London: Printed for Henry Sampson Woodfall in Pater Noster Row, 1772 (1773). Small octavo. Two volumes. Leather bound in full period calf unlettered with gilt fillets. Rubbing to corners and minor spotting and toning throughout, else near-fine. Item #21
A superb copy of the collected edition of the Junius Letters. Originally published in the London Public Advertiser from January 21, 1769 to January 21, 1772 under the pseudonym “Junius,” the so-called “Junius Letters” were polemical letters directed to, and highly critical of, the government of King George III. In the letters, Junius poured brilliant and slanderous invective upon Tory-minded English ministers on account of various public policies that allegedly ruined England and drove the American colonies toward rebellion. The letters were widely regarded as polemical masterpieces by English and American observers, and they were widely reprinted in English and colonial newspapers, lending moral support to the early revolutionary cause in America. Among other points of opposition, Junius vehemently opposed the Tea Duty and predicted that the colonies would be driven to independence by the Crown’s measures. Although Junius’s identity has not been definitively proven, some scholars suspect the letters to be the work of Sir Philip Francis (1740–1818), an Irish-born British pamphleteer. After running in the Public Advertiser, the Junius Letters were collected and printed in book form in 1772 by Henry Sampson Woodfall, the newspaper’s owner and editor—though many believe the book was arranged by Junius himself. Woodfall was tried in 1770 for printing the letters on the charge of seditious libel, but was ultimately released of all charges on the finding of a mistrial. The Junius Letters, comprising sixty-nine letters in all, would exercise a significant influence on public opinion in both England and the American colonies in the years leading up to the Revolutionary War. This beautiful edition of the Woodfall printing contains a 1772 printing date, although the bibliographer Lowndes dates this edition (with the index and table of contents) to 1773. A beautiful and near-fine collection.