But it’s not. From Odd things in Pitt’s libraries, this title:

Ashanti Proverbs: The Primitive Ethics of a Savage People translated from the original with grammatical and anthropological notes by R. Sutherland Rattray, published by The Clarendon Press (Oxford), 1916.

Occasionally it’s good to be reminded what the good old days were actually like. I’ve found an online discussion of Rattray and his book:

The unfortunate subtitle which he eventually chose for his collection was The Primitive Ethics of a Savage People. He chose it very much under the influence of Marett, whose special subject was the evolution of ethics out of primitive religion, and it was not meant to sound as derogatory as it does now, but it expresses quite accurately the central purpose of his book.

Oddly, Rattray says in his Author’s Note:

These few words the present writer has felt in duty bound to say, lest the reader, astonished at the words of wisdom which are now to follow, refuse to credit that a “savage” or “primitive” people could possibly have possessed the rude philosophers, theologians, moralists, naturalists, and even, it will be seen, philologists, which many of these proverbs prove them to have had among them.

Which goes to show the astonishing capacity of the human mind for doublethink, and should make us wonder what unexamined contradictions we ourselves are harboring.


  1. Thanks for that wonderful gold link seam. You’ve set me off in my tin hat and little pick… we’ll see if trackback works!
    And for the reminder (in the discussion article, fascinating) of the Swiss German origin of Akan orthography which has us old colonials stumped when it comes to pronunciation.

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