Understanding and Using John Towill Rutt's Work
Scholars have mixed feelings about John Towill Rutt. He was an English Unitarian that had connections to Joseph Priestley. He made a compilation of Priestley's non-scientific work and he also edited some reprints of Priestley books. In The Theological and Miscellaneous Works of Joseph Priestley, Rutt compiled the non-scientific works of Priestley (books, letters, sermons, and pamphlets) into a twenty-five volume (twenty-six book) work. He edited Priestley’s work. He however did not say how and when he edited the work. Scholars note that he would cut out paragraphs, combined letters, capitalized letters, and changed the punctuation.
Most scholars complain about what Rutt did. However, most scholars also use Rutt. I have found in my experience that for the books that Rutt included in his twenty-five volumes, Rutt mostly changed the punctuation at the end of sentences or capitalized words that he thought were proper nouns. While I cannot say whether this was right or wrong, I have used the 1999 reprint of Rutt. When possible I would photocopy the 1999 reprint of Rutt and compare it to the original Priestley work at a rare book room or institution.
If I was actively researching Joseph Priestley now, I would use pdfs of the original volumes when possible. I have links to early volumes of his works in the complete works page section of this website. In updating this page, I could not find links to early volumes of some of Priestley's works or published letters. In those instances (when they are his non-scientific works), I have noted where they can be found and linked to the Rutt volume.
In updating the website, I have also created a list of the different volumes of The Theological and Miscellaneous Works of Joseph Priestley. For each volume, I found a pdf version of it that you can read for free. Click here to see the list and links. If I was visiting rare book rooms now, and could not find an original version of the work as a pdf, I would compare the pdf version of Rutt with the original and note changes if they might impact my research.
The Theological and Miscellaneous Works of Joseph Priestley can be accessed in several ways beyond the internet. The first way is to go to a rare book room or special collections area at an institution and use the originals. The second way is to go to a library and look at Rutt on microfiche. The third way is to buy or find a copy of the 1999 reprint (or other reprint editions)of The Theological and Miscellaneous Works of Joseph Priestley.