TOCQUEVILLE, Alexis de (1805-1859)
De la Démocratie en Amérique
Paris: Charles Gosselin, 1835. 2 volumes, octavo. (7 7/8 x 4 3/4 inches). ,xxiv,367; ,459pp. Half-titles. 1 folding hand-coloured lithographic map.
Nineteenth century brown morocco backed marbled paper covered boards, spines with raised bands, lettered in gilt, marbled endpapers, marbled edges. House in cloth chemises and a morocco backed slipcase.
The first edition of the rare first part of Tocqueville's famous classic Democracy in America.
From the time of its first publication, Democracy in America has enjoyed the reputation of being the most acute and perceptive discussion of the political and social life of the United States ever published. The present first part was published in an edition of less than 500 copies in January 1835. The book was an instant and sustained success with numerous editions.
The origins of the book lie in the observations Alexis de Tocqueville made during a nine month tour of the United States starting in the spring of 1831. He was accompanied by his friend and fellow student, Gustave de Beaumont, and their original goal was to study the penitentiary system of the United States. After visiting prisons in the East, they undertook a tour of the South as far as New Orleans, ascended the Mississippi, visited the Great Lakes and Canada, and returned via New York. After writing their report on prisons, Tocqueville worked on the first part of Democracy in America in 1833-1834, publishing it in Paris in 1835 to great acclaim. The 1840 second part was equally as successful and the book remained in print throughout the 19th century: there were probably more than fifty editions in English and French published before 1900, besides numerous translations.
Clark III:111; Howes T-278; Sabin 96060; Library of Congress, A Passion for Liberty, Alexis de Tocqueville on Democracy & Revolution (Washington, 1989); Nolla De la Démocratie en Amérique (Paris: 1990) II, pp.334-335.