"SYMBOL OF THE FREE PRESS AS A BULWARK AGAINST TYRANNY": VERY SCARCE SECOND ENGLISH EDITION OF TRYAL OF JOHN PETER ZENGER, 1738, "MORNING STAR OF THAT LIBERTY, WHICH… REVOLUTIONIZED AMERICA"
(ZENGER, John Peter). The Tryal of John Peter Zenger, of New-York, Printer, Who was lately Try'd and Acquitted for Printing and Publishing a Libel against the Government. With the Pleadings and Arguments on Both Sides. London: Printed for J. Wilford, 1738. Quarto, period-style full brown speckled sheep, raised bands, red morocco spine label, top edge gilt; pp. 32. $16,000.
Second English edition (first published in New York in 1736) of the landmark trial of John Peter Zenger—“one of the famous decisions in legal history, establishing the epochal doctrine of the freedom of the press” (Howes)—“one of the most important events of colonial times” (Church), a splendid wide-margined copy handsomely bound.
John Peter Zenger's New York Weekly Journal often targeted Governor Cosby, prompting the official seizure and burning of four numbers of his Journal and Zenger's arrest in 1734 for seditious libel. "Unable to meet the bail set by the court, Zenger spent eight and one-half months in jail… until he came to trial in the supreme court of the province on 4 August 1735." Leading Zenger's defense was Andrew Hamilton, whose "address to the jury asserted the right of the jury to determine matters of law as well as of fact and held that the truth of an utterance could be upheld as a defense against a charge of libel. Both assertions were contrary to the common law that then prevailed, but it took the jury only a few minutes of deliberation to return a verdict of innocent. Hamilton was immediately hailed as a popular hero and Zenger as a symbol of the free press as a bulwark against tyranny" (ANB). Zenger's trial was "the most celebrated event of that day… the morning star of that liberty, which subsequently revolutionized America" (Chandler, I:157). Zenger himself first published The Case and Tryal of John Peter Zenger as a folio pamphlet in 1736; it became "the most famous publication issued in America" at the time. "The narrative of this trial, which was one of the most important events of colonial times, was probably prepared by James Alexander, one of Zenger's counsel" (Church 1016). Second English edition, issued same year as the first Boston edition, and with the "same imprint, date, and collation" as the same year's first English edition (Sabin 106307). With engraved title-page vignette, ornamental initial, head- and tailpiece. Howes Z6. ESTC 13620. See Evans 7824; Sabin 106305. OCLC lists 31 copies.
A fine copy.