A Course of Lectures on Oratory and Criticism.
Priestley, Joseph.

London: Printed for J. Johnson, 1777. First edition of Priestley’s major treatise on rhetoric and critical theory. Complete with errata leaf and half-title.Intermittent light browning, intermittent light text soiling near top margin, Qq2 lightly wrinkled. few old ink marks in margin. Overall a very good, large copy. Some light shelf wear. Marbled endpapers. Intermittent offsetting and foxing. A very small portion of text missing from P3 due to a printing imperfection. A very good copy. Quarter calf over marbled boards, rebacked to style. Six paneled, gilt-ruled spine with black morocco label. Quarto. [8], vi, [2], 313, [3, a (Item ID: 16137)


Priestley’s title is misleading, as he is not merely concerned with repeating the rhetorical rules set down by the ancients. The first page of his preface states that the lectures were published "partly with a view to the illustration of the doctrine of the association of ideas" and this gives them an interest that their title would never suggest. Priestley had for several years been interested in Hartley’s ideas concerning associationism. In 1775 he published an edition of Hartley’s Theory of the Human Mind on the Principle of the Association of Ideas, together with his own commentary. In his landmark work on eighteenth century aesthetics, The Sublime: A Study of Critical Theories in XVIII Century England, Samuel H. Monk points out: “Priestley’s chief contribution to the discussion…is not so much a body of new ideas, as the fact that he applied definitely the psychology of Hartley to the problems of taste. In both his ideas and his associationism he is not unlike Gerard, but in his ‘modern’ approach to the subject he is a good example of the increasing tendency to take aesthetic problems into the mind of man and to look more carefully at the effect than at the object” (p. 119).

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