The Laws of the United States of America, Four Volume, First Edition Set, 1796(7), 1799

(United States Congress). The Laws of the United States of America, in Three Volumes Published by Authority. Philadelphia: Richard Folwell, 1796-[7], 1799. Small octavos, rebound in full oxford paneled calf leather, with raised bands and gilt titles to the spine, and elaborate gold and blind tooling to boards. Presented with a new, matching archival cloth slipcase.

This four volume set of the official printings of the laws of the United States, the scarce Falwell first editions, contains legislation from the First Congress in 1789, continuing through to the Fourth Congress in 1790. The first three volumes were published in 1796 by Richard Folwell, in Philadelphia; the fourth volume was separately published by Folwell in 1799.

With texts of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Treaty of Paris, this extraordinary set contains all Acts passed by the First through Fourth Congresses. The series was published by Richard Folwell under direct order of Congress, with the laws compiled by Zephaniah Swift. The publication is credited as being the first compilation of United States statutes.

The Act authorizing publication of this Folwell edition was entitled “An Act for the more general promulgation of the laws.” The Secretary of State was authorized to print 4,500 copies, at public expense, with an index prepared by Zephaniah Swift. All 4,500 volumes bear the imprint date of 1796, even though Volume III contains the acts passed by the 4th Congress which lasted until March 3, 1797. Five hundred copies were intended for distribution to Congress. The remaining 4,000 copies were to be apportioned among the states and territories on the basis of population.

As the first ever compilation of laws of the United States, Swift’s detailed index in Volume III was the first index of its kind. As described by Swift, the purpose of the index was to “exhibit under proper and particular heads…a [systematic] abridgment of the laws with a like reference to the pages.” The printing includes sections on the laws concerning and relating to copyright, crime, duties, fisheries, foreign and Indian relations, judicial and legislative powers, the military, the office of the President, and the State, Treasury, War departments, and a flag with fifteen stripes.

CONDITION:

Good condition overall, with age appropriate wear to internal pages.

Vol I: Octavo, 484pp., plus 8 pp. Table of Contents and 1 pp. printers advertisement. Pages have significant toning with age, scattered foxing, and areas of damp staining throughout.

Vol II: Octavo, 567 pp., plus a 9 pp. Table of Contents. Several small stains throughout, as expected with age and past use. Has an inked name and place  on title page “ Robert Fairchild, Statford” and has library marks and stamps for Bridgeport Public Library on the title pages.

Vol III: Octavo, 478 pp. plus a 130 pp. Index. Several small stains throughout, as expected with age and past use. Has an inked name and date on title page “Robert Fairchild, June 28th, 1809”, has library marks and stamps for Bridgeport Public Library on the title pages.

Vol IV: Octavo, 561 pp. plus 26 pp. of Constitution, 3 pp. Table of contents, and long index. Paper is healthy, with light toning to paper and light stains and foxing, as expected with age.  Has library marks and stamps for Bridgeport Public Library on the title pages.

All four volumes are beautifully rebound in matching full oxford paneled calf leather, with raised bands and gilt titles to the spine, and elaborate gold and blind tooling to boards. The volumes are housed in a custom lined cloth slipcase with ribbon, which features The Constitution of the United States inlaid on the front.

Dimensions (with slipcase): 8 11/16" H x 7 3/8" W x 5 5/8" D.




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