London: Gibbings & Company Ltd. 1901. Four small octavo volumes, original deep purple pictorial cloth stamped in silver and gilt with mirror devices to front boards, spines decorated in silver and gilt, top edges gilt, text blocks uncut. Wood-engraved title page in each volume, sixteen full-page plates throughout set. Index and two pages of ads at close of Volume IV. Barely perceptible toning to spines.
Attractive fin-de-siècle English edition of Rousseau’s Confessions, first published in French in 1782 and 1789, one of 1500 copies. In telling his own story, Rousseau narrates the birth of his revolutionary philosophy: “I mean to present my fellow-mortals with a man in all the integrity of nature; and this man shall be myself.” His memories of childhood celebrate the pure state of nature, inspiring his treatise on education, Émile, while his conflicts with the French authorities shape the political philosophy of his Social Contract. Alive with psychological drama, featuring a famously unreliable narrator, the Confessions are rightly considered the first modern autobiography. This edition, revised and supplemented from an anonymous translation first published in 1790-6, originally appeared in 1897. A fine set, in bright pictorial cloth bindings evoking the Belle Époque.