The value of the work to English archæologists, however, is not merely that of a clear popular manual; pre-historic archæology, worked as it has been in several countries, takes in each its proper local colour, and brings forward its proper local evidence. It is true that much of its material is used as common property by scientific men at large. But, for instance, where an English writer in describing the ancient cave-men would dwell especially on the relics from the caves of Devon and Somerset as worked by Falconer and Pengelly, a French writer would take his data more amply from the explorations of caves of the south of France by De Vibraye, Garrigou, and Filhol—where the English teacher would select his specimens from the Christy or the Blackmore Museum, the French teacher would have recourse to the Musée de Saint-Germain. Thus far, the English student has in Figuier's 'Primitive Man' not a work simply incorporated from familiar materials, but to a great extent bringing forward evidence not readily accessible, or quite new to him.
Some corrections and alterations have been made in the English edition. The illustrations are those of the original work; the facsimiles of pre-historic objects have been in great part drawn expressly for it, and contribute to its strictly scientific value; the page illustrations representing scenes of primitive life, which are by another hand, may seem somewhat fanciful, yet, setting aside the Raffaelesque idealism of their style, it will be found on examination that they are in the main justified by that soundest evidence, the actual discovery of the objects of which they represent the use.
To give beyond this a perfectly satisfactory definition of man is impossible: first, because, a definition, being but the expression of a theory, which rarely commands universal assent, is liable to be rejected with the theory itself; and secondly, because a perfectly accurate definition supposes an absolute knowledge of the subject, of which absolute knowledge our understanding is incapable. It has been well said that a correct definition can be furnished by none but divine power. Nothing is more true than this, and were we able to give of our own species a definition rigorously correct, we should indeed possess absolute knowledge.
The trouble we have to define aright the being about to form the subject of our investigation is but a forecast of the difficulties we shall meet when we endeavour to reason upon and to classify man. He who ventures to fathom the problems of human nature, physical, intellectual or moral, is arrested at every step. Each moment he must confess his powerlessness to solve the questions which arise, and at times is forced to content himself with merely suggesting them.