But I have discovered, quite to my surprise, that this is not the case. Cullen in fact printed an earlier version of this textbook in 1770, and I have located what must be one of the only surviving copies.
In a certain sense, this is not a revelation. From fairly detailed and well-preserved student notes taken down during his 1770-71 lectures (see NLS MS 3535), we know that he gave his students some kind of text and that it appeared to be, at least in the parts that discussed the nervous system, very similar to—but not identical with—his published text from two years later.
While re-reading these lectures, I realised that Cullen clearly indicates that he has handed out a printed textbook to his students in 1770, one that he published (for, he says, he hazards his reputation by doing so). So I wondered whether any such book still survives. And, after some searching, I discovered that, yes, a copy exists in one—but, as far as I can tell, only one—library.
I still need to confirm that it is what the catalogue claims it is (I have ordered some images), but I am 95% certain that a copy of Cullen’s 1770 textbook survives. From NLS MS 3535, we already have a good sense of its contents, but to find the actual ‘published’ edition, which must be exceedingly rare, is a treat.
And it leads to a further query, for we know that Cullen handed out some kind of text or lengthy syllabus to his students as early as his 1768-69 Institutions course. I believe this was the first time he did so, with a view to publication. But it is unclear whether this text was ‘published’ in the same way that the later ones were. Cullen may have simply handed out pages in loose-leaf, for example. But he may have printed his 1768-69 text, and I am now on the lookout for that too. But, if it survives, it must be extremely rare and probably only survives among the collected papers of some of his students.
All of this material, I hope, feeds into the chapter(s) I am writing on Cullen’s views of the nervous system, and how they developed over the course of his lectures on the Institutions of Medicine. And that can be seen quite clearly in the different editions or variations that his textbook underwent from 1768 to 1772.