"THE NATIONS OF OUR TIME CANNOT PREVENT THE CONDITIONS OF MAN FROM BECOMING EQUAL": RARE FIRST AMERICAN EDITIONS OF TOCQUEVILLE'S CLASSIC DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA
TOCQUEVILLE, Alexis de. Democracy in America. Translated by Henry Reeve, Esq. With an Original Preface and Notes by John C. Spencer. WITH: Democracy in America. Part the Second, The Social Influence of Democracy. New York: George Dearborn & Co., Adlard and Saunders; J. & H.G. Langley, 1838, 1840. Two volumes. Octavo, original blind-stamped brown cloth and green cloth. Housed in two custom chemise and together in a custom clamshell box. $13,500.
Rare and important first American editions of both parts of Tocqueville’s great influential analysis of American democracy, one of the outstanding intellectual achievements of the 19th century, highly elusive in original cloth.
Tocqueville's work originated in a trip commissioned by the French government to study the American penal system in 1831-1832. "In 1835, the first volume appeared (in French), and throughout the intellectual circles of western Europe both democracy and America took on a new aspect and a new significance in political speculation" (NYU, 955). In his nine-month stay in the United States, Tocqueville absorbed a remarkable sense of the spirit and maintenance of democracy, and he affirms his faith in mankind's ability to pursue the democratic society: "It is true that around every man a fatal circle is traced, beyond which he cannot pass; but within the wide verge of that circle he is powerful and free; as it is with man, so it is with communities. The nations of our time cannot prevent the conditions of men from becoming equal, but it depends upon themselves whether the principle of equality is to lead them to servitude and freedom, to knowledge or barbarism, to prosperity or wretchedness." The Reeve translation of part I was first published in London in 1835; this contains the first American edition of the second part (issued same year as the London edition), as well as the true first American edition of the first part (one of two editions from New York in 1838: easily distinguishable by the printer's imprint on the verso of the title leaf). Sabin 96064. Howes T278. Volume II with owner inkstamps of 19th-century American financier Thomas Barbour, who continued his family's Irish business of fine linen by opening an American mill in Paterson, New Jersey in the 1890s. The Barbour's Patterson mills would manufacture "three-fourths of all the linen thread" made in the United States (New York Times). Volume I with trace of shelf label removal to spine.
Text generally fresh with light scattered foxing, mild toning to spine (V.I), trace of edge-wear, soiling to cloth. A handsome two-volume set, rarely found together in original unrestored cloth.