London: Saunders and Otley, 1840. First English language edition. Two octavo volumes collating: xvi, 333, [2 ads]; viii, 365, [2 ads]. Contemporary half calf over marbled boards, marbled end papers, black morocco spine labels, rebacked but retaining original spines. An excellent copy internally in a handsome contemporary binding.
The first English language edition of de Tocqueville's seminal work on American government, first printed the same year in Paris. De Tocqueville, a French aristocrat, visited America between 1831 and 1832, ostensibly to study the penal system, although his interest was considerably broader. It seems logical that France would look to America as a beacon of hope for a successful democracy. After France embraced the goals of equality and democracy in 1789 at the start of the French Revolution, it found itself first in a dictatorship under Napoleon and then in one constitutional monarchy after another during the years following. De Tocqueville's astute observation of several aspects of American society and culture provides an invaluable lens of foreign perspective on our young nation's political growth.
Democracy in America was an immediate and sustained success. Almost from the beginning it enjoyed the reputation of being the most acute and perceptive discussion of the political and social life of the United States ever published. Whether perceived as a textbook of American political institutions, an investigation of society and culture, a probing of the psyche of the United States, or a study of the actions of modern democratic society, the book has maintained its place high within the pantheon of political writing. "No better study of a nation’s institutions and culture than Tocqueville’s Democracy in America has ever been written by a foreign observer; none perhaps as good" (The New York Times).
HOWES T-278, 279. Sabin 96062, 96063. Clark III:111. Library of Congress: A Passion for Liberty, Alexis de Tocqueville on Democracy & Revolution (Washington, 1989). (Item #5307)