2 vols in one, 4to, pp. , xxiv, 522; , xvi, 564; an excellent copy in contemporary Dutch vellum, blindstamped cartouche and panels to boards, spine with raised bands and morocco label gilt, somewhat dusty, edges sprinkled red; contemporary annotations to front pastedown and free endpaper.
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De l’esprit des loix, ou du rapport que les loix doivent avoir avec la constitution de chaque gouvernement, les moeurs, le climat, la religion, le commerce, &c. à quoi l’auteur a ajouté des recherches nouvelles sur les loix romaines touchant les successions, sur les loix françoises, & sur les loix féodales.
First edition, first issue. Montesquieu’s masterpiece of political theory, the principles of which formed the ideological basis of the French and American revolutions and were the cornerstone of the United States Constitution. Montesquieu argues that culture cannot be abstracted from the climate and geography of individual states, meaning there is no single best institution or set of laws; the best institutions are those adapted to the people that they serve and the best laws to the people that they govern. He also makes a case for the division of government and for the need for systems of checks and balances so as to ensure the rights of the individual. De l’esprit des loix foreshadows the work of the philosophes, despite the fact that in general they ignored him. This was probably due to the hostility of Voltaire, though even that great intellect was finally forced to praise Montesquieu’s book in public.
Tchmerzine IV 929; Cabeen 97; Dagneau, p. 15; Printing and the mind of man, 197.
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