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An Essay on Crimes and Punishments.

With a Commentary by M. de Voltaire. A new edition corrected.

Edinburgh: printed by James Donaldson, 1788 Stock Code: 145762
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Third Edinburgh edition of one of the key works of the Enlightenment, uncut in the original boards. Following the first Edinburgh edition of 1778, the text restores Beccaria's original format as first published (in Italian, 1764) and includes the commentary by Voltaire, endorsing the book and its principles, which did much to promote the book among European readers.

A seminal text of criminology, Beccaria's Essay - in arguing that the purpose of punishment was not to torment the criminal, but to deter others - had a major impact in rationalizing and humanizing treatment of criminals in the latter half of the 18th century and beyond. The book was widely reprinted and read across Europe and had a major impact on legal reform. The abolition of torture in various European countries in later years can be linked to Beccaria, and his beliefs were the basis of the penal code of the French Revolution in 1791. He was widely cited in the debates surrounding the founding of the US constitution and Bill of Rights, and in the following century the codification of the laws in the vernacular owed much to Beccaria. "His ideas have now become so commonplace that it is difficult to appreciate their revolutionary impact at the time" (PMM).

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Octavo in sixes. Uncut in the original boards, titles to spine in manuscript.


With the final blank. Binding worn and a little soiled, spine chipped partly exposing book block and cords, but joints markedly secure, buff paper at head expertly laid down to secure and early hand written shelfmark visible; contents evenly toned, crisp, and clean, title leaf slightly shaved along lower edge. Overall a very good copy indeed.


ESTC T138990. See Printing and the Mind of Man 209 (first edition).


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