London: Printed by J. Leake for Peter Buck, 1694. 8vo. [xxxii], 359 pp. FIRST EDITION. Title within ruled border. Contemporary calf with blind tooling along spine, spine label, red speckled fore-edge; interior in excellent condition. From the library of Sir Charles Mordaunt, Baronet of Walton Warwickshire, with his bookplate on the verso of the title page. This likely belonged to the 10th Baronet in the line. Mordaunt (1836–1897) was from a family of wealthy English country gentlemen, but was involved in a scandalous divorce from his first wife after her illicit affair with the prince and several of his courtiers. There is also the bookplate of Arnold Meadowcroft Muirhead on the front end-paper. Muirhead (1900–1988) was a well-known scholar, educator, and bibliophile. Item #17579
First edition. Wotton initially wrote Reflections as a response to Sir William Temple’s Essay on ancient and modern learning as well as the work of Charles Perrault. In his text, Wotton analyzes and compares the merits of the ancients and moderns in the fields of literature and learning. He argues in favor of the moderns and defends the Royal Society. Importantly, Reflections also contains summations of recent findings and theories in natural history, anatomy, and similar sciences. In chapter XVIII, Wotton provides an in-depth and concise analysis of William Harvey’s discovery of the circulation of the blood as well as a comparison to Michael Servetus’s earlier and completely overlooked theories on the subject, printed for the first time here.
Wotton (1666–1727), a friend of Isaac Newton, was a British linguist and theologian. His language skills and intelligence were extraordinary prompting John Evelyn to write in his diary that Wotton was “so universally and solidly learned at eleven years of age, that he was looked on as a miracle.” In addition to participating in the debate about modern versus ancient learning, he was also involved in early controversies about the origins of life. Although he was prominent figure in British intellectual society, his drinking habits and sexual impropriety continuously marred his reputation. As a result, Wotton remains a somewhat notorious character whose flaws overshadow his significant scholarly achievements and contributions.