Du Contrat Social, ou Principes du Droit Politique.

ROUSSEAU Jean-Jacques (1762)


Available to view at our Curzon Street shop.

Woodcut device on title page, some simple ornaments throughout. 

12mo (160 x 97mm). [2], viii, 202pp. (lacking final leaf). Contemporary speckled calf, spine with gilt bands, gilt thistle ornaments in five of six compartments; second compartment with red morocco label and title lettered in gilt, marbled endpapers, red edges (corners bumped, scratches and wear to covers, joints cracked, spine slightly rubbed and headcap chipped). 

[Holland, printer unknown], 

An early counterfeit edition of Rousseau's famous work, produced in the same year as M. M. Rey's first edition, and likely printed in Holland (Leigh). This is a direct imitation of Rey's 12mo edition, with the final controversial discussion of marriage suppressed, and without the distinctive plate, depicting Justice standing, on the title page that characterises a first edition (see 227868); here, it is the simple ornamental woodcut on the title that is the first indication of the status of this volume as a pirated copy. Nevertheless, this volume is part of, and provides an invaluable glimpse into, the fascinating and convoluted early printing history of Rousseau's incendiary political text. 

There is an enjoyable irony in the fact that this is a reproduction of Rey's duodecimo, which had itself been produced by the printer with the express purpose of undercutting the growing number of pirate editions of the first issue of his first edition, which was in octavo. Leigh estimates that there were at least fifteen editions of this text - including the two first editions produced by Rey himself - produced in Europe in the period between 1562-3 alone, and at the very least, around 19,000 copies of the Contrat Social in circulation by 1764. Indeed, surviving correspondence by the printer, Rey, himself, indicates that pirate copies of Rousseau's text had already appeared by the end of August 1762, just five months after his first edition came off the press. The sheer volume of reprints immediately following the publication of the first edition testifies to the immense appetite for this work across Europe in the second half of the eighteenth century. 

Annotation: faint pencil annotation in French in first few leaves. Some staining and ink mark on title page, but otherwise clean copy. 

See R. A. Leigh, Unsolved Problems in the Bibliography of J.J. Rousseau (Cambridge, 1990), esp. Chapter I (not in Dufour). 

Stock Code: 227866

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