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Savage Civilisation.

Published: New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1937

Stock code: 51720

Price: £200

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This item is on show at 100 Fulham Road (map)

First US edition, same year as the UK first. Uncommon, Harrisson’s first book of anthropology based on the work of the Oxford expedition to the New Hebrides, for which he was officially the ornithologist; “When the rest of the Oxford party left Santo Island for home in 1934, Harrisson got to Malekula, where cannibalism was still widespread. Unarmed, barefoot, with no money, he made friends with the cannibals and took censuses that helped to disprove the then popular thesis that the islanders were dying out from a morbid despair caused by culture shock; he found instead that their numbers were increasing. Harrisson’s focus had shifted from birds to people.” (ODNB) On his return he installed himself in Bolton, which he disguised as Worktown in his publications, “to practise his birdwatching and ‘cannibal-watching’ techniques on the working poor of the north of England.” In 1937 he joined forces with the poet Charles Madge and film-maker in the making Humphrey Jennings to do ‘anthropology at home,’ forming the highly influential Mass-Observation. Jacket slug from H. G. Wells: “A great book, which I have read with infinite respect and profit.”

Octavo. Original sage green cloth, lettered in red, red mask to the upper board. In the dust jacket. Frontispiece and 31 other plates, numerous line-drawn illustrations to the text, 9 maps and plans, most full-page, one folding at the rear. Cloth with some mild discolouration, endpapers slightly browned towards the gutter, later ownership inscription to the front free endpaper, otherwise very good in slightly rubbed and chipped jacket.

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