TOCQUEVILLE, Alexis de, & Gustave de Beaumont.

Système pénitentiaire aux États-Unis,

et de son application en France; suivi d'un appendice sur les colonies pénales, et de notes statistiques. Troisième édition, entièrement refondue et augmentée d'une introduction, etc.

Brussels: Hauman, Cattoir et Comp, 1837 Stock Code: 91100
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Third edition of this landmark report on prison reform, first published in 1833. Prompted by the dismal and ineffective state of France's penitentiary system in the 1820s, the French government commissioned Tocqueville and Beaumont - two friends, both young magistrates at the time - to complete a tour of America (which was then seen as leading the way in successful prison reform) in order to recommend a series of improvements at home. They began in May 1831, and spent time inspecting a variety of penitentiaries in both America and Canada, particularly the Cherry Hill prison in Philadelphia and the Auburn prison in New York. Their time surveying major penitentiaries and minor correction facilities, which came to an end in February 1832 when they were called back to France, "enabled them to stress the difference of French practice. In France there was an enormous gap between the enlightened classes which showed a zeal for prison reform and the lower classes which were totally uninterested in the issue. In America, where the majority of the population was better educated and more religious, there was near universal interest in reform" (Drolet, p. 123). Système pénitentiaire aux États-Unis "did much to clarify important issues raised in selecting the best system for France; it also contributed to the vitality of discussions" (Drolet, p. 118). It won the Prix Montyon in 1833, awarded by the Académie des sciences morales et politique, and it was translated into English and German within months of its publication. Furthermore, it established Tocqueville and Beaumont as leading experts in their field, though Tocqueville became the more celebrated of the two, a fact compounded by the publication two years later of his classic analysis, De la démocratie en Amerique (1835-40), which drew from material gathered during the tour.

WorldCat locates only eight copies of the third edition in institutional holdings worldwide (four in Germany, two in Spain, one in Belgium, and one in Canada).

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2 volumes in 1, duodecimo (155 x 102 mm). Contemporary black quarter morocco, marbled paper boards, spine lettered and ruled in gilt, edges sprinkled red.


5 folding engraved plates, 1 to volume I and 4 to II, showing façades and floor plans for prisons in Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania, among others. Bookplate to front pastedown, ownership inscription to front free endpaper.


Extremities gently worn with a few knocks to front board, endpapers browned from turn-ins, contents lightly foxed, overall a very good copy.


Norman 2084; Sabin 4190 (first edition). See Michael Drolet, Tocqueville, Democracy and Social Reform. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.


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