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Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever.

Part I. Containing an examination of the principal objections to the doctrines of natural religion, and especially those contained in the writings of Mr. Hume. The second edition; [together with:] Part II. Containing a state of the evidence of revealed religion, with animadversions on the two last chapters of the first volume of Mr. Gibbon's History of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.

Birmingham: Printed by Pearson and Rollason, for J. Johnson, London, 1787 Stock Code: 136695
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First edition of the second part, second edition of the first part (first published in 1780). The Letters form part of a series of publications by Priestley in the last two decades of the 18th century rejecting the atheistic and sceptical philosophy then ascendant. Priestley conceived the project on his visit to Paris in 1774, where he recorded that all of the philosophical persons he met were unbelievers in Christianity. Taking the form of a series of letters to one whose faith has been shaken by the recent sceptical books published, Priestley sought to give a philosophical basis for Christianity to which a man of letters could not object (see Schofield, The Enlightened Joseph Priestley, pp. 37-38). The first part of these letters is particularly directed against David Hume's posthumous Dialogues concerning Natural Religion (1779), the second part against Edward Gibbon's sceptical account of the early rise of Christianity in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Overall an interesting defence of the veracity of Christianity and a notable work in the counter-Enlightenment genre, from a man whose own dissenting religious opinions would lead to mob attacks on his property just four years later.

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2 parts in 2 volumes, octavo. Contemporary marbled boards with 20th-century calf reback and recornering, red morocco labels to spines.


With the book label of bookseller and bibliographer John Stephens (1948-2006) to the front pastedowns, contemporary ownership signature to front free endpapers, second part with contemporary ownership signature to title page. Terminal advertisement leaves in second part present. Spine and extremities lightly sunned, light foxing. A very good copy.


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