A BEAUTIFUL COPY IN CONTEMPORARY CALF-GILT
ROUSSEAU, J.J. Emile, ou De L'Education. La Haye [Hague; i.e. Paris]: Jean Neaulme [i.e. Nicolas-Bonaventure Duchesne], 1762. Four volumes. Octavo, contemporary full mottled calf, elaborately gilt-decorated spines, raised bands, red and olive morocco spine labels, marbled endpapers.
First edition of one of Rousseau’s greatest works, a vastly influential philosophical novel whose "originality lay in the fact that it was the first comprehensive attempt to describe a system of education according to nature," with five finely engraved illustrations after designs by Charles Eisen—a splendid copy in contemporary mottled calf-gilt.
Emile expressed Rousseau's primary philosophy of education, the core of which was his belief in encouraging a child to ask his own questions and in allowing a child to demonstrate his interest in a subject rather than forcing learning. "One may justly hail Rousseau as the discoverer of the child" (Curtis & Boultwood, 264). "Around 1750 Rousseau began to promulgate the idea of the noble—or innocent—savage: our ancestor, a man uncorrupted by civilization and untainted by the sin of property. This line of thinking led to Emile and the Social Contract (both 1762). The first describes, in the form of a novel, the ideal education of the innocent child so that he shall not become tainted by society. Instead of his natural instincts being curbed in schools by moral instruction, the child should be encouraged to develop his individuality in the bosom of his family; religion should be nondogmatic and depend not on the head but the heart; experience should come not from books but from life. Thus, in an important sense, all liberal modern educational experiments derive from Rousseau. He set himself, in Emile, against all the traditional methods of education, and the book… must have influenced the practice of education insofar as this has gradually if often reluctantly allowed more open expression of individuality" (Seymour-Smith, The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written, 294).
Rousseau's writings on philosophy and education had a profound impact on the English educational system. "Few books have had a greater immediate effect on English educational thought than Rousseau's Emile. Coming at a time when new stirrings disturbed the calm waters of 18th-century English education, its ideas fused with those of radical and scientific thinkers to create new insights into children, into methods of teaching, and the scope of the educational process, and these gave new directions to English educational thought… The main appeal of Emile, however, lay in its repudiation of dogmas that were thought to fetter human development… its originality lay in the fact that it was the first comprehensive attempt to describe a system of education according to nature" (Stewart & McCan, 23-8). The work was condemned by the Parliament of Paris in June, 1762. Emile proved very popular and was rapidly translated and printed throughout Europe.
The publication history of the book is complex. "In November 1761 [publisher Nicolas-Bonaventure] Duchesne signed an agreement with Jean Néaulme, a Dutch publisher chosen… to undertake an edition parallel to Duchesne's for distribution outside France… Duchesne's first edition appeared in two formats: a duodecimo with the false imprint 'A Amsterdam, Chez Jean Néaulme' and an octavo with the false imprint 'A La Haye, Chez Jean Néaulme.' The sheets of the duodecimo edition were printed first, and the pages then re-imposed for printing in octavo" (McEachern, Bibliography of the Writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 16-17), but it was the octavo which was issued first (see McEachern for a full account of the various difficulties arising between author and printer). This copy has all four cancels, as usual. McEachern states that "copies of the octavo with cancellanda are exceedingly rare: I have located only one (Stuttgart) containing the two cancellanda of Volume I, and none at all containing the two cancellanda of Volume II." Volumes II-IV bound with half titles; no half title was issued for Volume I. Text in French. McEachern, 73-81, 1A. See Lowndes, 2134. Contemporary ink ownership stamp ("Bourlamaque") to title pages and printed booklabel ("D.D. Bernard et Auger") to front pastedown of each volume. Early ink inscription to the front flyleaf of Volume III.
Occasional spot of foxing, text generally quite clean and crisp. A few minor rubs to extremities, contemporary bindings quite sound and very handsome, gilt bright. A splendid copy of this rare landmark of education and philosophy.