Abercrombie, John

Culture and Discipline of the Mind

  • The title page states that this is the fifth edition, however, we have been unable to trace any earlier editions in the usual institutional catalogues.

    This small book on moral intelligence contains the ownership inscription of a young woman, Anne Elizabeth Le Mesurier, most likely the same Anne Elizabeth who genealogical records indicate was born to Thomas and Margaret Le Mesurier in 1814. Books on morality were an important part of the education of most middle and upper-class young people during the 19th-century. This text, however, seems directed more towards boys and men, with a focus on mental and emotional discipline, intellectual life, and masculine character development rather than virtues then considered feminine, such as modesty and care-giving. It is therefore interesting to see that it was first owned by a woman (she has dated her ownership inscription in the year of publication), and it would be interesting to compare it to other didactic and moral books known to have been owned by women during this period.

    The text itself was written by Edinburgh's leading physician, John Abercrombie (1780-1844). "His meticulous case records were to form the basis for two important books published in 1828, both of which received wide acclaim.... His abilities were recognised by his appointment by King George IV as physician in ordinary to the King in Scotland, the first such appointment. The University of Oxford conferred on him the award of the honorary degree of MD. The prestige of this honour can be judged by the fact that the only other recipient in the previous 50 years was Dr Edward Jenner of vaccination fame" (Notable Fellows of the College of Physicians of Edinburgh profile). Abercrombie was also a noted philanthropist and the author of a number of other philosophical and religious works.

  •  Addressed to the Young. Fifth Edition. Edinburgh: William Whyte and Co., 1837. Octavo. Original red cloth, titles to spine gilt. Contemporary ownership inscription to front pastedown. Cloth partially faded and a little rubbed, with small worn spots at the ends of the spine and corners, just a little light spotting to contents. A very good copy.

Collections: Women in Science




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