Lettera dall’Adriatico del signor Antonio Bianchi sopra l’opera del sig. Abate D. Nicola Spedalieri.

Rome, Giovanni Zempel, 1792.

8vo, pp. 196; some light foxing in places throughout, and some dustsoiling; in contemporary vellum, gilt-lettered label on spine; somewhat soiled, and binding slightly sprung.


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First edition, uncommon, of this counter-revolutionary polemic written in response to Spedalieri’s I diritti dell’uomo of the previous year and attributed to the Barnabite Paolo Agostino Cavalleri (1742-1803). Spedalieri had attempted a Catholic response to the revolutionary ideas of the rights of man, based on a largely Thomist interpretation of natural law theory, but his work, despite winning the approval of Pius VI, found few friends at the time, and it was banned in Piedmont and elsewhere.

Cavalleri’s response strips away the nuance from Spedalieri’s work, ignores the fact that much of it echoes traditional Catholic political teaching, and accuses Spedalieri of being no more than a Jacobin priest. He attacks the idea of popular sovereignty, and argues against the notion of human rights, suggesting that they are God-given rather than natural (although the practical consequences of the distinction are not always clear in Cavalleri’s work). Inequality, both social and economic, was real, but a consequence of human corruption.

Criticism of Cavalleri’s work prompted a Supplemento e difesa della lettera adriatica (Rome, 1793). 

Melzi I, p.131; OCLC records copies only four copies outside Continental Europe, at Columbia, Newberry, Harvard, and Cambridge.

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