First American Edition of a Landmark, PMM-Listed Work in the Development of Utilitarian, Socialist and Anarchist Doctrine Godwin, William [1756-1836]. An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, And its Influence on General Virtue and Happiness. First American Edition from the Second London Edition, Corrected. Philadelphia: Printed by Bioren and Madan, 1796. Two volumes. xvi, -362; viii, 400 pp. Half-titles in each volume. 12mo. (6-1/4" x 4"). Contemporary tree sheep, lettering pieces and gilt fillets and volume numbers to spines, front joint and hinge of Volume I mended. Moderate rubbing to extremities with some wear to spine ends and corners, a few minor nicks to spines, front hinge of Volume I starting, residue from small labels to front free endpapers, early owner signature (W.L. Warren/ Sept. 24th 1813) to half-titles. Moderate toning, light foxing in a few places, faint dampstaining to a few leaves, tiny chips to fore-edges of a few leaves of Volume I. A choice set. $1,750. * First American edition, a reprint of the second London edition, 1796. Godwin's Enquiry was among of the most influential English political books inspired by the French Revolution. First published in London in 1793, it was "one of the earliest, clearest, and most absolute theoretical expositions of socialist and anarchist doctrine. Godwin believed that the motives of all human doctrine were subject to reason, that reason taught benevolence, and that therefore all rational creatures could live in harmony without laws and institutions. (...) The time would come, he maintained, when every man by doing what seemed right in his own eyes, would also be doing what was best for all men, because all, through discussion, would be guided by purely rational principles."(Printing and the Mind of Man). It was an equally important landmark in the development of Utilitarian thought, and on political thinking generally. It was acquired by several corresponding societies, which increased its circulation considerably among others who could not afford to purchase the book. (Members of these societies also read it to illiterate members.) Godwin was the husband of Mary Wollstonecraft, author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), and father of Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein.
Book number 70792