First edition, first printing. Two volumes. Publisher's original red cloth with titles in gilt to the spines. Page edges untrimmed. Illustrated with two portrait frontispieces. A very good copy, the bindings square and firm with a little cracking to the inner hinges in places, toning to the spines and a few minor marks to the boards. The slightly shaken contents with a little looseness to the frontispiece of volume two, light toning to the endpapers and the very occasional minor mark to page margins are otherwise in good order, clean throughout and free from any previous owners' inscriptions or stamps. A much better set than usually encountered and scarce thus. With two typed single page letters from Kropotkin to Charles Kay Ogden, both signed in ink. The first signed "Believe me, dear Mr. Ogden. Yours very truly P. Kropotkin", and the second "Yours very truly, P. Kropotkin". Both have minor old filing folds, a small mark where a paperclip once sat and a little wear to the extremities, but are otherwise in very good, clean condition.
The autobiography of the anarcho-communist philosopher, activist, scientist, economist, sociologist, historian, biologist and geographer Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921), in which he provides a comprehensive overview of his life and ideas. Born into an aristocratic Russian family, Kropotkin was imprisoned for his activism in 1874, later spending 41 years in exile in Switzerland, France and England. He returned to Russia following the revolution, only to met with the disappointment of authoritarian Bolshevik state socialism. Through his prolific writings – the most notable being 'The Conquest of Bread' (1892), 'Fields, Factories and Workshops' (1899) and 'Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution' (1902) – he expounded one of the most sophisticated and influential anarchist critiques of existing society ever constructed. He rejected both feudalism and capitalism, as well as authoritarian statist forms of socialism, proposing instead a more decentralised economic system based upon mutual aid, mutual support, and voluntary cooperation. He argued that the tendencies for this kind of organisation already existed, both in evolution and in human society. Indeed, he rebuffed contemporary 'social Darwinists', who asserted a theory of interpersonal competition and natural hierarchy, and instead argued that it was an evolutionary emphasis on cooperation, not competition, that made for the success of a species, including humanity. The letters accompanying the present volumes, addressed to Charles Kay Ogden (1889-1957), the English linguist and philosopher, make reference to Kroptokin's continued work on evolutionary theory: "Do not think it is laziness which makes me so slow in resuming my work on evolution. Nothing of the sort. On the contrary, I have been working for the last three months even more energetically than I ought to". As the founder of The Cambridge Magazine (1912), as well as co-founder of the Heretics Society at Cambridge, an intellectual circle which sought to challenge traditional authorities, Ogden had been writing to ask Kropotkin for a contribution to the magazine, or perhaps even for an appearance. Kropotkin replies, however, that he regrets he is too busy writing "a new article on the inheritance of acquired characteristics" (a study which sought to reject the claim that Lamarckism was incompatible with Darwinism, arguing that offspring could inherit the traits that their parents had acquired during their lifetimes, published later that year as "Inheritance of Acquired Characters: Theoretical Difficulties"). He nevertheless asserts that "to speak to young people is certainly what I like best. So I will try some day to avail myself of your kind offer, and say why I attribute so much importance to the views on evolution which I am defending". A superb group, providing an insight into the life of one of the pre-eminent leftist thinkers of the nineteenth/twentieth century.
Stock code: 17718