1765 · London
First edition of the first English translation of Voltaires much-read, oft-censored Dictionnaire philosophique portatif — described in 1764 by Jean-Robert Tronchin as "un monument déplorable de labus quon peut faire de lesprit et de lérudition," in acknowledgment of both the brilliance of its writing and the provocation of its controversial stances on religion. Voltaire's incendiary literary-philosophical mini-essays, alphabetically arranged in "dictionary" format as per the title, run from "Abraham" to "Wicked, Wickedness," with entries between dilating on (e.g.) "China," "Convulsion Fits," "Luxury," "Socratic Love," and "Superstition."
The work appears here in one of its two 1765 printings, each of which has the text after [A] typeset identically; that is, only the title-page and preliminary advertisement differ between the two. The present version bears Bladon's imprint and the other that of Thomas Brown, with Evans not citing Bladon and noting regarding the latter that "the Monthly Review has this mysterious comment about the publisher: 'A fictitious name: — the booksellers having been intimidated from openly engaging in any translation of this book, by certain measures taken (though ineffectually) to prevent its appearing in an English dress.'" This version is uncommon: only seven U.S. institutions report holding physical copies.
Provenance: Front fly-leaf, title-page verso, and final text page with rubber-stamps of James A. Peden (possibly the Florida-born diplomat who served as Minister Resident to Argentina, 1854–58); title-page with early inked inscriptions of Peden, Peter Spence, and Robert Ross (the latter two lined through in ink by an early hand); upper margin of first advertisement page with Peden inscription; first page of text with Spence inscription in upper margin and Peden rubber-stamps between lines of page header. Most recently in the residue of the stock of the F. Thomas Heller bookselling firm (est. ca. 1928).
ESTC N20652; see Evans 167 (for Brown imprint). Period-style quarter dark brown calf with blush, tan, dark brown and cream marbled paper–covered sides, spine with gilt-stamped leather title and author labels, gilt-ruled raised bands, and gilt-stamped decorations in compartments. Pages gently cockled and age-toned, with some light foxing; lower outer portion of one leaf torn away, with loss of about 20 words of text and significant loss to one footnote. A few instances of pencilled brackets and annotations, with one inked annotation towards close of volume. => A handsome copy of this English-language debut. (Inventory #: 39863)