THE PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTOR
first edition of the communist manifesto, “one of the outstanding political documents of all times” (Harold Laski, quoted in PMM) and a seminal work in the history of russia, in which Marx and Engels provided a codification of the basic tenets of Communism.
Written by Marx and Engels in Brussels for the Second Congress of the Communist League, a group of mostly German revolutionary exiles based in London, which met in November-December 1847, the Communist Manifesto was first printed in London at the end of February 1848 as a clandestine document intended for private distribution. However, the February Revolution in Paris brought a sudden demand for more copies and within a month of the first printing there were three reissues. An impression of this first edition also appeared in the Deutsche Londoner Zeitung of 3 March 1848.
In their manifesto, Marx and Engels wrote that “the theory of the Communists may be summed up in a single sentence: Abolition of private property”. They saw the history of societies as a history of class struggle, in which one economic class exploited another. According to them, a new class struggle would occur in which the proletariat would rise up and overthrow the bourgeoisie. When the proletariat finally controlled economic production, all classes and their struggles would disappear. They end with the rousing words: “Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workers of the world unite!”.
Despite the initial flurry of interest in the Manifesto, its revolutionary cry was soon superceded by the development of political and social reforms and it came to be seen as a document of historical significance rather than a manifesto for action. It was not until the rise of Lenin and the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, some seventy years after it was written, that the Manifesto was reread as a document of contemporary significance, and was held as a basis for the world Communist revolution of the twentieth century.
Kuczynski records twenty-six copies of the first edition, identifying three different issues, comprising seven variants in all. The present copy is one of four of B5. The other twenty-five copies are: one in Austria (University Library, Innsbruck [B4b)]); seven in Germany (Bundesarchiv, Berlin [B5a)], Adorno-Archiv, Frankfurt/Main [B5c)], Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich [A2a)], Stadtbibliothek, Mainz [B4-6d)], Staatsarchiv [C7a)] and Staatsbibliothek [C7b)], Hamburg, and Karl-Marx-Haus, Trier [B4-6g)]); two in Switzerland (Basel University Library [A1a)] and the Bibliotheca Bodmeriana, Geneva [A1a)]); three in the Netherlands (Institute of Social History [A3a) and B4a)] and University Library, Amsterdam [A1a)]); three in Russia (Rossijskij Centr Chranenija i Izutchenija Dokumentov Novejshej Istorii [B6b) and B4-6f)] and Gosudarstvennoje obshtchestvenno-polititcheskaja biblioteka [B4-6e)], Moscow); five in the United States (Hoover Institution, Stanford [B5d)], Harvard University Library [B6a) and B4-6a)], Lilly Library at Indiana University [A3b)], Hunt Library, Pittsburgh [A3c)]); one in Italy (Istituto Feltrinelli, Milan [B4-6c)]); one in the Czech Republic (Muzeum delnického hnuti, Prague [B6d)]); the Schocken copy [B6c)] (sold in Hamburg, 1965, and again in Paris, 1979); and the copy sold in our rooms, 28 May 1986 (lot 159) [B4-6b)], and again at Christie’s, 26 June 1991 (lot 314).
As a result of the March Revolution in Germany, the German League of Communists became a legal body and it was at this point that it was decided to print a second edition of the manifesto. Due to a different type, the text ran to thirty pages instead of twenty-three and, with most of the numerous original printing errors corrected, was used for the edition of 1866, which in turn became the basis for all subsequent German editions. An English translation was first published in 1850, a Russian translation, by Bakunin, in 1859 and a French translation in 1872. The authorized English translation of 1888, made by Samuel Moore, who also translated Marx’s Das Kapital, was the only translation edited and annotated by Engels in person.
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