London: Printed for A. Strahan; and T. Cadell Jun. and W. Davis, 1797. First edition of this groundbreaking and generally respected translation of the political and philosophical parts of Aristotle’s output. The analysis by ancient historian and classical scholar John Gillies (1747 – 1836) draws from Aristotle’s work a concept of democracy in opposition to the liberal enlightenment that had sparked recent revolutions in America and France. With both half-titles present. Includes the translator’s life of Aristotle and extensive commentary. Some edgewear, closed crack to calf on upper board of second volume, hinges tender but holding. Ink gift inscription, dated 1945, to preliminary blank of volume one. Very clean and fresh throughout aside from some slight toning and foxing, mostly to first few leaves of volume one. A very good, clean set, Contemporary tree calf with gilt morocco spine labels. Two volumes, quarto. xv, [1, errata], 416 pp.; vi, [1, errata], [1, blank], 434, [1, ads] pp. Item #17458
In 1778, Gillies published a translation of Lysias and Isocrates, his first work under his own name. He was a respected classicist and fellow of the Royal Society, the Society of Antiquaries, and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and a corresponding member of the Institut de France and of the Königliche Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften, Göttingen. A trip to Germany in 1784 as a tutor to two of the Earl of Hopetoun’s sons prompted Gillies to write A View of the Reign of Frederick II of Prussia (1789). In 1793, he was appointed historiographer royal for Scotland.
Gillies’ principal work was a history of ancient Greece published in two parts, The History of Ancient Greece, its Colonies, and Conquests (1786) and The History of the World, from the Reign of Alexander to That of Augustus (1807). In the Oxford DNB, W.W. Wroth writes of the work, “The first part was immediately translated into French and German, and both were reprinted until the 1820s. Gillies
was thoroughly acquainted with modern works in several languages and with the ancient literary sources, both histories and other genres, and he constructed from them (with rather arbitrary choice or amalgamation where they differed) a continuous narrative of events, including sections on cultural matters.”.