"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 three-quarter brown calf and marbled boards, renewed endpapers; pp. 32. $16,000.
Second English edition (first published in New York in 1736) of the landmark trial of John Peter Zenger that produced "one of the famous decisions in legal history," pivotal to "the creation of the Bill of Rights and freedom of the press… had a lasting impact on the development of a libertarian ideology in both England and America," soundly viewed as "one of the famous decisions in legal history, establishing the epochal doctrine of the freedom of the press"—"one of the most important events of colonial times," a splendid 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). Title page with printed: "The Second Edition"; containing "same imprint, date, and collation" as same year's first English edition (Sabin 106307); issued same year as first Boston edition. With woodcut-engraved title-page vignette, ornamental initial, head- and tailpiece. ESTC T89459. Howes Z6. See Evans 7824. Title page with partial early initials.
A fine copy.