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An Essay on the History of Civil Society.
Edinburgh: for A. Millar & T. Cadell, London; and A. Kincaid & J. Bell, Edinburgh,, 1767. Quarto (264 x 207 mm). Contemporary Scottish sprinkled calf, spine decorated gilt in compartments with a thistle device, red morocco label, double gilt rules to boards, red sprinkled edges. Engraved bookplate of Plummer of Middlestead and shelf label from Sunderland Hall to front pastedown. Joints and spine ends professionally restored, inner hinges strengthened with archival tissue; pale damp mark to lower corners of first few leaves, first and final few leaves tanned from the leather turn ins; occasional light spotting; withal a very fine copy, with a good Scottish provenance. First edition of Ferguson's masterpiece, a key text of the Scottish Enlightenment. "The Essay touched a chord in its British readers because it offered a detailed, colourful, non-deterministic historical account of the way nations advance morally and materially towards the state of commerce, refinement, and liberty associated with eighteenth-century Britain" (ODNB). Ferguson made a distinctly modern economic analysis of morality, arguing that the danger was not luxury, but political laziness, or a reluctance to fulfil the duties of citizenship. Identifiably Scottish without being overtly so, Ferguson followed Montesquieu by acknowledging a great variety of factors, climatic and geographic, as well as cultural and moral, affecting the rise and fortunes of polities in Europe and beyond. "Of special significance was the Essay's impact on the early attempts at creating the disciplines of social sciences by Ferguson's contemporaries at the University of Göttingen. They were impressed by his comparative attitude to societies ancient and modern, and by his attack on Rousseau's concept of the state of nature. Ferguson's approach inspired a comparative ethnography that went beyond the traditional dichotomy between 'primitive' and 'civilized', and tried to map the varieties of social mores without grading them on a strict ladder of historical progress" (ibid.). "Ferguson is today remembered for his Essay … he was what we would now call an intellectual historian, tracing the gradual rise of the human mind from barbarism to political and social refinement … Debates between Reid, Dugald Stewart, Hume, Adam Smith, Lord Kames and Ferguson himself reveal Scottish philosophy in general to be important sociologically … His discussions of politics, economics, history, aesthetics, literature and ethnology were the synthesis of the thought of his time" (Encyclopedia of Philosophy III, p. 187). Provenance: From the library of Scottish advocate and antiquary Andrew Plummer of Middlestead (1748-1799), who preceded Walter Scott as Sheriff of Selkirkshire, with his engraved armorial bookplate to front pastedown.
      [Bookseller: Peter Harrington]
Last Found On: 2017-10-25           Check availability:      Biblio    


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