The James Willard Oliver David Hume Collection

David Hume

David Hume, portrait by Allan Ramsay ("the Younger"), 1754

This collection includes both early editions of works by the Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711-1776), and extensive holdings of scholarship about his life and thought.   The items below have been chosen to indicate the range of older material in the Oliver Collection, but represent only a small portion of its total holdings.  Individual titles are cataloged in the library's on-line catalogue USCAN.  

The collection was formed by Prof. James Willard Oliver (1912-2001).  Prof. Oliver (Ph.D. Harvard 1949) taught at the University of Florida and at the University of Southern California before moving to the University of South Carolina in 1964, as Professor and first Head of the new Department of Philosophy.   Through Professor Oliver's generosity, his Hume collection was transferred to the University in 1997.  In the following years, Prof. Oliver also transferred his substantial collections of works by and about Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) and of modern American logic, notably the logic of of W. V. Quine (1908-2000), with whom Prof. Oliver had worked at Harvard.     
David Hume’s First Book 
David Hume, 1711-1776. A 
A treatise of human nature: being an attempt to introduce the experimental method of reasoning into moral subjects.
2 vols. London: Printed for J. Noon, 1739. Modern calf.                                                                        --The cornerstone of the Oliver Collection is the first edition of David Hume's first book.  It was originally published in the two-volume form shown here, discussing the understanding and the passions, in an edition of 1000 copies.  In his autobiography, Hume stated that the work "fell dead-born from the press."   It was, however, influential enough in this original form to attract the attention of both Thomas Reid (in Aberdeen) and Adam Smith (then in Oxford, where the college authorities reprimanded him and took the book away).

A year later, in 1740, he published a further volume, discussing morals.  Published by a different publisher from the original 1739 two-volume work, and sold separately, it was nonetheless titled as the final volume of a three-volume work; the Oliver Collection has the original 1740 text of this third volume only in the 1817 reprint.  

From the Treatise to the Enquiry
Following the recognition given to his more informally-presented essays (see below), Hume rewrote the Treatise, again in two separate stages. Shown first is hisPhilosophical Essays concerning Human Understanding (1748), a reworking of the original two-volume treatise to which Hume would subsequently give the more familiar titleA Enquiry concerning Human Understanding. For this book Hume moved to the London-based Scottish publisher Andrew Millar. Three years later, Hume similarly reworked his additional third volume, under the title An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals (1751).

Hume on Politics and Economics
The range of Hume’s writing is not always fully recognized.  Hume's first book of informal essays,Essays, Moral and Political (1741), was also his first publishing success; the topics included literary taste, the principles of government and liberty, the study of history, superstition and (shown here) “the dignity of human nature.”  Similar in physical format is the volume of Hume’s political essays (1752), which includes essays on commerce, money, interest, credit, and population; the second edition of the political essays (1752) was reissued with an additional title-page as Vol. IV of Hume's Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects, third edition(1754)

David Hume on Religion and Literature
Hume’s contemporary reputation was greatly affected by fear of his sceptical religious views. His  Four Dissertations (1757) cover both religion and the problems of literary taste that occupied such other Scots as Smith, Kames and Blair. Hume's posthumousDialogues concerning Natural Religion, was first published in 1779: this copy of the second edition (also 1779) is a recent purchase to fill this gap in the collection.

Hume's History of England
Much the most popular of Hume’s works in his own time was his multivolume History of England, published in segments from 1754 to 1762, starting with the seventeenth century volumes, and then adding the earlier periods. Unlike Hume’s philosophical and religious writings, his historical ones were purchased for the original South Carolina College library, and in this area the Oliver Collection complements existing holdings.

Hume's letters and biography
Among important 19th century material in the Oliver Collection are Thomas Murray’s Letters of David Hume (1841) and John Hill Burton’s Life and Correspondence of David Hume, 2 vols. (1846).  The fold-out letter shown from Hill Burton’s first volume relates to Hume’s unsuccessful contest in 1745 for the professorship of ethics and pneumatical philosophy at Edinburgh University. 

Contemporary Reactions to Hume
Before the Oliver Collection, the South Carolina College library was stronger in refutations of Hume than in Hume’s own works.  TheCollege library catalogue and the books shown here illustrate the extent to which Hume set the agenda for later Scottish (and American) philosophy.  GeorgeCampbell’s Essay on Miracles (orig. 1762; 1797) is from the College library, and Thomas Reid’s Essay on the Active Powers (1788) is from the library ofCharles Pinckney (1757-1824), purchased for the University by Bernard Baruch in the 1930's.

Hume and Rousseau
David Hume 
Exposé succinct de la contestation qui s'est élevée entre M. Hume et M. Rousseau: avec les pièces justificatives.
Londres: [s.n.], 1767.  Purchased by the Thomas Cooper Society in memory of Darial Jackson. –When Rousseau fled France in 1762, he sought Hume’s aid, and Hume responded that “there is no man in Europe of whom I have entertained a higher idea.”  After Rousseau moved to Britain in 1766, the two men had one of the most public literary quarrels of the eighteenth-century.  This is the earliest of at least three editions of their correspondence published in 1767, two in French and one in English.

Hume's Autobiography
David Hume
The Life of David Hume, Esq., written by himself. 
London: for Strahan and Cadell, 1776.  Purchased with memorial gifts for Professor Oliver, 2001.
–Professor Oliver quoted extensively from this posthumously-published work in his remarks at the announcement of the collection.  Along with the autobiography itself, this copy contains the important memoir of Hume by his contemporary Adam Smith, and bound in with it is also Duncan Forbes’sReflexions on the sources of incredulity with regard to religion (Edinburgh, 1750).


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