Autograph letter signed to Thomas J. Pettigrew
Publisher Information: Sevenoaks: 1839.
Crichton, Alexander (1763-1856). Autograph letter signed to Thomas J. Pettigrew (1791-1865). Sevenoaks, 4 July 1839. 1 page plus integral address leaf. 229 x 180 mm. Small lacuna where seal was broken, not affecting text, a few spots, but very good.
From British psychiatrist Alexander Crichton, author of An Inquiry into the Nature and Origin of Mental Derangement (2 vols., 1798), an important work on mental illness that "broke new ground in psychiatry in a number of ways . . . [combining] the latest philosophical ideas, that is psychological knowledge, with accumulated medical experience of mental disease, that is psychiatry, into a 'philosophy and pathology of the human mind'" (Hunter & Macalpine, Three Hundred Years of Psychiatry p. 559). Crichton's treatise was the first in English to discuss forensic aspects of psychiatry; it also contained the earliest description of what is now known as ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder), and was the first to recognize aphasia as a "disturbance of memory" rather than a symptom of paralysis or insanity. Crichton's letter indicates that he intended to publish a third volume of his Mental Derangement, a project on which he was currently working. The letter reads as follows:
"You must really forgive me if I decline, at present, to send you my portrait. I hope to make the biography of your humble servt. more worthy of your learned and interesting work than it would be if published just now. I must finish the 3d vol. of my work on Mental Derangement before I can consent to be either cut up or immortalized, and if I live it will be finished this ensuing winter . . ."
The third volume of Crichton's Mental Derangement was never published.
The recipient of Crichton's letter was physician and antiquary Thomas J. Pettigrew, best known as the author of History of Egyptian Mummies (1834), the first authoritative work in English on the subject. In 1838 Pettigrew began publishing his Medical Portrait Gallery: Biographical Memoirs of the Most Celebrated Physicians, Surgeons, &c. &c., issued in monthly parts between 1838 and 1840. It would appear that Pettigrew had solicited Crichton for biographical material in connection with this project. Hunter & Macalpine, Three Hundred Years of Psychiatry 1535-1860, pp. 559-64.Book Id: 41071