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HALE, Sir Matthew (1609–1676)

HALE, Sir Matthew (1609–1676)

The primitive origination of mankind , considered and examined according to the light of nature

London: printed by William Godbid, for William Shrowsbery, 1677
Folio: a4 b2 B–3B4 3C2, 104 leaves, pp. [12] 380, including the blank a1. Woodcut diagrams on pp. 119 and 123.
Engraved portrait frontispiece signed ‘F. H. van Hove sculp.’.
Condition: 320 x 195mm. Worming in the gutter of sigs F and H, well away from the text, some light staining and a few spots, but generally clean and fresh.
Binding: Contemporary calf. Rebacked with the original spine laid down (with the invoice for the repair work, by W. H. Price of Wells, dated 7 August 1880 laid in).
Provenance: Presentation copy from the publisher to Edward Webbe inscribed on initial blank: ‘Edw: Webbe de Lincolnes Inne ex dono bibliopol Gulielmus Shrewsbury maij 9no 1677’'; E. W. Edwards, signed and dated 1880; James Stevens Cox (1910–1997) with later bookplate (Maggs Catalogue 1350 (2003) no. 132).
First edition.
Bibliography: Wing H258; Garrison–Morton 215; Norman 965; Hunter and MacAlpine p. 204.

An important precursor of Malthus, Hale was the first to use the expression ‘Geometrical Proportion’ for the growth of a population. He believed that natural calamities periodically reduce the populations of animals, so maintaining a balance of nature (Garrison–Morton). Hale’s work is also celebrated for his humanist approach to psychiatry (Hunter and MacAlpine). This was the first of Hale’s scientific works, written in the 1660s. Hale occasionally performed experiments, but his main approach was to suggest mechanistic explanations of phenomena presented in the existing literature (Alan Cromartie in ODNB).
This good large copy, with a fine impression of the portrait of Hale, was presented to Hale’s fellow lawyer at Lincoln’s Inn, Edward Webbe. The presentation inscription is by the publisher, William Shrewsbury, perhaps acting on Hale’s instructions before his death the previous year. Shrewsbury had published Hale’s Contemplations moral and divine in 1677 whch proved to be one of his best sellers. Webbe matriculated at Balliol College, Oxford, aged 17, on 17 July 1663 and is recorded as a barrister-at-law at Lincoln’s Inn in 1673.
In 1880 the book belonged to one E. W. Edwards of Wells, Somerset, who had it repaired by a local bookbinder for 4s. Besides the invoice he kept a letter from a friend who had helped him getting the binding work done, who writes: ‘Any other of your old Library I hope you will also have repaired. These old volumes are now in very few hands & should be well cared for & preserved.’ The book later belonged to James Stevens-Cox, F.S.A. (1910–1997), who is characterised by Robert Harding in Maggs’ catalogue of his library – mostly of theology – as ‘a bibliophile and antiquary by inclination, an all-round eccentric by nature, and, by turns, a hairdresser, antiquarian bookseller and finally, publisher by profession’.
Keywords:     evolution