First American Edition of
Thomas Paine. The Age of Reason. Being an
Investigation of True and of Fabulous Theology.
Boston: Thomas Hall, 1794. First American edition. Twelvemo (7.5 x
4.5 inches; 190 x 114 mm). 58, [1, blank] pages. Woodcut vignette
on leaf A2. Near-contemporary quarter burlap over red-brown paper
boards, hand-lettered title to front board. Owner's signature on
front pastedown and to one of three brown endpapers (along with the
manuscript imperative "Read Impartially") detached from binding but
enclosed, along with the copy, in a custom clamshell box of quarter
brown morocco over brown buckram with spine lettered in gilt.
Toning throughout, and a subtle stain to the lower leaves in the
first half of the textblock. Significantly edgeworn, with a tear in
the lower inner corner of the first signature, affecting a small
portion of the text but with no loss. Several other closed tears
with tissue paper repairs touching text but also with no loss.
Overall a very good, untrimmed copy. A handsome copy of Paine's
bestselling but highly controversial pamphlet in support of
rationality, deism, and natural religion.
Paine's Age of Reason
Upon its 1794 publication The Age of Reason started up a brief-lived deistic resurgence before it was refuted by leading theologians who also attacked its author and led to Paine's long-lived negative reputation among some readers (indeed, over 100 years later President Theodore Roosevelt still referred to Paine as a "filthy little atheist"). Although Gimbel prioritizes the New York edition of the same year, Evans identifies the present copy -- Hall's 1794 Boston printing -- as the first American edition. Evans 27458. Gimbel 89 (New York edition).
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