“FIRST TO USE THE EXPRESSION ‘GEOMETRICAL PROPORTION”: 1677 FIRST EDITION OF HALE’S PRIMITIVE ORIGINATION OF MANKIND
HALE, Matthew. The Primitive Origination of Mankind, Considered and Examined According to The Light of Nature. London: William Godbid for William Shrowsbery, 1677. Folio, contemporary full brown mottled and paneled calf rebacked, raised bands, modern red leather spine label, original marbled edges. $1600.
First edition of Hale’s theory of the earth’s spontaneous “beginning,” and his defense of the Mosaic account of the single origin of all peoples.
“There are few more illustrious names on the roll of English history than that of Sir Matthew Hale” (Allibone, 757). “The problem of human origins, of how and when the first humans appeared in the world, has been addressed in a variety of ways in western thought. In the 17th century the predominant explanation for the origin of the world and the beings that inhabit it, especially human beings, was based on the biblical account of creation. It was almost universally accepted that humans had been created by a supernatural agent using supernatural means. But alternative explanations for the production of the first humans did exist, according to which the first humans were produced by nature through some form of spontaneous generation” (Matthew R. Goodrum). In response to Isaac de la Peyrere‘s theory of polygenesis, Hale advanced his own theory that the earth was not eternal, but rather had a spontaneous “beginning,” and went on to defend “the Mosaic account of the single origin of all peoples” (Norman). He further believed “that in animals, especially insects, various natural calamities reduce the numbers to low levels intermittently, so maintaining the balance of nature” (Garrison & Morton). Hale anticipated Malthus in studying the growth of a population from a single family, and “seems to have been the first to use the expression ‘geometrical proportion” in respect to population (Hutchinson). Primitive Origination was written as the first part of a larger manuscript entitled Concerning Religion, the whole of which “was submitted to Bishop Wilkins, who showed it to Tillotson. Both advised condensation, for which Hale never found leisure” (DNB). This first part, called “Concerning the Secondary Origination of Mankind,” was published after his death as The Primitive Origination of Mankind. Fine engraved frontispiece portrait. Wing H258. Norman 965. Garrison & Morton 215. Lowndes, 973.
Interior very clean. A fine copy, handsome in contemporary calf.