The American Commonwealth by James Bryce, First Edition, Three Volume Set, 1888

Bryce, James. The American Commonwealth. London: Macmillian and Co., 1888. First edition three volume set. Three-quarter morocco leather boards with deckled edges. Presented in custom matching slipcase.

This first edition, three volume set of The American Commonwealth was published in London by Macmillian and Company in 1888. The books are bound in three-quarter straight grain morocco leather and maroon linen boards with gilt embossed and banded spine. The top edges are trimmed and edged with gilt while the other page ends are left deckled. All three volumes are presented in a custom archival matching slipcase.

James Bryce was a well-respected British politician, diplomat, and historian. Later serving as ambassador to the U.S., Bryce was regius professor of civil law at Oxford while he wrote The American Commonwealth. The three volume set examined “the institutions and the people of America as they are.” Bryce discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the still young democratic government, publishing what became known as the most important study of America’s political, social, and economic features since Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America 53 years earlier.

The work is divided into six parts, analyzing what the author calls “the nation of the future.” Part I concerns the Federal government, Part II considers the state governments, Part III describes the political system and parties, Part IV is devoted to public opinion, Part V discusses foreign affairs and the strengths and weaknesses of a democratic government, and lastly Part VI examines the different non-political aspects of society. The work lacks dense technicalities, making it an easily read and understood by those outside the government. After publication, the work was enthusiastically received by Americans, quickly becoming mandatory reading for schools of law, economics, and sociology. Bryce’s observations and descriptions of the still-young country proved an invaluable study and remains an important work for the state of America in the late 19th century.


Overall age appropriate condition. The bindings are only slightly loose and the three-quarter leather boards are rubbed and have some loss from use. Minor chips are present along the deckled edges, but not the gilt decorated top edge. The three volumes are housed in an archival  custom matching maroon slipcase decorated with a reproduction of John Trumbull’s “Declaration of Independence July 4. 1776” painting.

Dimensions: 9.5” H x 6.5” W x 5.5” D (with slipcase)

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