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Hints on Insanity and Signing Certificates.

Second edition, corrected.

London, Henry Renshaw, 1877 Stock Code: 114973
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Second edition, expanded and with a new preface, following the first of 1861: "it continues to be a matter of considerable surprise and regret that the special study of insanity should still be so ignored by the various licensing medical bodies, that it forms no necessary part of the curriculum of a medical education" (preface). "John Millar was medical superintendent at Bethnall House Asylum for Lunatics in London... In that position he observed many hundreds of patients. In Hints on Insanity, he presents conclusions he formed based on those observations... Millar believed that insanity and nervous disorders had the best chance of being treated successfully if they were recognized and the treatment begun early" (Debra Teachman, Understanding Jane Eyre, 201, p. 147). The apppendices cover the legal aspects of insanity and the forms of certification for having a person committed to an asylum. "Anyone who was unsure of how to correctly fill out a medical certificate could consult John Millar's Hints on Insanity (1861) which offered a detailed step-by-step description of how each part of the certificate should be dealt with. In a revised and expanded edition published in 1877 Millar had added helpful notes on how to determine whether the patient's mental state was 'excited', 'melancholy', or 'usually calm but occasionally excited'. According to Millar, the chief signs indicating melancholy were 'great nervous excitement', 'delusions' of guilt with expectations of impending punishment, being 'depressed in spirits' and 'melancholic and desponding', and 'making attempts at self-destruction'. These 'hints' largely mirrored the section on melancholia in Millar's nosology, where suicidality was highlighted as a defining characteristic. 'Indeed', the author suggested, 'every case of melancholia should be looked upon as having a suicidal tendency'". (Asa Janson, From Statistics to Diagnostics: Medical Certificates, Melancholia, and "Suicidal Propensities" in Victorian Psychiatry, Journal of Social History, Spring 2013).
Perhaps not surprisingly - having been issued by the relatively small publishing house of Henry Renshaw - Hints on Insanity is most uncommon both commercially and institutionally: Copac cites copies at seven British and Irish libraries (BL, Oxford, Cambridge, Scotland, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Trinity College Dublin, Wellcome), OCLC adds no further copies worldwide.

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Small octavo. Original dark green cloth, gilt lettered spine, sides panelled in black, drab brown coated endpapers.


Binding a little rubbed at extremities, front inner joint cracked but sound. A very good copy with the publisher's 6 pp. catalogue at the end.


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