Origins: Animal and Vegetable Physiology

These editions of Animal and Vegetable Physiology: Considered with Reference to Natural Theology by Peter Mark Roget were printed by Griggs & Co., Printers. I could not find any information about the printers in my research, but I will continue to look into them. Both volumes contain signature marks, however, indicating how they were bound:

Signature mark in Volume II

This work was originally published in 1834 by British publisher William Pickering, but Carey, Lea, and Blanchard subsequently published several other editions, including one in 1836 (the edition of my book) and another in 1839 (source: Open Library). Carey, Lea, and Blanchard of Philadelphia also published editions of other treatises in the Bridgewater Series: the first, The Adaptation of External Nature to the Moral and Intellectual Constitution of Man by Thomas Chalmers, as well as the third, On Astronomy and General Physics by William Whewell. Carey, Lea, and Blanchard was a family-owned company who published a wide variety of books and genres; their subjects include fiction, history, astronomy, physics, travel, politics, and more (source).

As I discussed in my Introduction post, this work was commissioned by Francis Henry Egerton, Earl of Bridgewater in his will. Egerton was an eccentric individual, to say the least, who was well-known for his love of literature, science, and dogs. Egerton did not have many human acquaintances, but he did have many, many pet dogs. He was a very wealthy man, and he lived in a mansion alone with his pets (source, image source).

Egerton was a very active member of the Royal Society of London. The society’s full name is the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, and it is “the oldest national scientific society in the world and the leading national organization for the promotion of scientific research in Britain” (source). The Royal Society and its members were devoted to scientific advancement, thus the Earl of Bridgewater’s commission for the series of treatises which included Animal and Vegetable Physiology. In his will, Egerton left £8,000 to the Royal Society for the production of the series, instructing that the Society’s President choose the individuals who would write the books themselves. In the preface to this work, author Peter Mark Roget offers his thanks to “Mr. Davies Gilbert, the late president of the Royal Society, to whose kindness I owe my being appointed to write this treatise” (xi).

The Earl of Bridgewater’s commission and the involvement of the President of the Royal Society in the production of this series of books are interesting influences to consider in light of Robert Darnton’s book communications circuit. For Animal and Vegetable Physiology, as well as the rest of the treatises in the Bridgewater series, Darnton’s communications circuit may be altered by adding the role of patron. The Earl of Bridgewater was the driving force behind this project, even though he never saw it completed. In “What is the History of Books?” Darnton describes a “communications circuit that runs from the author to the publisher… the printer, the shipper, the bookseller and the reader.” In the case of the Bridgewater Treatises, however, the concepts for the work came from someone who was not in any way involved in the actual writing or production of the texts.

While the roles of the Earl of Bridgewater and the Royal Society’s President fall in line with the facets of the circuit in the middle of Darnton’s diagram, I would argue that in the case of this series, the role of patron merits individual recognition because a specific individual catalyzed the process.

The fact that eight different authors contributed to the creation of the Bridgewater Treatises, as well as many different publishing and printing companies, also adds countless layers to the communications circuit. This work was originally published in England, but later editions were published in the United States (such as this one). I did some research into some earlier British editions of Animal and Vegetable Physiology, and I could not find any apparent differences between the British and American publications. However, it is still important to note that the different publishers and locations through which this work was distributed multiply the amount of individuals included in its communications circuit. The authors of the Treatises, specifically, are very important members of the cycle, and Peter Mark Roget is well known for other books he wrote in addition to Animal and Vegetable Physiology.

Roget’s description on the title page of Animal and Vegetable Physiology

Roget was a doctor as well as a writer, but his passion for words led to his most famous work, Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, which was published in 1852, sixteen years after Animal and Vegetable Physiology (source). Among other things, Roget also published the Treatises on Electricity, Galvanism, Magnetism, and Electro-Magnetism. His background in medicine and his writing skills led to his selection as the author for this particular treatise. Roget was a fellow of the Royal Society, and he dedicated this work to Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex, who was President of the Royal Society from 1830-1838 (source). 

Dedication page of Animal and Vegetable Physiology
List of fellows of the Royal Society (see Roget and Frederick)


Overall, many different individuals contributed to the development and production of Roget’s Animal and Vegetable Physiology: Considered with Reference to Natural Theology, the fifth treatise of the Bridgewater Series.

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