First edition. Two volumes. Handsome contemporary calf with red morocco title labels lettered in gilt. Five raised bands, compartments ruled in gilt. Red speckled edges. With half-titles in each volume and directions to the binder bound in at the end of volume two. A fine set with wide margins, the bindings square and firm with minor rubbing to the boards and extremities and a couple of small old repairs to the leather on the rear board of each volume. The contents, with the engraved armorial bookplate of George Baille, a neat contemporary ink signature to the head of the title page of volume two, a small contemporary ink numeral notation to the rear of each half-title and scattered foxing to the prelims and occasionally to a few page edges are otherwise in excellent order and clean throughout. An exceptionally attractive example in a strictly contemporary binding.

Godwin's seminal text and one of the most important works of political philosophy of the eighteenth century. Husband of pioneer feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, father of Mary Shelley, and mentor to Percy Shelley, Godwin was a highly influential figure in the intellectual life of the period. In Political Justice, a foundational text of anarchist and socialist political theory, written partly in response to Burke's Reflections, Godwin outlined his belief in the perfectibility of humanity and the importance of independent, rational thought in its development. Centrally, the work attacked all forms of restraint on the exercise of individual judgement, arguing that the free growth of knowledge would progressively enlighten and reform human opinions, relations and social structures, ultimately removing the need for government in its entirety. Through this, Godwin presented not only the institution of government (especially monarchy) as antithetical to the advancement of human progress, but also those of property, religion and marriage. Despite being published just weeks after the execution of Louis XVI and during the build up to the 1794 Treason Trials, designed to cripple the British radical movement, Godwin's Enquiry met with great success, becoming central to political, philosophical and economic debate in the period. Notably, it inspired a famous response from Thomas Malthus, in the form of his influential economic treatise, An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798) and later informed the development of the ideas of the Romantic poets, including Coleridge, Wordsworth and, in particular, Shelley. A superb copy of a key work in the history of modern political thought. (Printing and the Mind of Man 243). Provenance: From the library of the Earls of Haddington (George Baillie (1644-1738), engraved armorial bookplate applied posthumously).

Stock code: 17337


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GODWIN, William


Politics / Philosophy
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