"For it can never be that war shall preserve life, and peace destroy it": First Edition, First Issue of Thomas Hobbes's Landmark Work Leviathan

  • Leviathan, or, The Matter, Forme, & Power of a Common-wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civill.
  • Leviathan, or, The Matter, Forme, & Power of a Common-wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civill.
  • Leviathan, or, The Matter, Forme, & Power of a Common-wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civill.

Leviathan, or, The Matter, Forme, & Power of a Common-wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civill.

$17,500.00

Item Number: 25003

London: Andrew Crooke, 1651.

First edition, first issue, with “head” ornament (rather than “bear”) on letterpress title page, additional engraved title, and folding table. Wing 2246. Pforzheimer 491. Macdonald & Hargreaves 42. Folio, bound in full brown calf, gilt titles and tooling to the spine, red morocco spine label, raised bands. In near fine condition with some of the usual browning to the page edges. A very nice example of this highspot.

Leviathan ranks as a classic western work on statecraft comparable to Machiavelli's The Prince. Written during the English Civil War (1642–1651), Leviathan argues for a social contract and rule by an absolute sovereign. Hobbes wrote that civil war and the brute situation of a state of nature. "This book produced a fermentation in English thought not surpassed until the advent of Darwinism. Its importance may be gauged by the long list of assailants it aroused. It was placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum 7 May 1703, though all Hobbes’s works had previously been condemned in toto, and it still remains a model of vigorous exposition, unsurpassed in the language" (Pforzheimer). "Hobbes had a fundamentally pessimistic view of human nature [which] had a powerful influence on the framers of the [American] Constitution During the early years of the Revolutionary period, American leaders found Locke’s revolutionary compact ideas more useful than Hobbes’ view of the unlimited authority of the state. But as the political and social experience of the 1780s seemed to bear out Hobbes’s pessimistic view that men are essentially self-interested, the Hobbesian outlook became more relevant. When John Adams wrote that ‘he who would found a state, and make proper laws for the government of it, must presume that all men are bad by nature,’ he was expressing an idea that was derived at once from Hobbes" (Lutz & Warden, A Covenanted People, 38).

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