Rare First Collected Edition of John Locke's Four Letters
Letters Concerning Toleration.
Item Number: 21061
London: A. Millar , 1765.
First collected edition of John Locke’s four letters concerning toleration, including the Epistola de Tolerantia. Quarto, bound in full contemporary calf, housed in a custom clamshell box. Engraved portrait frontispiece by F.B. Cipriani. Occasional light toning and slight wear to binding, a very good example with wide margins. Though the four letters were included in the Works of 1714, the present edition marks the first time they appeared together as a single collection. Rare in a contemporary binding.
"Locke’s concern for the toleration of religious dissent, for the interaction of individual conscience and public authority, was long-standing. In his early tracts on the civil magistrate he had felt that the need for order in society justified the authority of the magistrate over matters indifferent to salvation. Under the influence of Shaftesbury and of his own investigations of the scope of certain knowledge, his emphasis changed. Without certainty in matters of religion, the conscience must be allowed liberty; the authority of the magistrate must be confined to preserving the existence of society and the safety and property of the citizen. Locke’s thoughts on this subject (as on so many others) matured during his stay in Holland, where his circle of friends consisted primarily of dissenters from the established church, such as the Remonstrant pastor and theologian, Philippus van Limborch. In 1686, Locke drafted a letter in Latin to his friend, which was published (probably by Limborch) in 1689" (Attig, p. 12). The Epistola de tolerantia was almost immediately translated into English and published in London. It was "immediately attacked in two anonymous pamphlets, the most significant of which was Proast’s Argument (March 1690). Locke’s own response was equally swift, and his Second letter appeared in June. Proast replied to Locke’s Second letter, with his Third letter concerning toleration (1691). Locke, in response, published A third letter for toleration the following year. Proast did not return to the attack until 1704, when he published his Second letter to the author of the three letters for toleration. Locke was defended by an anonymous author, probably John Shute Barrington, in the postscript to The rights of the Protestant dissenters. At the time of his death that same year, Locke had begun his own reply. The draft was published by his executors, Peter King and Anthony Collins in 1706" (Attig, pp. 18-19). Attig 93. Rothschild 2733. Yolton 28. HBS 67041.