Welcome to Peter Harrington Books

124965 124965_1 124965_2 124965_3 124965_4 124965_5

The Republic....

In ten books. Translated from the Greek by H. Spens, D.D. With a preliminary discourse concerning the philosophy of the ancients by the translator.

Availability: In stock

Published: Glasgow Printed by Robert and Andrew Foulis, 1763

Stock Code: 124965

OR On display in 43 Dover Street


First edition in English of the greatest of Plato's dialogues, printed by the celebrated Foulis brothers, one of a small number of large paper copies, described by Gaskell as "demy quarto" and published at nine shillings, against six shillings for the smaller issue. The translation is by the Church of Scotland minister and classicist Henry Spens (1714-1787): "In 1763 Spens produced the first English translation from the Greek of Plato's Republic, which was frequently reprinted from 1906 onward in the popular Everyman's Library edition. The original edition was published in Glasgow by Robert and Andrew Foulis, with a preface that was identified on the title page as 'a Preliminary Discourse concerning the Philosophy of the Ancients, by the Translator'. There Spens praises the ancients, and especially Plato, for joining philosophy with 'politeness', virtue, and religion" (ODNB). Lowndes describes it as "a very faithful translation, with an admirable discourse, containing not only a general epitome of the Republic of Plato, but an accurate delineation of the characters, manners, and philosophy of the ancient Greeks".
"That Plato should be the first of all the ancient philosophers to be translated and broadcast by the printing press was inevitable. Plato's central conception of a universe of ideas, Perfect Types, of which material objects are imperfect forms, and his ethical code based on action according to human nature, developed by education, which represents the authority of the State, fitted in well with the philosophical, religious and political thought of western Europe in the fifteenth century, striving to free itself from the shackles of scholasticism... the dialogues are pervaded by two dominant impulses: a love for truth and a passion for human improvement. While nowhere is a definite system laid down, it has been truly said that the germs of all ideas can be found in Plato" (PMM, 27).

Confused? Read our glossary


Quarto (242 x 195 mm). Contemporary marbled boards, skilfully rebacked to style, raised bands to spine, compartments ruled in gilt, red morocco label. Housed in a burgundy flat-back cloth box by the Chelsea Bindery.


Imposing armorial bookplate of Sir William Forbes of Pitsligo (1739-1806), banker and benefactor. Extremities and covers slightly rubbed, a couple of nicks to top edge, peripheral toning to title page, scattered foxing, later occasional pencil annotations (mostly marginal with a few underlinings). A fresh, well-margined copy with the terminal advertisement leaf 3H4.


With the exception of framed items*, Peter Harrington offers free delivery on all UK orders of rare books, maps and prints placed through this website. Delivery to USA and the rest of the world is similarly free for orders over £200. View Full Details


Contact us with details of the book you are interested in or selling and we will contact you

Sell Old Books Help me find a book

Peter Harrington Limited. Registered office: WSM Services Limited, Connect House, 133-137 Alexandra Road, Wimbledon, LONDON SW19 7JY.
Registered in England and Wales No:3609982 Copyright © 2018, Peter Harrington. All rights reserved.

credit cards logo