“I REJOICE IN THE IDEA THAT INSANE PEOPLE WILL NO LONGER BE TREATED AS OUTCASTS”: FIRST EDITION OF SPURZHEIM’S OBSERVATIONS ON INSANITY, 1817
SPURZHEIM, J.G. Observations of the Deranged Manifestations of the Mind, or Insanity. London: Printed for Baldwin, Cradock and Joy, 1817. Octavo, contemporary full armorial calf gilt rebacked, raised bands, black morocco spine label. $900.
First edition of Spurzheim’s influential work on insanity, advocating for better understanding and treatment of mental disorders, illustrated with four engraved plates, handsomely bound in armorial calf-gilt.
Spurzheim and his mentor Franz Gall developed the system of phrenology. While it has long been discredited, it was, at the turn of the 19th century, "the first psychological framework within which mad-doctors struggling unguided with their patients could understand insane behavior and so give a powerful fillip to the psychological approach. For the first time it became meaningful to get to know patients as persons if only to be able to interpret bumps on their heads" (Hunter & Macalpine, 714). In this work, Spurzheim "applied phrenology to psychiatry" (DSB 12:597); on the whole, however, "the book… is not grounded on phrenology to the extent that most of its views need to be rejected. Spurzheim has, for his time, many important things to say about how insanity and the insane should be treated, as well as grim accounts of how it and the insane are treated" (Adams, Blake's Margins, 142). Poet and painter William Blake read and annotated Spurzheim's text, taking exception to the scientist's description of ecstaic religion as a "fertile cause of insanity": "In his annotations, Blake answers… that the kind of religious 'madness' described is to be preferred as 'a refuge from unbelief,' i.e., the deadness of rationalism and Deism" (Rix, William Blake and the Cultures of Radical Christianity, 18). Spurzheim played a large part in establishing phrenology's influence in early American psychiatry; doctors and such "outstanding citizens" as Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe and James Garfield alike "were enthusiastic about phrenology" (Alexander & Selesnick, 125). Occasional pencil marginalia. Boards with gilt-tooled centerpiece arms of The Society of Writers to the Signet, Scotland's independent lawyers' association and one of the world's oldest professional organizations.
Scattered light foxing. Old collector's shelf-numbers to front pastedown. Mild scuffing to boards; gilt bright. A near-fine copy, handsomely bound.