Il filosofo del nord, ovvero Corso di morale filosofia.

Londra [i.e. Venice, Zatta], 1788.

8vo, pp. [ii], 375, [1] blank; some spotting and marking in places, especially on title; large tear with loss to margin of T1, but not touching text; otherwise largely clean and crisp throughout; in contemporary patterned boards, hand-lettered paper label on spine; extremities slightly worn, but still a lovely copy.


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Il filosofo del nord, ovvero Corso di morale filosofia.

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First edition under this title of this course of moral philosophy, broadly construed, where the author attempts to invoke the authority of the “philosophers of the North” (inter alia Hobbes, Bacon, Clark, Addison on one side of the English Channel, Bayle, Pascal, La Mettrie, Grotius and Formey on the other) to give weight to his prescriptions to an Italian public.

The work, in three parts, is divided into 26 lessons. Among the topics are the superiority of contemporary moral philosophy over that of the ancients, the difference between moral philosophy and religion, the ways of judging virtue, the importance of exercise and bodily health, the duty to live sociably, the government (and acknowledgement) of the passions and the appetites, the duty to educate children, especially the very young, the obligations imposed by marriage. Of particular interest is what the author recommends we read: apologetics by Samuel Clarke, Houtteville, and Galateri, but also Rollin on Roman history, the Scienza della legislazione of Filangieri, and Derham’s Astrotheology. The reader should also keep abreast of periodicals, Il Caffè for one; and read Thompson’s Seasons, and Richardson’s Clarissa and History of Charles Grandisson (‘ma come? Della cattedra filosofica si propongono da studiare romanzi! Si! Quando sono opere d’un Richardson io riguardo il raccomandarli un dovere’).

The text of this work had in fact appeared, unsuccessfully, in 1785, under the less alluring title Lezioni di Filosofia Pratica Recate da Straniero Idioma ai Giovani Italiani Bramosi della Propria Felicità. Zatta clearly felt that a snappier title, and a fake London imprint, would do its chances no harm, and this issue in fact reuses the sheets of the earlier one, but without the introduction; the scarcity of both issues suggests that Zatta’s optimism may have been misplaced.

Not in Melzi; OCLC records four copies in Italy, plus Oxford, Cambridge, Geneva, and Stuttgart, with no copies of the 1785 Lezione outside Italy.

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