Northumberland, PA:]: 1804. First edition. Some light shelf wear. Marbled endpapers. Intermittent offsetting and foxing. A very small portion of text missing from P3 due to a printing imperfection. A very good copy. Quarter calf over marbled boards, rebacked to style. Six paneled, gilt-ruled spine with black morocco label. Octavo. 4], [xvi], 276, [+ 5, dedication] pp. Item #16133
Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) was born at Birstall Fieldhead, West Riding of Yorkshire, about six miles southwest of Leeds. He was a major figure of the British Enlightenment, a theologian, natural philosopher, and a notable polymath. He published more than 150 books, pamphlets, and papers. He is primarily remembered for his isolation and identification of seven gases, including oxygen. During his lifetime, he was known as a vigorous advocate of unitarianism and liberal reform of government, education, and theology. Priestley's major historical work of the period was theological: An History of the Corruptions of Christianity (1782) in two volumes, and, in response to the arguments that caused, An History of Early Opinions Concerning Jesus Christ (1786), in four. Positions adopted in these works—insistence that the early Christian church had been unitarian, denial of the virgin birth of Christ, and supporting Nazareth as his birthplace—led to increasingly intemperate arguments. Priestley, accompanied by his family, left for America and arrived in New York in 1794. Soon, they traveled to Pennsylvania and began building a home in Northumberland. Of the theological publications Priestley wrote while in America, the most noteworthy is perhaps Socrates and Jesus Compared (1803), which was among Jefferson's favorite religious reading. His final works were theological, particularly The Doctrines of Heathen Philosophy Compared with those of Revelation. In his preface, Priestley stated: "The result of the whole of this work[...] must be a sense of the infinite superiority of the doctrines of Revelation, and especially of those of Christianity, to those of any heathen system whatever; and with this great advantage, that the principles of revelation are perfectly intelligible to the bulk of mankind..."