Discours sur l'origine et les fondemens de l'inegalité parmi les hommes.

Amsterdam, Marc Michel Rey, 1755.

8vo. A spendid recent pastiche-binding in perfect contemporary style. Marbled half caf with five raised bands to richly gilt spine. Marbled paper over boards. Occasional very light brownspotting and a very light marginal dam stain to ca 15 leaves. A splendid copy, with good margins and printed on good paper. Old ex libris to inside of front board. Title-page printed in red and black, engraved title-vignette, the engraved frontispiece (by Eisen, engraved by Sornique) bound at the end. 1 large engraved vignette and a few woodcut vignettes. Frontispiece + LXX, (2), 262, (2, -errata & avis pour le relieur) pp.

First edition, first issue, of one of Rousseau's main works and one of the most important works of political thought in general. The "Discourse on the Origins of Inequality" is considered Rousseau's first important work and the work that lays the foundation for his later thought.

The present copy is with all the first issue pointers (e.g. the erroneous spelling of "Jaques", the accent aigu in "conformé" added by hand by M.M. Rey on p. 11) and the three cancels (pp. LXVII-LXVIII, 111-112, and 139-140). According to Tchemerzine, there were copies on thick, heavy paper ("Il existe des ex. en papier fort"), of which this is presumably one. At least the dedication (LXX pp.) in the present copy is printed on very thick paper, whereas the paper of the remaining leaves is a bit less heavy. The present copy has nice, wide margins. According to Dufour there are five counterfeit-editions bearing the same date (they are easily distinguishable from the first issue).

Like his "Discourse on the Sciences and Arts " from 1750, the "Discourse on the Origins of Inequality" was written as a response to an essay competition from the Academy of Dijon. This work is thus often referred to as the "Second Discourse". Unlike the first, this did not win him a prize, even though it is was also then considered a far more accomplished work and now counts as one of his three main works (together with the "Contract Social" and "Émile"). It is in the present work that Rousseau begins to develop his theories of human social development and moral psychology and it is furthermore this work that for the first time clearly divides him from the Encyclopédiste mainstream of the French Enlightenment.

The work is famous for Rousseau's portrayal of a multi-stage evolution of humanity from the most primitive condition to something like a modern complex society, which has gone down in history as one of the most important portrayals of man and society. Furthermore, the work is famous for its long preface.

When Rousseau had converted to Catholicism, he also lost his rights to the status of Citizen of Geneva. This right was regained in 1754, though, when he reconverted to Calvinism, and a large part of his "Discourse on the Origins of Inequality" consists in a dedication to the state of Geneva. This preface is probably one of the most famous prefaces in the history of modern thought as it constitutes, not only a highly ironical and satirical praise of his birthplace, but also a masterpiece of utopian political thought. Geneva is praised as the good republic worthy of admiration for the stability of its laws and institutions, the common spirit of its inhabitants, the well behaved women that inhabit it, and the good relations with neighbouring states. Not only is it this piece of political fiction that provides us with an imminent insight into how a state should ideally be according to Rousseau an ironical description of what Geneva was not, it was also a fierce attack on Paris.

Tchemerzine X:32; Dufour:55.

Order-nr.: 61043

DKK 25.000,00