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An essay towards a real character and a philosophical language
printed for Sa. Gellibrand and for John Martyn printer to the Royal Society London: "printed for Sa. Gellibrand, and for John Martyn, printer to the Royal Society". 1668. "First edition, folio, pp. [20], 454, [2], [158]; woodcut arms of the Royal Society on the title page, errata and approbation leaves, sectional title at the back for An Alphabetical Dictionary wherein all English Words according to their Various Significations are Referred to their Places… London, 1668, (an index of words referred to in the whole work); 1 small engraving in the text, 2 full-page engraved plates in the text, other tables and diagrams, several different fonts use sparingly, including Chinese and black letter; this copy includes the 2 tables (after 3L1) and 2 plates (after Y3 and 2B1 respectively) which are, according to Alston, not in all copies (but we've handled at least a half dozen copies over the years and every one has had these plates); a very good, sound copy in contemporary full calf, maroon morocco label on spine; spine ends slight chipped. The text, the first full exposition of universal language in English, contains sections on the origin of languages and letters, the theory of grammar and phonetics and their relation to universal language, and the proposed alphabet for Wilkins's devised universal language. Wilkins (1614-1672), bishop of Chester, was proficient in both mathematics and astronomy, and was an early proponent of, and active in the foundation of certain weekly meetings of learned men of his time, which subsequently became the Royal Society, of which he was the first secretary. In 1648, he was made warden of Wadham College, Oxford, where he became intimate with Boyle, Wren and Evelyn. In 1656 he married Cromwell's sister. Wilkins' interest in universal language goes back to 1641 when he published the anonymous Mercury, or the secret and swift messenger, ""the first rudimentary attempt at constructing a framework for a universal language and alphabet, though it had obvious connections with the development in England of both short-hand and cypher"" (see Alston VIII, 277). His Essay, though, is considered his most important work, in which he was assisted by John Ray, Francis Willoughby, and others. It is said that this work inspired Ray to develop his own botanical classification, and lead him later to publish his work on proverbs. Wilkins' Essay ""is the largest and most complete work in a long tradition of speculation and effort to create an artificial language that would, in a contemporary phrase, ""repair the ruins of Babel."" In his own time Wilkins' stature and influence were very considerable … his influence was divided between such men as Hooke, Boyle, and Ray on the one hand, Tilloston, Stillingfleet, and Patrick on the other. In this sense he shaped the temper of England in the latter half of the seventeenth century and left a significant impression on the eighteenth."" Wing W-2196; Alston VII, 290 (noting that all copies do not contain the plates as are present here); Lowndes, p. 2922: ""A masterpiece of invention … The index, which is also in its kind a masterpiece, is by Dr. Wm. Lloyd."" Vancil, p. 275 citing the Scolar Press reprint of 1968 only; Keynes, John Ray, 6 (Ray contributed a chapter to the book ""for the regular enumeration and defining of all the plants""). Alston VII, 290."
      [Bookseller: Rulon-Miller Books ]
Last Found On: 2013-12-03           Check availability:      ABAA    

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