Œuvres de Monsieur de Montesquieu

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by Charles de Secondat, Marquis de Montesquieu

Oeuvres de Monsieur de Montesquieu

Title page from Oeuvres de Monsieur de Montesquieu, George Wythe Collection, Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary.

Author Charles de Secondat, Marquis de Montesquieu
Editor François Richer
Translator {{{trans}}}
Published Londres: Nourse
Date 1767
Edition Nouv. éd. rev., cor., & considérablement augm. par l'auteur.
Language French
Volumes 3 volume set
Pages {{{pages}}}
Desc. 4to (27 cm.)
Location Shelf L-4
  [[Shelf {{{shelf2}}}]]
Frontispiece portrait of Montesquieu.
Œuvres de Monsieur de Montesquieu is the collected work of the Enlightenment-era French jurist, satirist, and political and social philosopher, Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède and de Montesquieu (1689-1755). Born at La Brède, Montesquieu received a progressive education at the Oratorian Collège de Juilly and an education in law at University of Bordeaux in 1708.[1] After completing his education, he inherited the barony of Montesquieu in 1716, and the office of Président à Mortier at the Parliament of Guyenne at Bordeaux from his uncle.[2] In 1721, Montesquieu rose to national and international fame when he published his first work, Lettres Persanes (The Persian Letters), a critical commentary of European civilization, customs, and institutions from the point of view of three Persians traveling in Europe.

Montesquieu continued to write until his death. His most influential work was, L'Esprit des Lois (The Spirit of the Laws), where he argued that "only a constitutional government that separates its executive, legislative, and judicial powers preserves political liberty, taken as the power to do what one ought to will. A constitutional monarchy with separation of powers is the best form of government."[3] Montesquieu's idea of separation of powers influenced the authors of the United States Constitution and the political philosophers Edmund Burke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.[4]

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

While studying law under Wythe at the College of William & Mary, Thomas Lee Shippen wrote to his father describing his course of study, "From breakfast to dinner, I read Blackstone, Hume, or Montesquieu."[5] The Brown Bibliography[6] suggests Wythe owned Œuvres de Monsieur de Montesquieu based on Shippen's reference and the 1767 edition Thomas Jefferson sold to the Library of Congress in 1815.[7] Dean's Memo[8] lists "Montesquieu" under the section of titles Wythe assigned to his students citing a reference in William Clarkin's biography of Wythe.[9] The Wolf Law Library followed Brown's suggestion and purchased the 1767 edition of Œuvres de Monsieur de Montesquieu.

Headpiece, first page of text, volume two.

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Bound in full marbled calf. Spines feature five raised bands with gilt decorative compartments and red morocco spine labels. Purchased from Studio Bibliografico Benacense. Images of the library's copy of this book are available on Flickr. View the record for this book in William & Mary's online catalog.

See also


  1. World of Sociology, Gale, s.v. "Montesquieu Baron de (1689 - 1755)," accessed September 26, 2013.
  2. The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, s.v. "Montesquieu," accessed September 26, 2013.
  3. Ibid.
  4. The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, "Montesquieu."
  5. Letter from Thomas Lee Shippen to Dr. William Shippen, Jr. N. P. (Williamsburg) February 19, 1784.
  6. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at: https://digitalarchive.wm.edu/handle/10288/13433
  7. E. Millicent Sowerby, Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, (Washington, D.C.: The Library of Congress, 1952-1959), 3:2 [no.2325].
  8. Memorandum from Barbara C. Dean, Colonial Williamsburg Found., to Mrs. Stiverson, Colonial Williamsburg Found. (June 16, 1975), 13 (on file at Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary).
  9. William Clarkin, Serene Patriot: a Life of George Wythe (Albany: Alan Publications, 1970), 156.

External Links

Read volume one of this book in Google Books.