London [i.e., Amsterdam]: 1772. First French translation of Hobbes’ Humane Nature, appearing long after the book’s London publication in 1650. Though the work was translated anonymously, Diderot attributed it to Holbach in a letter to Naigeon in April of 1772. Light rubbing to binding extremities. Still a fine, clean copy. Contemporary mottled calf, gilt spine with burgundy morocco label. Edges stained red. Twelvemo. , iv. 171, [1, blank] pp. Item #14711
The Avertissement states: “Cet ouvrage parut en Anglais en 1640 [sic]; mais jusqu’ici il n’avoit point été traduit en François. Il est surprennant que l’on ait négligé de le joindre à l’Edition Latine des Oeuvres de Hobbes, publiée à Amsterdam en 2 volumes in-4º. L’on a donc cru que le public verroit avec plaisir une Traduction Françoise d’une Ouvrage qui, quoique très court, n’en est ni moins important ni moins lumineux qu’aucun de ceux qui sont sortis de la plume de ce Philosophe célèbre.” As early as the 1630s, Hobbes devised a plan for his Elementa Philosophia, which was supposed to be a “comprehensive treatment of reality that would reduce everything to one of three kinds of things: body, man, and citizen” (Martinich, Hobbes: A Biography, p. 118). This idea, of course, had its fruition in the publication of his De Corpore (1655), De Homine (1658), and De Cive (1642)—the last of which was published first because of its relevance to events leading up to the English Civil War. But as early as late spring of 1640 (perhaps where the translator gets the 1640 date), Hobbes circulated in manuscript The Elements of Law, Natural and Politic. Late in 1640, Hobbes fled to France because he feared persecution for his royalist sympathies. There he spent time in Paris philosophical circles that included Descartes, Gassendi, and Mersenne. In 1650-51 Hobbes’ 1640 manuscript was published in two parts, Humane Nature and De Corpore Politico. ““The similarity of these names to that of sections of Elementa Philosophiae can make one’s head swim. In fact, the titles of these two books…were chosen by the publishers to lead the buyer to think that he was getting sections of Elementa Philosophiae. And, as a matter of fact, their content is very similar to that of the corresponding sections of the proposed trilogy” (Martinich, p. 119).
Holbach (1723-89) of course is best known for his Systême de la Nature (1770), which Printing and the Mind of Man terms “the Bible of materialism.” He was greatly influenced by Hobbes—especially by this work—as well as by Locke and La Mettrie. “But by combining various elements in their thought and pressing to the logical conclusion he reached the most extreme position in eighteenth-century free-thought” (PMM 215). This is a scarce book. ESTC lists only the University of Michigan and American Philosophical Society copies in North America, though OCLC adds Stanford, Chicago, Harvard and Johns Hopkins. UCLA also has a copy. Garcia, p. 8. Vercruysse 1772-Dw. See Roth 740 for Diderot’s letter to Naigeon.