In Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum Pitt-Rivers papers are a set of drafts of papers, or parts of papers. One of these [P110] is a draft of the second half of the Introduction Pitt-Rivers (or as he was then, Lane Fox) wrote for the catalogue describing his collection at Bethnal Green. The first half of this draft has not survived.

[... In the] Christy Collection the primary arrangement is Geographical, whereas I have from the first collected and arranged by form. The result has been that different points of interest have been brought to light. Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages, by a geographical arrangement the general culture of each distinct race is made the prominent feature of the collection, and it is therefore more strictly ethnological, whereas in the arrangement which I have adopted the development of specific ideas, and their transmission from one people to another, is made more apparent, and it is therefore of greater sociological interest.

Acting upon the principle of reasoning from the known to the unknown I have commenced this catalogue with the specimens of the arts of existing savages, and have employed them as far as possible to illustrate the relics of primeval illegible man, none of which, except those constructed of the illegible more imperishable materials, [insert] such as [end insert] flut flint and stone, were have survived to our time. All the implements of primeval man that were of decomposable materials having disappeared and can be replaced only in imagination by studying those of [insert] his [end insert] nearest congener the modern savage.

To what extent the modern savage actually represents primeval men [insert] man [end insert] is one of those problems which anthropology is called upon to solve. That he does not truly represent him in all particulars we may be certain. Analogy would lead us to believe that he presents us with a traditional portrait of him rather than a photograph. The resemblance between [insert] the arts of modern savages and those of primeval man [end insert] may be compared to that existing between recent and extinct species of animals. As we find amongst existing species of animals and plants species akin to what geology teaches [insert] us [end insert] were primitive species, and as among existing species we find the representatives of successive stages of geological species, so amongst the arts of existing savages we find forms which, being adapted to a low condition of culture, have survived from the earliest times, and also the representatives of many successive stages through which development has taken place in times past. As amongst existing animals and plants we are able to bring these survivals from different ages give us an outline picture of a succession of gradually improving species, but do not represent the true sequence by which improvement has been effected, so amongst the arts of existing people in all stages of civilisation we are able to trace [insert] a succession of ideas [end insert] illegible from illegible [insert] the [end insert] simple to the complex illegible , but not the true order of development by which those more complex arrangements have been brought about. As amongst existing species of animals innumerable links are wanting to complete the illegible [insert] continuity [end insert] of structure, so amongst [insert] the arts of [end insert] existing peoples there are great gaps which can only be filled by pre-historic arts. What the palaeontologist does for zoology, the pre-historian does for anthropology. What the study of zoology does towards explaining the structures of extinct species, the study of existing savages does towards enabling us to realise the condition of primeval man.

This analogy holds good in the main, though there are points of difference which greatly complicate the human problem, and which cannot be entered into in this brief summary of the subject.

The importance of studying the material arts of savages and pre-historic men is evident, when it is considered that they afford us the most reliable evidence [insert] by which to trace their history and affinities [end insert]. It has been said that language is the surest test of race. This is true of an advanced state of culture, in which language has attained persistency, and still more so where it has been illegible [insert] committed [end insert] to writing; but it is certainly not true of the lowest savages, amongst whom language changes so rapidly that even neighbouring tribes are unable to understand one another; and if this is the case in respect to language, still more strongly does it apply to all ideas that are communicated by word of mouth. [insert] In endeavouring to trace back the history of the arts to their root forms we find that [end insert] in proportion as the value of language and of the ideas conveyed by language diminishes, that of ideas embodied in material forms increases in stability and permanence. Whilst in the earliest phases of humanity the illegible [insert] names [end insert] for things change with every generation, if not illegible [insert] more [end insert] frequently, the things themselves are handed down illegible [insert] unchanged [end insert] from father to son and from tribe to tribe, and illegible words [insert] many [end insert] of them have continued to our own time illegible words faithful records of the conditions of the people by whom they were fabricated.

Before concluding this preface I cannot do better than refer the reader to the difficulties illegible words [insert] recently [end insert] published work of Mr. Herbert Spencer on the study of sociology, and for most particularly [insert] more [end insert] [insert] particularly [end insert] to that portion of it which relates to the difficulties of social science illegible [insert] arising [end insert] from the automorphic [insert] automorphic [end insert] interpretation of the works of people in a very different stages [insert] state [end insert] of culture to our own. To this cause must be attributed chiefly the difficulty which we experience in realising the very slow stages by means of which progress has been effected in times past.

Transcribed by AP, for the Rethinking Pitt-Rivers project August 2011


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