"It is the design of the following work, to furnish for the use of general readers, a brief and popular view of all the physical characteristics, or varieties in colour, figure, structure of body, and likewise of the moral and intellectual peculiarities which distinguish from each other the different races of men. It is likewise intended, in the same treatise, to comprise such an account of the nature and causes of these phenomena as the present state of knowledge will afford. For the completion of this design, it was necessary to describe all the different tribes of people scattered over the world, and to advert, however briefly, to their mutual relations, and to all that is known respecting their origin and descent, as discovered by historical and philological investigations. Very brief, indeed, must necessarily be such a summary of universal ethnography. It was only possible to state, and that in a manner rather summary than argumentative, results, in which inquiring persons can hardly be expected to acquiesce without the exhibition of unquestionable evidence"--Foreword. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved).
Although Prichard is primarily known today for his important anthropological work, his reputation as a philologist is unjustly overshadowed. This work was the first to show the Indo-European origin of the Celtic languages, and preceded the work of Adolphe Pictet, whi made his reputation on a treatise on the same point.