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The Common-Wealth of Oceana.

Availability: In stock

Published: London Printed by J. Streater, for Livewell Chapman, 1656

Stock Code: 131896

OR On display in 100 Fulham Road


First edition of Harrington's utopian masterpiece, written between 1654 and 1656, publication of which was hindered by political obstruction. 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.
A convinced Republican, Harrington's Oceana - dedicated to Oliver Cromwell - described "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). "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 (272 x 174 mm). Contemporary ruled sheep, expertly rebacked to style preserving original spine, contemporary manuscript title to top edge, edges sprinkled.


Title page printed in black and red.


Contemporary inked notations to free pastedowns, single contemporary correction to p. 151. Discreet restoration to corners and board edges with sheep replaced in places. Light browning to contents as is usual with this title, title and following 3 leaves a little chipped at foot and along fore-edge, some finger-soiling, minor stain at fore edge of last couple of leaves, blank lower corner of pages 3-4 torn away, small hole to pp. 63-64 with loss of a couple of characters only, a little marginal worming, touching one or two printed shoulder notes; withal a very good copy.


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