BECCARIA, Cesare.. Dei delitti e delle pene.

Livorno, Marco Coltellini for Giuseppe Aubert., 1764

Quarto (218 x 155 mm.), 104 pages, without the errata leaf added in few copies only.Contemporary paper boards. A very fine copy from the library of baron Nadasd-Landanyi with his araldic stamp on title. In a modern half leather box. ‘One of the most influential books in the whole history of criminology' (PMM).The rare first edition of this monument of legal history – one of the foundational works of the modern Western legal system.After earning a degree in law at Pavia, the Marquis Cesare Beccaria Bonesana (1738-94), aged 24, published a short treatise – Del disordine e de' rimedi delle monete nello stato di Milano nell'anno 1762 - inspired by Montesquieu's economic and rationalist theories. Having lost access to Milanese aristocratic circles due to a marriage below his status, he became involved in the scholarly activities of the Milanese Accademia dei pugni. Its most important members, Pietro and Alessandro Verri, had a particular interest in criminal law; Pietro was at the time writing a book on torture; Alessandro was a prison officer. It is from their evening philosophical debates, mainly revolving around Rousseau's Contrat social, that Beccaria was inspired to write Dei delitti e delle pene, published anonymously in Leghorn, away from the sharp eyes of the Milanese authorities. The extent of Alessandro Verri's intellectual contribution to the work – both to its composition and publication – and Beccaria's reticence in admitting it after its international success, led to a break-up soon after (Dei delitti, 16-20).Dei delitti e delle pene was published with no reference to the place of publication and printer. As soon as it appeared, the State Inquisitors of the Serenissima banned it from their territory, having detected in the chapter ‘Accuse segrete' a critique of their methods of identifying political plots; investigations were also carried out in Leghorn to discover the author's identity (Firpo, ‘Contributo', 338). Among Beccaria's ground-breaking proposals were the abolition of the death penalty, as the state should not have the right to decide over the life and death of its citizens; the criticism of torture and prison conditions; and the greater importance of crime prevention, also by broadening access to education, rather than through punishment. A ‘pirated' edition, in octavo with the false imprint ‘in Monaco', was published a few months later in Florence (Firpo, ‘Contributo', 340-43).Several of the reforms advocated by Beccaria – in particular, that penalties should be proportional to the crime, and only applied when strictly necessary – were read and implemented by European monarchs such as Leopold of Tuscany and Catherine II of Russia, and by the legislators of the United States. Reprinted in over 60 editions and translated into 22 languages, it boasted among its early admirers Voltaire and Bentham.COPAC locates 2 copies in the UK (London Library and BL, the latter labelled ‘item destroyed'); WorldCat locates 6 copies in the US (Indiana, Michigan, Jacob Burns Law Library, Yale, Harvard and Huntington).PMM 209; Higgs, Bib. of Economics, 3362. Brunet and Graesse only list the editions of 1860 and 1859, respectively. L. Firpo, ‘Contributo alla bibliografia del Beccaria', in Le edizioni italiane settecentesche del “Dei delitti e delle pene”', Atti del Convegno Internazionale su Cesare Beccaria (Torino, 1966), 329-433; Dei delitti e delle pene […]. Facsimile dell'edizione originale (Torino, 1965).


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