Three vols in one, 8vo, pp. [vi], 210; 176; 167, [1 blank]; including half-titles; a very good, clean, fresh copy in contemporary mottled calf, sides filleted in gilt, flat spine gilt with fleurons, gilt morocco lettering-piece; some light rubbing along the joints, one or two very minor scuffs at edges.
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Système sociale. ou principes naturels de la morale et de la politique. Avec un examen de l’influence du gouvernement sur les moeurs.
Complete with all three parts, dealing with ‘Natural principles of morals’, ‘Natural principles of politics’ and ‘Influence of government on customs’, this edition was published anonymously and with a false imprint in the same year as the first. Holbach’s system of ‘natural politics’, based on the same premises as the materialism which animated the Système de la nature, freed public morals from the realm of received authority or religion and built its foundation on the will of the people. It was man’s duty to assume the full responsibility of mankind’s independence: ‘la morale convenable à l’homme doit être fondée sur la nature de l'homme; il faut qu'elle lui apprenne ce qu’il est, le but qu’il se propose, & les moyens d’y parvenir’. Sovereignty of the people did not mean disorder, quite the opposite: Holbach ‘rejected revolution as a solution to political problems, [asserting] that revolution is worse than the disease which it is supposed to cure' (Copleston, A history of philosophy, vol. IV, p. 50). The citizens’ happiness features as natural end and therefore natural foundation of any political body, the legitimate nature of which can and ought to be questioned if the citizens find the ruler unjust. The book was seized and put on the Index in 1775.
Vercruysse 1773-A5; Barbier IV, 621-22; Cioranescu II, 34061; Quérard IV, 119; see Einaudi 2911; Goldsmiths’ 10952; Higgs 5873; Kress S, 4739; Tchemerzine VI 246 (a).
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Letters to the Right Honourable Edmund Burke, occasioned by his Reflections on the Revolution in France, &c.
First edition, one of three variant Birmingham issues in 1791. In these letters Priestley defends the principles of the French Revolution against Burke’s attack in the Reflections on the Revolution in France, which appeared in 1790. The Birmingham riots of July 1791 saw Priestley’s home attacked by the mob, forcing him to relocate to Hackney in London where he had sympathetic friends such as the radical printer Joseph Johnson.
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An Apology for the Bible, in a Series of Letters, addressed to Thomas Paine, Author of a Book entitled The Age of Reason, Part the Second, being an Investigation of true and of fabulous Theology … third Edition. London, T. Evans, Cadell & Davies, P. Elmsley, J. Debrett, J.
Third edition of ‘a crucial defence of the political and social order’ (ODNB), published the same year as the first edition. Though his first political sermon, The Principles of the Revolution Vindicated, was in 1776 interpreted as a radical statement of support for the American rebels, Richard Watson, Bishop of Llandaff from 1782, remained a staunch defender of Locke’s principles and by the 1790s was seen as conservative, his most successful work being the present criticism of Paine’s deism.