(London: Adam Islip, 1598). 190 x 142 mm. (7 3/4 x 5 5/8").  leaves. First Edition in English, Earliest State (with four leaves of preliminaries).
19th century red pebble-grain morocco, covers with double blind-ruled frame, raised bands, gilt titling. Printer's device on title page, 17 full-page woodcuts, six miniatures in the text, and two folding woodcuts. Front free endpaper with bookplate of the Fox Pointe Collection. Pforzheimer 579; STC 15228. Extremities a little rubbed, spine slightly sunned, small stain to upper cover, but the binding well preserved and pleasing. Title page somewhat soiled and mounted on a tab, first and last three leaves with repairs to fore-edge corners (no loss), perhaps a quarter of gatherings with light dampstain to upper half of the page, final page rather soiled, other trivial defects, but still very good internally, with nothing approaching a fatal defect, the text crisp and generally quite clean.
First published in 1555 as "Le Miroir Politique," this is an illustrated discussion of the best forms of government, the six types of citizens (priests, magistrates, nobility, wealthy merchants, artisans, and farmers), and the duties people owe to their society and to each other. The woodcuts are mostly "tree" diagrams summarizing the key points, such as the three kinds of a "good Commonweal," ranging from best (monarchy) to good (oligarchy), and the three "depraved Commonweals," from bad (democracy) to worst of all (tyranny). Other charts show the qualities a government should have, the causes of ruin and sedition, and the duties owed by citizens. The two folding woodcuts display the "Tree of Justice" and the "Tree of Sacrifice." Miniature woodcuts showing a representative priest, magistrate, noble, merchant, artisan, and farmer accompany text explaining the duties and importance of each. According to Pforzheimer, "This compilation of instances and anecdotes on the social customs of different nations and upon the duties of the various members of society to each other, while taken mainly from classical sources, is still of interest to students of the sixteenth century." Considered one of the earliest anti-Machiavelli texts, it gained a new prominence in the late 20th century when it was cited by Michel Foucault in his discussion of the concept of governmentality, or the art of governing. La Perriere (1499-1554) was the author of the earliest vernacular emblem book, the popular "Theatre des Bons Engins," and for 15 years was responsible for writing the official chronicles of the city of Toulouse. The 1598 and 1599 printings of our book are very rare: RBH and ABPC list just one copy besides our own sold at auction since 1977. (ST14947)
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PJP Catalog: RBMS19.011