[FOM] First edition of The Russell-Whitehead Principia

Charles Parsons parsons2 at fas.harvard.edu
Mon Sep 15 19:20:43 EDT 2008

On Sep 6, 2008, at 12:36 AM, T.Forster at dpmms.cam.ac.uk wrote:

> I have been visiting Allen Hazen in Melbourne, and we were  
> discussing the
> delightful book of Owen Gingrich in which he recounts his quest for  
> the
> destination of all the copies of the first edition of the  
> Copernicus {\sl
> De Revolutionibus}. The book was partly a result of Gingrich's  
> irritation
> at a remark of`Koestler's to the effect that nobody ever read it.  
> For us
> FOM-ers an interesting parallel question is the question of who  
> actually
> read the first edition of PM. We have an easier task than Gingerich  
> because
> we know what the print run of PM was (The print run of de  
> Revolutionibus is
> not known). We know Quine read it, and we know Hilbert read it....
>    So what Allen and I are asking you all to do is this. Visit the  
> library
> of your institution and see if it has a copy of the **first**  
> edition. If
> it has, please email Allen and me with the details. If it was  
> bequeathed to
> the library by an earlier owner please tell us about him/her.  
> Perhaps you
> even own a copy of the first edition yourself...?

Here is my report on holdings of the first edition of PM in the  
Harvard University Library.

It appears that no part of the library has a full set of all three  

The online catalogue lists four holdings, two in Robbins Library (the  
philosophy department library) and two in Houghton Library, the rare  
book and manuscript library.

The upshot of my investigation is that there is in fact nothing in  
Robbins and that the two copies in Houghton (of volume 1 only) were  
transferred there in 1979 from Robbins. Therefore the Robbins entries  
actually refer to the same books as the Houghton ones.

One of the copies in Houghton has the bookplate "Department of  
Philosophy and Psychology" and a handwritten note that it was the  
gift of Josiah Royce on 26 February 1911. It has a few marginal  
notes; those I noticed were in the introduction, probably not all in  
the same hand and very likely by library users.

The other has an inscription on a flyleaf "C. I. Lewis, with the  
regards and best wishes of J Royce, Jan 26, 1911." It has a modern  
bookplate "Department of Philosophy" and there was evidence that it  
was given to the department by Lewis in 1954, during the year after  
his retirement. There are marginal notes in the introduction in a  
very neat hand, which I would guess to be Lewis's.

A copy of PM that had belonged to the Harvard logician H. M. Sheffer  
(1882-1964) is still in Emerson Hall. Although Sheffer surely studied  
at least some of the first edition, this copy is of the second.

Charles Parsons

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