PRIESTLEY, Joseph (1733-1804). Letters to the Right Honourable Edmund Burke, Occasioned by his Reflections on the Revolution in France, &c. Birmingham: By Thomas Pearson, 1791.

$ 250.00

8vo., (8 3/8 x 5 ½ inches). (Pale stain on bottom half of pages throughout). Modern quarter tan calf, marbled boards, the spine in six compartments with five raised bands, black morocco gilt lettering piece in one (pale stain to the spine).

First edition. “Priestley’s enthusiastic welcoming of the French Revolution, evidenced in his Letters to the Rt. Hon. Edmund Burke (1791), convinced many people that he was a revolutionary, bent on destruction of church and crown. Untrue though these suspicions were they encouraged members of the Birmingham establishment to acquiesce, at least, in those acts of mob violence variously known as the Birmingham, church and king, or Priestley riots of 1791. The immediate excuse for the riots was a dinner in celebration of Bastille day, held by the Constitutional Society of Birmingham, a dinner which Priestley did not attend though he had assisted in the organization of the society. The riots raged from the evening of the 14th of July to that of the 16th, and were put down only at the arrival of dragoons sent from Nottingham. Damage was extensive: Old and New Meeting houses and seven residences were destroyed, other houses were wrecked. Priestley's house, his library, laboratory, and papers were ruined and his life was saved only because he had fled. English authorities generally approved of the riots, but they were denounced by many persons and organizations in England, Europe, and the United States and remain a blot on the history of British toleration” (Robert E. Schofield for DNB).