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BOYLE, Robert.

A Free Discourse against Customary Swearing.

And a Dissuasive from Cursing.

Published: London: Printed by R.R. for Thomas Cockerill, 1695

Stock code: 110090

Price: £450

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First edition, with an attractive early American provenance, a preliminary blank is inscribed: “Wm. Dummer’s Booke, 3: May 1706, pretium 3 s[hillings]”. This is the governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, William Dummer (1677-1761), after whom Dummer’s War is named, a series of battles between New England and the Wabanaki Confederacy (1722-1725). His inscription evokes the short period that he is recorded as having spent in England, working with his extended family’s merchant business in London. “Oaths were controversial in seventeenth-century England, for two reasons: one, because of those who took them too seriously, the other due to those who did not take them seriously enough. To deal with the latter first, there was much concern at the time that oaths were being trivialised by their casual use: indeed, Boyle himself had written a treatise on this subject in the late 1640s which was published after his death, his A Free Discourse against Customary Swearing. In it, he gave a series of arguments against such use of oaths in fashionable circles, echoing the views of many at the time that it was because oaths were so serious a matter – religious acts in which God was invoked as a witness – that their abuse was so offensive: ‘the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain’, in the words of the Ten Commandments” (Michael Hunter, Robert Boyle 1627-1691: Scrupulosity and Science, 2000, p. 65).

Octavo (179 x 109 mm). Contemporary black morocco, decorative gilt spine tooled with motifs of hops and flowers, red morocco label, two-line gilt border on sides enclosing gilt panels with corner motifs of acorns and flowers, all edges gilt, marbled endpapers. Armorial bookplate of Hog of Newliston, probably James Maitland Hog (1799-1858), advocate. Lacking the engraved portrait frontispiece of Boyle, title page pasted to a stub, joints rubbed and partially split but sound, label chipped, internally a little dust-marking. An attractive copy with the terminal advertisement leaf.

Bibliography: Fulton 197; Wing B3978.

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