Philadelphia: C.S. Rafinesque, 1836. 12mo. [iv], 260 pp. FIRST EDITION. General title to the publication and second title to this first issue. Original printed wrappers, which includes advertisements on the rear wrapper, rebacked; text leaves very toned with foxing, all due to extremely poor paper stock. Notwithstanding, a wonderful copy, completely uncut, with the ownership inscription of G.R. Faulke on the second title. Item #17128
First edition of the publication in a quarterly periodical issued in the spring of 1836. Rafinesque initially planned for twelve volumes in the series, but only two were ever issued. In this first volume, he sets out on his goal to “enlighten the history of mankind” using all the availing sciences, ethnography and philology in particular, at his disposal. Through his labor and research, he intends to present a thorough chronology of the Western Hemisphere since currently “all the histories of America are mere fragments and dreams.” Rafinesque uses his knowledge of geography and linguistics to additionalyl enhance his findings. The entire work contains references to many authors that have focused on aspects of the history of civilization and development of the Americas (including his own works, of course). He discusses cataclysmic and radical changes in the geology and population of the Americas, basing much of his further hypotheses on the age of the Earth. After making general comparisons of the Americas to Europe, especially to the colonization and development of nations, he discusses specific American tribes, their culture and languages.
Rafinesque (1783–1840) was a cosmopolitan polymath who was born near Istanbul, self-educated in France, and eventually settled America in 1815. He primarily wrote on botany and zoology but also contributed to the fields of anthropology, biology, geology, linguistics, and American prehistory. Notably, Rafinesque proposed a theory of evolution before Charles Darwin in a letter dated to 1832, which Darwin himself acknowledged in the third edition of the Origin (1861). This rare volume offers important insight into a fascinating and prolific figure in American science.