Description

    First Edition of the First Volume of "The Federalist Papers," in a Contemporary Binding

    Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. The Federalist: A Collection of Essays, Written in Favour of the New Constitution, as Agreed upon by the Federal Convention, September 17, 1787. In Two Volumes. Vol. I. New-York: Printed and Sold by J. and A. M'Lean, 1788.

    First edition of "the most famous and influential American political work" (Howes). Volume I only. Twelvemo in sixes (6.1875 x 3.8125 inches; 158 x 97 mm.). vi, 227, [1, blank] pages. Bound without the initial blank leaf.

    Contemporary sheep. Smooth spine divided into compartments by decorative gilt bands. The circular impression of a volume number label is still visible on the spine. Ribbon marker between pages 148 and 149, with offsetting onto both pages. The binding is rubbed and worn, the spine is cracked and the upper portion of the spine is missing, the joints are cracked, but holding, the hinges have been repaired. There are remnants of two pieces of red wax (?) on the front pastedown, the upper corner of the front free endpaper has been torn away, a newspaper clipping identifying the authors of the essays is affixed to the verso of the front free endpaper. There is a short tear to the gutter margin of the rear flyleaf, and a pencil note on the front flyleaf: "Editio princeps / very rarely to be / found."

    The text is slightly browned and foxed, as usual. An ink signature has been clipped from the head of the title (with the missing piece measuring approximately one-quarter by two and three-quarter inches). Paper flaws to the outer blank margin of leaf A3 (pages 5/6), the lower edge of leaf B3 (pages 17/18), and the upper edge of leaf K4 (pages 115/116). A few leaves are creased horizontally, not affecting any text. There are occasional blue pencil markings in the margins. Overall, still, this is a very good copy. With the early ink signature of "Thos. Redman" in the inner margin of page 53. Protected in a modern half brown cloth over marbled board clamshell case with a brown leather label lettered in gilt on the spine.

    According to Bernstein (p. 237), "it is now agreed that Hamilton wrote Nos. 1, 6-9, 11-13, 15-17, 21-36, 59-61, and 65-86; that Madison wrote Nos. 10, 14, 18-20 (with reference to some material provided by Hamilton), 37-58, 62, and 63; and that Jay wrote Nos. 2-5 and 64." This copy has "John Jay" inscribed in ink at an early date on pages 11, 16, 21, and 25 for Numbers II, III, IV, and V; "James Madison" on pages 61 and 86, for Numbers X and XIV; and "J: Madison & A: Hamilton [jointly]" on pages 114, 120, and 126, for Numbers XVIII, XIX, and XX.

    "These eighty-five essays on the Constitution, almost entirely written by Hamilton and Madison (probably only five were by Jay) and published in the New York newspapers under the name of 'Publius,' were a step in Hamilton's campaign to win over a hostile majority in New York for a ratification of the Constitution. To the people of the time the collected essays were little more than a huge Federalist pamphlet. A generation passed before it was recognized that these essays by the principal author of the Constitution and its brilliant advocate were the most authoritative interpretation of the Constitution as drafted by the Convention of 1787. As a commentary and exposition on the Constitution the influence of The Federalist has been profound" (Grolier, 100 American).

    "When Alexander Hamilton invited his fellow New Yorker John Jay and James Madison, a Virginian, to join him in writing the series of essays published as The Federalist, it was to meet the immediate need of convincing the reluctant New York State electorate of the necessity of ratifying the newly proposed Constitution of the United States. The eighty-five essays, under the pseudonym 'Publius', were designed as political propaganda, not as a treatise of political philosophy. In spite of this The Federalist survives as one of the new nation's most important contributions to the theory of government...The first number of The Federalist appeared on 27 October 1787 in The Independent Journal, or The General Advertiser and newspaper publication continued in this and three other papers, The New York Packet, The Daily Advertiser, and The New York Journal and Daily Patriotic Register, through number 77, 2 April 1788. The first thirty-six essays were published in book form on 22 March 1788 by J. and A. McLean of New York and a second volume containing essays 37-85 followed on 28 May. Thus numbers 78-85 were published in book form before they appeared in the popular press" (Printing and the Mind of Man).

    Church 1230. Evans 21127. Ford, Bibliography of the Constitution, 43. Ford, Bibliotheca Hamiltoniana, 17. Grolier, 100 American, 19. Grolier, 100 English, 55. Howes H114. Printing and the Mind of Man 234. Sabin 23979. Streeter 1049. See also Richard B. Bernstein, Are We to be a Nation? The Making of the Constitution (Cambridge, Massachusetts: 1987), pages 230-242.




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