On Arthur Keith's Cover:

In Other Words

Current Anthropology 1993

Phillip V. Tobias and K. A. R. Kennedy

Kennedy: Division of Biological Science, Cornell University

[67] The gold-embossed figure on the cover of Keith's The Antiquity of Man has proved of twofold interest in re[68]cent discussions on Piltdown and Keith's possible involvement (CA 33:243-93).

First, although it has often been regarded as a depiction of Keith's reconstruction of the Piltdown skull, one of us (P.V.T.) has shown recently that the cover figure represents the Piltdown I hominoid fragments superimposed on the outline of a modem English skull often used by Keith for purposes of comparison (CA 33:281).

Secondly, a curious contradiction has emerged as to the words embossed alongside it: "Piltdown Skull" according to Kennedy (p. 269), "Piltdown Fragments" according to Tobias (p. 281). Further researches by us on the various editions and impressions of The Antiquity have revealed that both of us were right, albeit in respect of different impressions of the first edition.

We have found that "Piltdown Skull" appeared on the cover of the first impression of the first edition (October1915) and "Piltdown Fragments" on the second (December 1915), the third (February 1916), and the fourth (March 1920), as well as on the second edition (January 1925). The change from "skull" to "fragments" was thus effected between the first and the second impression of the first edition.

The original wording was misleading and, as we have seen, did indeed mislead some scholars. It is possible that Keith realised how misleading it was and instructed his publishers, Williams and Norgate, Limited, to change the cover for the second impression. Or a colleague might have pointed it out to him. Possibly a reviewer of the book might have drawn attention to it, but this is the least likely, for there was a lapse of only two months between the first and the corrected second impression.

Postscript. Carmel Schrire has kindly drawn our attention to an American printing of the 1915 edition published by J. B. Lippincott. The cover bears the label "Piltdown Skull," and we assume it was based upon the first impression published in England. We have been unable to trace whether Lippincott published a second impression.

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