An Essay on Human Understanding
An Essay on Human Understanding
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An Essay on Human Understanding

JOHN LOCKE: THE GEORGE WYTHE-THOMAS JEFFERSON COPY

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An Essay on Human Understanding
John Locke: the George Wythe-Thomas Jefferson copy
LOCKE, John (1632-1704). An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding. London: Printed for Awnsham and John Churchill, 1700.[With:] Manuscript in an unknown hand listing various kitchen garden herbs.

The Wythe-Jefferson copy of Locke. A superb association copy of the fourth edition of Locke's pioneering work on the nature of human intellectual development. Jefferson first met Wythe while studying at the College of William and Mary. From 1762 to 1767, Jefferson studied law with the man he later described as “my ancient master, my earliest & best friend; and to him I am indebted for first impressions which have had the most salutary influence on the course of my life.” (Jefferson to William Duval, 14 June 1806. The Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress, Series 1: General Correspondence). When George Wythe died in 1806, he willed his entire library to Jefferson, which lists a three-volume set of “Locke’s Works,” but not this single volume of the Essay. Possibly, since Wythe had acquired a full set of Locke at some point, he may have given this volume to Jefferson in his lifetime, both because it was an unneeded duplicate and because it is a key work, important for his protégé to read. Wythe's bold signature on the title page is consistent from his handwriting from the later portion of his life. Jefferson's peculiar style of ownership marks, a "T" to the left of first I signature mark and a "J" to the right of first T signature mark have been partially effaced, but remain in evidence.

Folio (318 x 204mm). Engraved portrait frontispiece. (Few scattered spots, and an occasional small rust-hole.) Contemporary calf (rebacked, hinges cracked, rubbing and wear to extremities, losses to blank endpapers restored). Custom clamshell box. Provenance: George Wythe (ownership signature) – Thomas Jefferson (incompletely effaced ownership marks on pages 57 and 137, i.e. I1r and T1r) – Sotheby's New York, 28 April 1982, lot 245.

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Christina Geiger
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