Dialogues on Instinct; with Analytical View of the Researches on Fossil Osteology.

By Henry, Lord Brougham

Printed: 1844

Publisher: Charles Knight & Co. London

Dimensions 10 × 15 × 3 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 10 x 15 x 3

Condition: Very good  (See explanation of ratings)

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Item information


Black calf spine with gilt banding, decoration and title.Red marbled boards.

  • F.B.A. provides an in-depth photographic presentation of this item to stimulate your feeling and touch. More traditional book descriptions are immediately available.

First Edition. Very good quality published by Charles Knight, ‘fellow father’ of the SDUK. An interesting book which represents an element of British culture now largely forgotten: that of self education. Books such as DIALOGUES ON INSTINCT; WITH ANALYTICAL VIEW OF THE RESEARCHES ON FOSSIL OSTEOLOGY were an early precursor of those concepts of politician Barbara Castle on the ‘Open University’. In its day this was a very advanced publication with radical ideas which to some were regarded as blasphemy. All in all a book that acts as a bridge in education.


Henry Peter Brougham, 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux, PC, FRS (19 September 1778 – 7 May 1868) was a British statesman who became Lord High Chancellor and played a prominent role in passing the 1832 Reform Act and 1833 Slavery Abolition Act. Born in Edinburgh, Brougham helped found the Edinburgh Review in 1802 before moving to London, where he qualified as a barrister in 1808. Elected to the House of Commons in 1810 as a Whig, he was Member of Parliament for various constituencies until becoming a peer in 1830.

Brougham won popular renown for helping defeat the 1820 Pains and Penalties Bill, an attempt by the widely disliked George IV to annul his marriage to Caroline of Brunswick. He became an advocate of liberal causes including abolition of the slave trade, free trade and parliamentary reform. Appointed Lord Chancellor in 1830, he made a number of reforms intended to speed up legal cases and established the Central Criminal Court. He never regained government office after 1834 and although he played an active role in the House of Lords, he often did so in opposition to his former colleagues.

Education was another area of interest. He helped establish the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge and University College London (SDUK), as well as holding some academic posts, including Rector, University of Edinburgh. In later years he spent much of his time in the French town of Cannes, making it a popular resort for the British upper-classes; he died there in 1868.

                                                      Lecture-Hall of the Greenwich Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge at its opening on 15 February 1843

The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (SDUK) was founded in London in 1826, mainly at the instigation of Whig MP Henry Brougham, with the object of publishing information to people who were unable to obtain formal teaching or who preferred self-education. It was a largely Whig organisation, and published inexpensive texts intended to adapt scientific and similarly high-minded material for the rapidly-expanding reading public over twenty years until it was disbanded in 1846.Henry Brougham considered that mass education was an essential prerequisite for political reform. In October 1824 he contributed an article on “scientific education of the people” to the Whig Edinburgh Review, in which he argued that popular education would be greatly enhanced by the encouragement of cheap publications to complement the numerous recently founded provincial mechanics’ institutes. The following year a version of this article was issued as a pamphlet entitled Practical Observations upon the Education of the People Addressed to the Working Classes and Their Employers, selling at least 19 editions. In April 1825 Brougham set about trying to found a society to produce cheap educational books, although it was not until November 1826 that the SDUK was formally founded. One of those present at the first meeting was the philosopher James Mill, and the founding committee included many Fellows of the Royal Society and Members of Parliament, as well as twelve founding committee members of the newly formed University College London.

SDUK publications were intended for the working class and the middle class, as an antidote to the more radical output of the pauper presses. The Society set out to achieve this by acting as an intermediary between authors and publishers by launching several series of publications. Its printers included Baldwin & Cradock, later succeeded by Charles Knight. The SDUK commissioned work and dealt with the printers, and finally distributed the publications; profits were used to continue the Society’s work. By using the new technologies of mass production, such as steam presses and stereotype, the Society and its printers kept costs low and were able to sell the books at much cheaper prices than was usual.


“A Box of Useful Knowledge” (1832), artist unknown. The image portrays Brougham as Lord Chancellor, with SDUK and other publications inside.

The SDUK publishing programme began with the Library of Useful Knowledge. Sold for sixpence and published fortnightly, its books focused on scientific topics. Like many other works in the new genre of popular science—such as the Bridgewater Treatises and Humphry Davy’s Consolations in Travel—the books of the Library of Useful Knowledge imbued different scientific fields with concepts of progress: uniformitarianism in geology, the nebular hypothesis in astronomy, and the scala naturae in the life sciences. According to historian James A. Secord, such works met a demand for “general concepts and simple laws”, and in the process helped establish the authority of professional science and specialised scientific disciplines. Although sales of these publications may have been more among the middle- than the working-classes, the Society had a significant role in pioneering “the idea of cheap, improving publications, freely and easily available, well produced and distributed on a scale hitherto unknown,” and became iconic of the “March of Intellect”. The publisher Charles Knight bears much of the credit for the success that SDUK publications had; he engaged in extensive promotional campaigns, and worked to improve the readability of the sometimes abstruse material.


Charles Knight (15 March 1791 – 9 March 1873) was an English publisher, editor and author. He published and contributed to works such as The Penny Magazine, The Penny Cyclopaedia, and The English Cyclopaedia, and established the Local Government Chronicle.

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