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The Common-Wealth of Oceana.

London, Printed by J. Streater, for Livewell Chapman, 1656 Stock Code: 142407

""A moment of paradigmatic breakthrough, a major revision of English political theory""

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First edition of Harrington's masterpiece, describing "a Utopian State with a written constitution, providing for a bicameral legislature, rotation in office, the indirect election of a president, secret ballot, and other ideas much in advance of their time, some of which influenced the framers of the U.S. Constitution" (Walker, the Oxford Companion to Law, p. 555).
Harrington wrote Oceana between 1654 and 1656, with publication hindered by political obstruction under the British Commonwealth, despite the author's fervent republicanism and the dedication of the book to Oliver Cromwell. Typeset by three different printers to avoid seizure, the work was published with two variant title pages, one having the imprint "printed by J. Streater for Livewell Chapman", the other "printed for D. Pakeman". A portrait frontispiece is sometimes found, but a clear majority of known copies, including this one, do not have it.
"Oceana is one of those works that transcend their immediate context. The book's historical significance is that it marks a moment of paradigmatic breakthrough, a major revision of English political theory and history in the light of concepts drawn from civic humanism and Machiavellian Republicanism" (Pocock, Machiavellian moment, p. 384). "Other than the Utopia of Thomas More, this is perhaps the most famous attempt at envisioning a model commonwealth. It has been consulted at various times by those who have planned new states and commonwealths" (Pforzheimer).

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Folio (268 x 175 mm). Contemporary speckled and ruled calf, rebacked and recornered, spine richly gilt with red morocco label.


Title page printed in black and red.


Trimmed early armorial bookplate to front pastedown, occasional annotations in pencil and orange crayon to text. Patches of restoration to calf, scratch to rear cover. A few small peripheral chips, marginal tears, and minor paper faults, none of these affecting text; contents lightly browned throughout as usual, light central crease, some light worming, worming more substantial towards end but not affecting text. A very good copy.


ESTC R18610; Pforzheimer 449; Sowerby, Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 2335; Wing H809.


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