Rare First French Edition of Thomas Paine's Rights of Man
Droits de L’Homme; En Reponse a L’Attaque de M. Burke Sur La Revolution Francois. [Rights of Man: Part the First Being An Answer to Mr. Burke’s Attach on the French Revolution].
Item Number: 96176
Chez F. Buisson: Paris, 1791.
First French edition of Thomas Paine’s classic statement of faith in democracy and egalitarianism. Octavo, bound in contemporary one quarter calf over marbled boards. In very good condition. From the library of Virginia bibliophile and historian Christopher Clark Geest with his bookplate to the pastedown. Rare and desirable.
"One of the most remarkable political writers of the modern world Thomas Paine wrote both parts of Rights of Man with the United States in mind Celebrating America and the extension of the struggle for liberty, equality and democracy to France Rights of Man became a phenomenal success in America" (Kaye, 4, 97-9). Paine finished the first part of Rights of Man on his 54th birthday, January 29, 1791, and the following day handed the manuscript to Johnson, a London publisher "who set about printing it in time for the opening of Parliament and Washington s birthday on February 22." Fearing governmental reprisals, Johnson halted its release compelling Paine to find another London publisher J.S. Jordan. Paine entrusted friends to supervise the publication and "packed his trunk for Paris, where he planned to arrange a French translation." The London edition of Rights of Man finally saw publication on March 13, 1791 and "made Paine the most controversial public figure of the day" (Keane, 304-6). Paine, then in France, had "brought with him from London a copy of the [original sheets] for translation into French" (Woodward, 199). With the publication of a new French edition of Common Sense and, in May 1791, the appearance Droits de l Homme [Rights of Man], French newspapers declared Paine "the most determined champion of republican principles." Paine's objective in Part I of Rights of Man "was to defend the cause of individual rights and liberty" (Fruchtman, 250-1). Rights of Man stands as "the earliest complete statement of republican principles. It set forth the fundamental ideas on which the American republic was founded" (Woodward, 211). Shortly after publication of Part I of Rights of Man, Paine began work on Part II, which appeared in February 1792.