[LAW] BLACKSTONE, WILLIAM. Commentaries on the Laws of England.
. Oxford: printed at the Clarendon Press, 1765-66-68-69. First editions. Four volumes, uniformly bound in tan calf of the period, covers ruled in blind, orange labelling pieces (replaced on the first volume, not to style). 10 3/4 x 8 inches (27.5 x 20.5 cm); I: (iv), iv-(viii), 472 pp. (correctly ending at 3M1); II: (viii), 520, xx pp., with the Table of Consanguinity and the Table of Descents plates, with the supplement to the first volume, viii pp. at the very end (the earliest issue of the first edition of the first volume lack this supplement, which was bound in to later issues. The supplement was clearly added here to rectify that omission); III: viii, 455, (1), xxvii pp.; IV: viii, 436, vii, (i), with the 39 pp. of the index at the rear. Some joints starting, extremities rubbed. Old pale dampstaining to the margin of the beginning of the first volume, occasional very minor spotting or foxing, but in all a very clean copy.
First editions throughout of one of the great classics of English law and jurisprudence. Blackstone's work succeeded that of Edward Coke as the foundational treatise on English law. PMM states "Blackstone's great work on the laws of England is the extreme example of justification of an existing state of affairs by virtue of its history... Until the Commentaries, the ordinary Englishman had viewed the law as a vast, unintelligible and unfriendly machine... Blackstone's great achievement was to popularize the law and the traditions which had influenced its formation... He takes a delight in describing and defending as the essence of the constitution the often anomalous complexities which had grown into the laws of England over the centuries. But he achieves the astonishing feat of communicating this delight, and this is due to a style which is itself always lucid and graceful."
The influence of Blackstone on the Founding Fathers should not be understated. While Jefferson ultimately grew to dislike Blackstone, Hamilton cited the Commentaries in Federalists No. 69 and 84 to bolster the case for the Constitution. Grolier/English 52; PMM 212; Rothschild 407.
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