Enquiry Concerning Political Justice


SKU: 003654 Categories: , ,


[003654] Godwin, William. Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, and Its Influence on Morals and Happiness. London: G.G. And J. Robinson, 1796. Second Edition. 8vo. Half Calf and Boards. Good. Two volumes complete – Volume One – [5], vi-xxii, [3], 2-464pp and Volume Two – [5], vi-ix, [2], 2-545pp, [1]. Modern half calf and marbled paper over boards, raised bands with spine in five panels, title label to second panel, oval volume label to fourth, remaining panels gilt

Internally some light foxing, especially signatures P and Q in the first volume, and Bb in the second, otherwise fairly clean, with decent borders. Original paper title labels tipped in to rear. The binding is a little rudimentary and the finishing especially so, but entirely functional

Quite a clean and thick copy of Godwin’s magnum opus, first issued as a quarto in 1793. Both this second edition, and the third edition published two years later, were heavily revised by Godwin, with many critics insisting that the revisions constitute a retreat from the first edition, which is described as “original pure vigorous Godwinism” (Priestley, F.E.L. (Ed), Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and Its Influence on Morals and Happiness, volume 3, page 81). However Godwin himself argues in the preface to this edition that the “spirit and great outlines of the work … remain untouched, and that it is reasoned in various particulars with more accuracy from the premises and fundamental positions than it was before” (page xv). The major changes for the second edition are in the first four books and in the eighth, with Griffith noting that “the most important effect of the revision for the second edition, and the one which has not previously been noticed, is to unify the aim of the whole work” (Griifith, op cit, page 82)

Rothschild 1016 (including mention of this edition); PMM 243, describing the first edition as “one of the earliest, the clearest, and most absolute theoretical expositions of socialist and anarchist doctrine” (page 146); Einaudi 2633; Kress B3133; Sweet and Maxwell I:608; Nettlau, page 5, stating that the first edition was “la premier livre strictement anarchiste”