Our shops are open and we are processing online, telephone and email orders as normal


Critical dissertations on the origin, antiquities, language, government, manners, and religion, of the ancient Caledonians, their posterity the Picts, and the British and Irish Scots.

London: printed for T. Beckett and P. A. De Hondt, 1768 Stock Code: 140867
Reserve Ask us a question

First edition of the author's most important work, his posthumously published response to the Ossian controversy, written in part as a defence of the Ossianic poems but also to encourage wider appreciation of Scottish culture and literature.

A Scottish minister and a recognized Celtic authority on antiquities, Macpherson had met James Macpherson (no relation) during the latter's search for Ossianic material in the highlands. They held each other in mutual high esteem and traded resources and leads to various manuscripts. James Macpherson's Fragments of Ancient Poetry was published in 1760 and the subsequent dispute over authenticity prompted Critical Dissertations eight years later. "Although the moderate literati of Edinburgh found much to praise in the work, especially its focus on Scotland's national image, Samuel Johnson dismissed it, saying, 'you might read half an hour and ask yourself what you had been reading'. But the minister had the final word, as his encouragement of Celtic studies and Ossian liberated the literary canon and increased respect for antiquarian studies" (ODNB).

Confused? Read our glossary


Quarto (260 x 195 mm). Contemporary calf, smooth spine elaborately tooled in gilt with red morocco label, rope-twist border in gilt to boards.


Engraved head- and tailpieces, initials.


Advertisement leaf at rear. Armorial bookplate of Sir James Montgomery Baronet of Stanhope to front pastedown, later bookplate of M. S. Carothers above. Gently rubbed, a little stripping to lower right front board, rear joint cracked at foot but remaining firm, endpapers lightly browned from turn-ins, contents crisp and clean barring the occasional light brown spot. A beautiful copy in a fine contemporary binding.


With the exception of framed items*, Peter Harrington offers free delivery on all UK orders of rare books, maps and prints placed through this website. Delivery to USA and the rest of the world is similarly free for orders over £200.

View Full Delivery Details



Established in 1969, Peter Harrington is one of the leading rare book firms in the world. It is a proud member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association – along with ILAB, the PBFA and Lapada – and from shops in Mayfair and Chelsea, London, sells rare books, prints and ephemera to customers across the world.

Email: mail@peterharrington.co.uk

Tel: +44 (0)20 7591 0220

ABA Antiquarian Bookseller Association ILAB International League of Antiquarian Booksellers LAPADA The Association of Art and Anatique Dealers PBFA Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association

Our Guarantee Page

Ask us a question


Contact us with details of the book you are interested in or selling and we will contact you

Sell Old Books Help me find a book