["Civil Disobedience" -- fine] Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1866. Original green cloth stamped in gilt on the spine.
First Edition, which consisted of only 1500 (Borst) or 1546 (Blanck) copies. This is a posthumous collection of essays, edited by William Ellery Channing and Sophia Thoreau (the author's sister). Its best-known piece is "Civil Disobedience," which Thoreau had initially delivered as a lecture and which had previously been printed only in Elizabeth Peabody's "Aesthetic Papers" in 1849. Thoreau wrote it after spending a night in the Concord jail in 1846 (an episode that has been put on the stage and on the screen), after refusing to pay a poll tax that he felt might help pay for the war against Mexico -- a war he condemned as an attempt to increase the number of southern slaveholding states.
Asserting that "That government is best which governs not at all" and that "Government is at best but an expedient," the author points to such injustices and abuses as the prosecution of the Mexican War, the treatment of native Indians, and the institution of slavery. To cooperate with government, even to the extent of paying taxes, he says, is to condone its crimes and participate in them, and an "honest man" must "withdraw from this copartnership." Individual conscience, not law, is the moral arbiter; "under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison." [OCAL]
Both Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr, referred to "Civil Disobedience" as being an essential part of their backgrounds.
Among the other pieces collected in this volume is "Prayers" -- erroneously included by the editors, since it was actually written by Ralph Waldo Emerson (though the poem within it, on p. 120, was by Thoreau).
This copy is bound in Blanck's "A" style ("sequence not determined"), with a wreath blind-stamped on each cover ("B" and "C" lack this); the cloth is green sand-grain (both bibliographers cite numerous colors and grains of cloth, but not this combination). The exterior condition of this copy is fine, with virtually no wear or soil; as usual, there is some scarce-visible cracking of the delicate original endpapers down in the gutter. Borst A7.1.a; Blanck 20117. Housed in a custom clamshell case. Item #14353