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HOBBES, Thomas.

Leviathan, or the Matter, Forme, & Power of a Common-wealth Ecclesiastical and Civill.

London: for Andrew Crooke, at the Green Dragon in St. Paul's Church-yard, 1651 Stock Code: 136441
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True first edition of one of the foundation works in the field of political theory, with the winged head ornament on the title page. There are three editions with title-pages bearing 1651 imprints. The second, with a bear ornament, was printed outside England (probably at Amsterdam), and the third, with a triangular type ornament, is now considered to date from c.1695-1702.

Leviathan details Hobbes's notion of the origin of the State as a product of human reason meeting human need, through to its destruction as a consequence of human passions. According to Hobbes, the State, as an aggregate of individual men (so well portrayed in the famous engraved title), should always be tendered the obedience of the individual, as any government, in his view, is better than the natural anarchic state, where the life of man is "solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short" (p. 62). Needless to say, this view elicited a storm of controversy, putting Hobbes at odds with proponents of individual liberties. Through conflict, Leviathan has been the catalyst of much productive thought in succeeding centuries, from Spinoza to the school of Bentham, "who reinstated Hobbes in his position as the most original political philosopher of his time" (PMM). Leviathan "produced a fermentation in English thought not surpassed until the advent of Darwinism" (ibid).

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Folio (276 x 180 mm). Recent speckled calf to style, red morocco label, covers panelled in blind.


Engraved title page, ornament of winged head on letterpress title page, folding printed table.


Engraved title, initial 9 leaves and terminal 7 leaves expertly restored at margins; small hole and paper repair to folding table touching two letters, small paper flaw to pages 331/332 affecting a couple of characters, light browning and foxing, minor peripheral staining in places (more pronounced towards rear). Binding in fine condition. A very good copy.


Macdonald & Hargreaves 42; Printing and the Mind of Man 138; Wing H2246; ESTC R17253.


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