A treatise on the medical jurisprudence of insanity.

Marjorie C. Meehan, MD
JAMA. 1963;184(4):320. doi:10.1001/jama.1963.03700170112028.
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First published in 1838, Ray's classic work was the first systematic treatise in English which discussed the relations of law and mental illness. It is well worth a reissue. During Ray's lifetime (1807-1881), five editions appeared in the United States and one in England. Now, a new edition has been published as part of the John Harvard Library, a collection of scholarly editions of early American writings. This volume is edited by Dr. Winfred Overholser, former superintendent of St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, and himself an author of important works on the relations of law and psychiatry.

Although Ray's classification of mental illness may seem oversimplified and his terms may imply concepts not generally accepted now, many of his comments are pertinent and his case descriptions vivid and thought provoking. He shows little concern with etiology and, by present standards, little knowledge in this regard; however, he does insist on


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