L'Origine della famiglia, della proprietà privata e dello Stato. In rapporto alle indagini di Lewis H. Morgan. Versione Riveduta Dall'Autore.

ENGELS Friedrich (1885.)

£2250.00  [First Edition]

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Translated by Pasquale Martignetti. First edition in Italian. 8vo. ix, [10]-172, [1, Index], [3, blank] pp. Original printed wrappers, edges untrimmed (spine lightly rubbed at head and tail, covers browned and faintly spotted, otherwise a remarkably fine copy). Benevento, Stabilimento Tipografico di F. de Gennaro.

The first Italian translation of Engels's The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, the first translation of the work to appear in any language, published barely a year after the original German, and one of the earliest original theoretical works by either Marx or Engels to appear in Italian.

Originally published in German in 1884, the year following Marx’s death, The Origin of the Family represents the most extensive application of the materialist conception of history in the published works of Marx and EngelsThe project was initiated by Engels’s discovery of manuscript notes by Marx on the American anthropologist L.H. Morgan’s book Ancient Society (1877) and Engels described his work in the preface as, "in a sense, the fulfilment of a behest" of Marx, who had planned to write a book on early human history drawing on Morgan's studies. It was later described by Lenin as “one of the fundamental works of modern socialism”.

The translation was undertaken by Pasquale Martignetti (1844-1920)one of Engels’s principal correspondents in Italy, the pair having initiated contact two years earlier through Martignetti’s translation of Engels’s Socialism, Utopian and Scientific. A “commendable yet obscure provincial translator” from Benevento in the South of Italy, Martignetti “often financed the publication of the Marx and Engels texts that he translated out of his own (rather scarce) means” (Favilli, p. 209).

Engels was hugely supportive of Martignetti’s translation work, placing great importance on his role in the proliferation of Marxism in Italy. Their correspondence would last up until Engels’s death in 1895, with Engels routinely sending Martignetti socialist publications that would have been otherwise virtually unobtainable in Italy at the time, along with newspapers to aid his learning of English and German language. “The relation that the proud ‘general’ Engels was able to establish with this humble soldier of the socialist revolution was exemplary for its level of intellectual rigour, its warm humanity, and the sense of belonging to a common ideal universe” (Favilli, p. 209). 

Martignetti’s translation of The Origin of the Family was prepared in direct collaboration with Engels, who provided revisions to Martignetti’s manuscript and provided various new explanatory footnotes specifically for the Italian edition. The publication also included a short prefatory biographical note on Engels by Paul Lafargue, originally published as a preface to the first edition of Engels's Socialism, Utopian and Scientific (1880) and expanded for the present Italian edition. Engels had formally entrusted Martignetti with the Italian translation of the book in November 1884 and was delighted with the quality of Martignetti’s work, writing in a letter on 19 May 1885:

  “I am amazed that, without having lived in Germany and learned the language there, you have been able to render my thoughts so well.”

The individual efforts of Martignetti in producing the translations of Engels’s Socialism, Utopian and Scientific and The Origin of the Family were highly emblematic of the publication of Marxist material in Italy prior to the 1890s, which were “incidental in character” and devoid of any structured attempt amongst socialist circles to undertake such a vast editorial project.

Indeed, with the exception of Carlo Cafiero’s virtually unobtainable summary of Das Kapital published in 1879, Martignetti’s translations represent the earliest original theoretical works by either Marx or Engels to be published in book form in Italy (Gianni, p. xxxvii). 

These would be followed by the first Italian translation of Das Kapital was serialised between 1882 and 1884 as part of the ‘Biblioteca dell’economista’, Italy’s most prestigious economics journal, and published in book form in 1886. An entirely academic venture, the circulation of this translation was restricted principally to the academy and had little impact amongst socialist circles; indeed, Marx only happened to become aware of its existence two months before his death in 1883, and Engels only in 1893. 

It would not be until the early 1890s that a systemised programme to translate the works of Marx and Engels would appear under the banner of the Italian Socialist Party and the Milanese journal Critica Sociale, with Martignetti’s translations of Engels being republished with a much larger circulation.

Provenance: from the library of Professor Luigi Dal Pane (1903-1979), with his private library inventory label and purple ink ownership stamp to the title page.

Rare. OCLC list no copies in held institutionally in North America or the UK, with only two in Italy and one in Germany.

See: Favilli, The History of Italian Marxism.

Draper, Marx-Engels Register, 573; Gianni, e.i. 85. I. E.F.; Stammhamner, III, p. 103.

Stock Code: 243282

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