Researches into the physical history of mankind. London: Houlston & Stoneman, n.d. [1851-60].
5 vols. 8vo. xx, 376; xiv, 373, ; With 4 frontispiece lithographed plates (2 hand-coloured, 1 aquatint), 1 large hand-coloured folding map, and 19 lithographed plates (3 hand-coloured and 1 aquatint). Original pebbled blind-stamped cloth; a very nice set with the spine label reading Houlston and Wright. $750.00
Mixed edition, with most of the plates from the third or later issue of the third edition. The title pages are undated with the original sheets and cancel titles. In this, Prichard's classic work on human variation, he reports the results of his "ethnographical investigation of the world's races, in which he gathered information on physical, linguistic and cultural connections, and compared anatomical, physiological and psychological characters. Following John Hunter's "domestication" theory, Prichard attempted to show that human variation was comparable to variation within other animal species. He states that the primal color of humankind had not been white, as had long been supposed, but black, and that it was via the "transmutation of the characters of the Negro" that the European and all other varieties of the human species were derived. In subsequent editions, Prichard abandoned his position and replaced it with a less specific, environmental argument.
This third, and best, edition, is substantially different from earlier editions in that Prichard ignores any issues of genesis of colour and instead focuses on the task of demonstrating through historical and linguistic analysis the probable connections between the various human racial groups, thereby revealing the unity of the species.
Prichard (1786-1848) was a physician and anthropologist as well as a pioneer in the moral treatment of the insane. The research he conducts for this endeavor laid the groundwork for the later research by Lyell and anticipated the human evolution theories of Darwin and Weismann.