On the Penitentiary System in the United States

Alexis de TOCQUEVILLE   |   G. de BEAUMONT

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Item#: 121155 price:$4,500.00

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"A BRILLIANT SUCCESS… SETTING THE STANDARD THROUGHOUT EUROPE FOR ALL SUBSEQUENT PRISON STUDIES": FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH OF DE TOCQUEVILLE AND BEAUMONT'S 1833 ON THE PENITENTIARY SYSTEM, UNCUT IN ORIGINAL BOARDS

TOCQUEVILLE, Alexis de, and BEAUMONT, Gustave de. On the Penitentiary System in the United States and Its Application in France; with an Appendix on Penal Colonies, and Also, Statistical Notes. Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchard, 1833. Octavo, contemporary purple patterned cloth, original brown paper boards, partial printed paper spine label, uncut. $4500.

First edition in English of Beaumont and Tocqueville's highly influential classic, published the same year as the first French edition and soon followed by Tocqueville's masterpiece, Democracy in America, a rare uncut copy in original boards.

"In the midst of a country, where everything is yet to be created, where the free population is isolated… it is clear that it must be difficult to maintain order, and prevent revolts." In 1831 Tocqueville and his close friend Beaumont traveled to the U.S. "to examine an issue that had dominated political debates in France for many years: how best to reform France's prison system… The outcome of their investigations, Penitentiary System, was a brilliant success, winning the Montyon prize of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences in 1833 and setting the standard throughout Europe for all subsequent prison studies" (Drolet, Tocqueville, 20). It represents "some of the very first theorizations on the prison and punishment by democratic political thinkers" (Harcourt, Invisibility of the Prison, 7).

During the nine-month survey of American prisons, paying particular attention to those in Philadelphia, New York and Boston, Tocqueville was also able to devote himself to what had always been his greater goal, that of "investigating democracy and its cornerstone principle, equality, in their American incarnation. The trip provided Tocqueville with the material and inspiration for his greatest achievement, the two-volume Democracy in America (1835-1840)" (ANB). Penitentiary System "speaks to political issues that are still of genuine interest today… in particular, it offers us a thoughtful presentation of Tocqueville's analysis of the problems and prospects of democratic reformism—the practical expression of the democratic belief in human perfectibility" (Schwartz, Penitentiary, 7-10). Submitted as a report to the French Minister of Interior a few weeks after Beaumont and Tocqueville's return to France in 1832 and published in French in 1833, this is the first edition in English, containing a preface by translator Francis Lieber not included in the first French edition. With rear advertisment leaf. Harvard Law Catalogue I:140. NYU, 488. See Norman 2084. Sabin 4191.

Text generally fresh with light scattered foxing mainly to preliminaries, front free endpaper renewed; scant edge-wear to original boards, spine toned and loss to early printed paper label. An excellent copy in original boards.

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