(HEMSTERHUIS, F.) Alexis ou de l’Age d’Or. A Riga, Chez Jean Frederic Hartknoch, 1787. With engraved folding diagram at end. 188 pp. Small 8vo. Contemporary polished calf, richly gilt spine, label with gilt lettering, red edges, held in a marbled slipcase.
Stoddard, ‘François Hemsterhuis: Some Uncollected Authors VIII’, in: The Book Collector, Summer 2001, pp. 186-201, number 11; Fresco, Geeraedts & Hammacher, Frans Hemsterhuis (1721-1790), Sources, Philosophy and Reception, p. 644. First edition, only five copies listed in NUC. Frans Hemsterhuis (1721-1790), Dutch philosopher. His life and philosophy may be divided into two periods. In the first period the Lettres sur l’Homme et ses rapports was his principal work, preceded by two small, closely connected treatises, Lettres sur la Sculpture and Lettre sur les Désirs in which works Hemsterhuis argued that the essence of the aesthetic experience is longing to unite oneself with the art object. This concept became part of his theory of ethics which is set out in the Lettre sur les Désirs. The theory is further developed in the present work, on which the Platonic dialogues of his second period are based. In this second period he wrote four Platonic dialogues the most important of which are Aristée ou de la Divinitée, and Alexis ou de l’âge d’or (the present work). In Alexis Hemsterhuis, perhaps influenced by contemporary German philosophy, presented for the first time his concept of the golden age and the harmonious development of the individual. He also introduced the notion of the value of poetical truth (truth discovered by the poet in moments of enthusiasm). With these ideas Hemsterhuis had moved far from his earlier rationalism, and his thought was received with admiration and approval by representatives of the Sturm und Drang and romatic movements in philosophy. In this period he was very popular with and influenced the two Schlegels and Novalis. It as, above all, his last important book, written three years before his death. Hemsterhuis had a predilection for “marginous” printing, so that copies of his books are often wrongly described as being on large paper; in fact, all copies are grand-papier. Provenance: “Meckel, canonicus”, at inner margin of verso front flyleaf.