21 June 2005
[COTTON, John (1584-1652)]. An Abstract or the Lawes of New England, As they are now established. London, 1641.
4o (176 x 135 mm). (Margins cropped, with loss of text in shoulder notes and catchword at bottom of B2, lower corner of B5 torn away with partial loss of some shoulder notes.) Modern brown panelled morocco.
FIRST EDITION OF THE FIRST ANGLO-AMERICAN LAW CODE. Cotton had been requested to help draft a code of laws in 1636, and based his philosophy on the biblical laws of the Pentateuch, calling his code "Moses His Judicialls." The General Court rejected it, instead adopting in 1641 Nathaniel Ward's more tolerant "Body of Liberties"; however, Ward's code was never printed (the original manuscript is in the library of the Boston Athenaeum). Cotton's manuscript found its way to England where it was printed under the mistaken notion that it was Ward's accepted "Body of Liberties." Thus, the title of Cotton's work reads, "As they are now established." "Cotton being the leader of the theocracy, his code gives us a good picture of the ways of thought of that influential group... Crimes punishable with death, blasphemy, idolatry, witchcraft, profaning the Lord's Day and reviling the magistrates are all listed before the crime of murder" (Streeter II:618). Alden & Landis 641/31; Church 450; JCB (3)II:286-87; Wing C-6408.
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