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Treatise on Insanity and Other Disorders Affecting the Mind

James Cowles Prichard


PRICHARD, James Cowles. A Treatise on Insanity and Other Disorders Affecting the Mind. Philadelphia: E.L. Carey & A. Hart, 1837. Octavo, contemporary full brown sheep rebacked in orange sheep, red morocco spine label. $1700.

First American edition, published two years after the London first edition.

"An invitation to write an article on insanity in the Cyclopædia of Practical Medicine led him to pursue the subject, and to publish in 1835 his Treatise on Insanity and other Disorders affecting the Mind. This was long the standard work on this branch of medicine. Its leading interest lies in the assertion of the existence of a distinct disease of 'moral insanity.' This malady Prichard claims to have been the first to recognize and describe. He sought to prove that moral insanity was a morbid condition, not necessarily the concomitant or outcome of mental disorder or incapacity. He pointed out that there are patients truly insane and irresponsible, who suffer from moral defect or derangement, without such an amount of intellectual disorder as would be legally recognized either in a court of law or for the purpose of certification. He showed that madness often consisted 'in a morbid perversion of the natural feelings, affections, inclinations, temper, habits, moral dispositions, and natural impulses, without any remarkable disorder or defect of the intellect or knowing and reasoning faculties, and particularly without any insane illusion or hallucination.' In face of the generally accepted view of the solidarity of the mental functions, the difficulty of accepting Prichard's doctrine is, from a psychological point of view, not inconsiderable. But despite the warm contests that have taken place in regard to Prichard's conclusion among both lawyers and physicians, his position has been confirmed by subsequent observers, and is accepted by leading scientific men in Europe and the United States. Esquirol, who at first opposed Prichard's views, was obliged, as he soon admitted, 'to submit to the authority of facts" (DNB). "It was Prichard who first put at the center of the psychiatric map the many mental disorders which reveal themselves only by disturbances of affect and behavior and which had been largely neglected at the periphery… it was a considerable advance, almost revolutionary, to equate with insanity proper cases without those twin features delusions and hallucinations which had long been and indeed still are considered the hallmark of the mad, and without that deprivation of the use of reason from which it was inseparable in law… Prichard's 'moral insanity' was the first psychiatric diagnosis which became the subject of controversy not only because of its novelty and ill-defined boundaries but because it implied a specific lesion of the mind… Today when the whole question of criminal responsibility is under review, Prichard's work has gained renewed importance in such concepts as diminished responsibility and irresistible impulse" (Hunter & MacAlpine, Three Hundred Years of Psychiatry, 836-8). Also published in the same year by Haswell, Barrington, & Haswell of Philadelphia, no priority established. Pagination skips pages 9-12, as issued.

Text with light foxing, title and dedication pages trimmed slightly short, contemporary sheep worn. A very good copy.

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