First American Blackstone

Commentaries on the Laws of England. In four books. Re-printed from the British copy, page for page with the last edition ... [With:] An Interesting Appendix to Sir William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England.

Philadelphia: Robert Bell, 1771 [vols. 1-2] - 1772 [vols. 3-4] - 1773 [Appendix].

Price: $17,500.00


About the item

First American Edition of Blackstone's Commentaries, with the second issue of the Appendix (with the general title dated 1773). [Commentaries:] [8], ii, [6], 485, [1]; [8], 520. xix, [1]; [8], 455, [1], xxvii, [1]; [22], [8], 436, vii, [1], [39], [1]pp. 2 engraved plates (one folding). [Appendix:] [4], iv, 5-119, [1]; xii, 155, [1]pp. Publisher’s ads in front of vol. 1 preceding title, list of subscribers in front of vol. 4, appendices in rear of vols 2-4, Index in vol. 4. 5 vols. 8vo. First American Blackstone. Contemporary calf, rebacked, vol. 3 expertly bound to style. Provenance: Richard Morris (signatures in vols. 2 and 4); Levi Lincoln (signature on vol. 3 title). Evans 11996 (vols 1-2), 12327 (vols 3-4) and 12684 (Appendix).

Item #338962

Blackstone's Commentaries, a comprehensive overview of English common law first published between 1765 and 1769, would quickly become a cornerstone for the understanding of law and government in Great Britain and its colonies. This was especially true in America when the first American edition appeared in Philadelphia on the eve of the Revolution published by subscription by Robert Bell. Indeed, James Green writes of the Bell edition of the Commentaries that it, along with his other works of the period, "were vigorous, even defiant statements of American independence. They were key texts for those intellectuals who had protested the Stamp Act and organized the non-importation agreements."

Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, and John Marshall all read and owned various editions of Blackstone and frequently cited it in their writings. Among the list of subscribers to this Philadelphia first American edition were John Adams, John Dickinson, James Wilson, and John Jay. Blackstone's Commentaries would serve as a source of inspiration for the drafting of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, as well as the early interpretations of these documents by the Supreme Court. Its impact on the founding fathers and on the formation of the American legal and political system cannot be overstated.