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Primitive Culture
Researches into the development of Mythology, Religion, Language, Art and Custom by Edward B. Taylor, D.C.L., LL.D., F.R.S., Professor of Anthropology in the University of Oxford in two volumes (Fourth Edition) (1903)


Preface to the First Edition

The present volumes, uniform with the previous volume of ‘Besearches into the Early History of Mankind’ (1st Ed. 1865; 2nd Ed. 1870), carry on the investigation of Culture into other branches of thought and belief, art and custom. During the past six years I have taken occasion to bring tentatively before the public some of the principal points of new evidence and argument here advanced. The doctrine of survival in culture, the bearing of directly-expressive language and the invention of numerals on the problem of early civilization, the place of myth in the primitive history of the human mind, the development of the animistic philosophy of religion, and the origin of rites and ceremonies, have been discussed in various papers and lectures, before being treated at large and with a fuller array of facts in this work.

The authorities for the facts stated in the text are fully specified in the foot-notes, which must also serve as my general acknowledgment of obligations to writers on ethnography and kindred sciences, as well as to historians, travellers, and missionaries. I will only mention apart two treatises of which I have made especial use: the 'Mensch in der Geschichte,’ by Professor Bastian, of Berlin, and the ‘Anthropologie der Naturvolker,’ by the late Professor Waitz, of Marburg.

In discussing problems so complex as those of the development of civilization, it is not enough to put forward theories accompanied by a few illustrative examples. The statement of the facts must form the staple of the argument, and the limit of needful detail is only reached when each group so displays its general law, that fresh cases come to range themselves in their proper niches as new instances of an already established rule. Should it seem to any readers that my attempt to reach this limit sometimes leads to the heaping up of too cumbrous detail, I would point out that the theoretical novelty as well as the practical importance of many of the issues raised, make it most unadvisable to stint them of their full evidence. In the course of ten years chiefly spent in these researches, it has been my constant task to select the most instructive ethnological facts from the vast mass on record, and by lopping away unnecessary matter to reduce the data on each problem to what is indispensable for reasonable proof.

E. B. T.
March, 1871.

Primitive Culture
Volume 1  |  Volume 2


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