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ITARD, Jean Marc Gaspard (1774–1838)

An Historical Account of the Discovery and Education of a Savage Man, or of the First Developments, Physical and Moral, of the Young Savage caught in the Woods near Aveyron, in the Year 1798.
London, Richard Phillips, 1802.

The first edition in English of this account of "The Wild Boy of Aveyron". This English translation, by Nogent, is extremely scarce. Itard was one of the first specialists in otology and physician to the National Institution of Deaf and Dumb. In one of the last years of the 18th century a young “wild boy” who had lived since infancy entirely secluded from human contact, was captured in the Caune woods near Saint-Sernin. This boy was brought to Paris, where, after achieving a brief notoriety as Victor, the “Sauvage de l’Aveyron”, he was consigned to the care of Jean Itard, a student of Philippe Pinel, who undertook the difficult task of teaching him language and social mores. Itard’s methods were described in his reports of 1801 and 1807. Itard’s methods were based on Condillac’s analytical approach to the acquisition of knowledge, which had been used with success in teaching deaf-mutes. However, in adapting this approach Itard created an entirely new system of pedagogy which has profoundly influenced modern educational methods (for a detailed account see Lane). Itard’s methods were adopted by his student Édouard Séguin, who applied them successfully to educating the mentally handicapped, and by Maria Montessori, who applied them to childhood education in general. The optimism which Itard displayed in this first report of this extraordinary event was not borne out, and in his second report of 1807 after several years of intensive education, he was forced to conclude that the boy was incapable of learning speech, an irreversible result of prolonged isolation during a crucial period of his early childhood.

Collation: Pp 148, (4) adverts. Stipple engraved frontispiece portrait of “The Wild Boy”.

Binding: Original boards, printed paper label on spine, preserved in a 20th century cloth slipcase. Frontispiece slightly foxed, boards a little soiled and worn to spine, but a very good copy in completely original condition with untrimmed edges.

References: Garrison-Morton 4969.1 (French ed.); Norman 1144 & 1145 (French editions, with quotations from Lane); Diamond, The Roots of Psychology (1974), 17.5. Much has been written on this case, but a particularly good account is Harlan Lane’s The Wild Boy of Aveyron (1977).

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