Essai sur l’esprit humain, ou principes naturels de l’education.

Paris: C.J.B. Delespine, 1743. Rare first edition of this early treatise on education, clearly influenced by Locke, from whom the author quotes from extensively (See pp. 266-271; 285-88). OCLC locates only six copies. Title-page and last two leaves a bit browned, a little light marginal dampstaining at fore-edge. Still, a very good copy overall. Quarter late nineteenth-century cloth over speckled boards, gilt spine, new endpapers. Twelvemo. [xxvi], 369. [1, imprima (Item ID: 12770)


Very little is known about Morelly—biographers and bibliographers don’t even know his first name. He was born at Vitry-le-François, where he possibly taught. In this, his rare first book, Morelly, influenced by the ideals of Locke, offers moral instruction and guidance for the upbringing and education of the young. Morelly’s major work is Code de la nature, ou le véritable Esprit des ses lois, de tout temps négligé ou méconnu (1755), which was for a long time attributed to Diderot, even by Babeuf, who during the French Revolution tried to implement the code in the Conspiracy of Equals. In this later work, Morelly expressed more of his views on education, notably his belief that children should be taken from their parents to be educated early. Morelly was a radical in a radical time; the Encyclopedia of Philosophy mentions his ideas in the article on “communism.”

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