Philological Inquiries In Three Parts

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by James Harris

Philological Inquiries In Three Parts

Title page from Philological Inquiries In Three Parts, two volumes bound as one, George Wythe Collection, Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary.

Author James Harris
Editor {{{editor}}}
Translator {{{trans}}}
Published London: Printed for C. Nourse
Date 1781
Edition {{{edition}}}
Language English
Volumes 2 volumes (3 parts) in 1 volume set
Pages {{{pages}}}
Desc. 8vo (23 cm.)
Location Shelf H-1
  [[Shelf {{{shelf2}}}]]
James Harris (1709 – 1780), an English philosopher, grammarian, and music patron, attended both Wadham College and Lincoln's Inn, but graduated from neither.[1] He and his wife Elizabeth had five children, but only three of them lived past infancy.[2] Harris was a great admirer of Handel's, and even wrote a first draft of one of the composer's librettos, L'allegro, il penseroso ed il moderato.[3] Harris served as a member of parliament for Christchurch, as commissioner of admiralty and, eventually, as secretary and comptroller for Queen Charlotte.[4] Harris had close royal ties, was elected as a fellow to the Royal Society, and held a Trustee position in the British Museum for the fifteen years leading up to his death in 1780.[5]

Harris also wrote Hermes, or, A Philosophical Inquiry Concerning Universal Grammar, a scientific theory of Greek, Latin, and modern grammar used by Henry Clay, and thought to have belonged to Wythe. Although his writings are unfamiliar to many today, with Philological Inquiries, Harris made a significant contribution to historical linguistics, and was held with some regard among his contemporaries.[6]

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Listed in the Jefferson Inventory of Wythe's Library as "Harris's Philological enquiries. 8vo." This was one of the titles kept by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson later sold a copy to the Library of Congress in 1815, but the volume no longer exists to verify Wythe's prior ownership.[7] Both George Wythe's Library[8] on LibraryThing and the Brown Bibliography[9] list the first (1781) edition (we don't know if there were others). The Wolf Law Library followed their recommendations and purchased a copy of the first edition for the George Wythe Collection.

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Armorial bookplate of John Cator, front pastedown.

Bound in contemporary tree calf with spine divided in gilt compartments with gilt lozenges and lettering. Includes the bookplate of John Cator with the Latin motto "Nihil sine labore" (Without labor, nothing) on the front pastedown. Purchased from Am Here Books.

Images of the library's copy of this book are available on Flickr. View the record for this book in William & Mary's online catalog.

See also


  1. Rosemary Dunhill, "Harris, James (1709–1780)" in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, accessed October 18, 2013.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Clive T. Probyn, "Johnson, James Harris, and the Logic of Happiness," The Modern Language Review 73, no. 2 (Modern Humanities Research Association, April 1978): 256-266.
  7. E. Millicent Sowerby, Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, (Washington, D.C.: The Library of Congress, 1952-1959), 5:40 [no.4697].
  8. LibraryThing, s.v. "Member: George Wythe," accessed on February 26, 2014.
  9. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at:

External Links

Read parts one and two of this book in Google Books.
Read part three of this book in Google Books.