Vrai systême du monde physique et moral. [s.n., s.l., but Switzerland], 1797.

[s.l., but Switzerland], 1797.

8vo, pp. [iv], [vi], 5-351, [1] blank; table des matières of six pages bound after first two leaves; some foxing in places, but largely clean and crisp throughout; in contemporary Swiss marbled boards, paper label lettered in ink at head of spine; very light wear to corners, but a good copy.

£1750

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Only edition, rare, of this utopia, the identity of whose author, and even of whose printer, remains unknown.

Subtitled ‘Voyage de Laspidi écrit par lui-même. Traduit de l’Indien’, little of the book is as it seems. To start with, it is divided into six books, but starts with book three. The book deals with physics and natural philosophy, psychology and moral philosophy, political theory, legislation and the constitution of the ideal state, and the nature of happiness, and it is largely composed of a dialogue between Laspidi, a native of Surat, but well versed in European science and philosophy, and a Bonze from Formosa, who agree that the job of the philosopher is to identify what is true and to go no further (a task completed successfully, according to the preface, only by Locke). The preface reminds us that the sciences no more belong to Christians than they do to Muslims or anyone else: ‘in this work, we want only to speak the naked truth, such as appears to the eyes of the enlightened person; something that only the wise can pretend ever to have seen’.

In the course of their journey, Laspidi and his interlocutors range from duels to freedom and equality, by way of the nature of reason, the ethics of suicide, and more. Book seven, however, focusses on the Republic of Formosa, home of the Bonze, and it is here that the author sketches an ideal republic: he presents a constitution, and describes the rights of the citizen, the functioning of the justice system, property rights, the system governing inheritance and marriage, the educational system, penal laws, taxation, and the relation of religion and the state.

Not in Barbier; OCLC records copies at the BL, Basel, BnF, and the International Institute of Social History.

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