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Extraordinary Popular Delusions : Madness of Crowds : Witch Mania : Alchemy etc

Extraordinary Popular Delusions : Madness of Crowds : Witch Mania : Alchemy etc

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Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

By Charles Mackay

Illustrated with Numerous Engravings

London: George Routledge and Sons, undated, late 1880s. This is the first two-volume edition bound in one volume (The first edition of 1841 in 3 volumes and 1852 in 2 volumes). Hardcover, green cloth boards with black print, gilt title to spine. 322pp, profusely illustrated.

See photos provided for a list of contents.


A very good copy. The cloth binding is very good and the gilt remains bright to the spine. Endpapers good. All contents present and pages clean throughout, No names or writing to the book. Overall a very good copy.

With a focus on historical events such as financial bubbles, witch mania, alchymists, and superstitions, the book explores how the human mind can be susceptible to folly and deception, shedding light on the collective madness that has shaped societies throughout history.

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds is an early study of crowd psychology by Scottish journalist Charles Mackay, first published in 1841 under the title Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions. The book was originally published in three volumes: "National Delusions", "Peculiar Follies", and "Philosophical Delusions". A later single volume appeared in the late 1880s. Mackay was an accomplished teller of stories, though he wrote in a journalistic and somewhat sensational style.

The subjects of Mackay's debunking include alchemy, crusades, duels, economic bubbles, fortune-telling, haunted houses, the Drummer of Tedworth, the influence of politics and religion on the shapes of beards and hair, magnetisers (influence of imagination in curing disease), murder through poisoning, prophecies, popular admiration of great thieves, popular follies of great cities, and relics. Present-day writers on economics, such as Michael Lewis and Andrew Tobias, laud the three chapters on economic bubbles.

In later editions, Mackay added a footnote referencing the Railway Mania of the 1840s as another "popular delusion" which was at least as important as the South Sea Bubble. In the 21st century, the mathematician Andrew Odlyzko pointed out, in a published lecture, that Mackay himself played a role in this economic bubble; as a leader writer in The Glasgow Argus, Mackay wrote on 2 October 1845: "There is no reason whatever to fear a crash"

(Loc: End blue shelf; 2nd down )

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