When in the sixties I started to study Eighteenth Century British Moralists (Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, Mandeville, Clarke, etc.) in the Library of the British Museum I met a young scholar who recommended me Logic and the basis of Ethics by Arthur N. Prior telling me that everything worth of a philosopher’s attention was already there. Some visits to Foulis Bookshop or to Blackwell in Oxford were disappointing: a great deal of Bertrand Russell titles (as is the case for Benedetto Croce in Italian bookshops) with a few reprints of Classic British philosophers of the past.
However in the seventies monographs and papers on British Philosophers (Hume included of course) multiplied in un unpredictable measure.
A more historical approach to philosophers of the past was solicited in the eighties. Famous is the ‘Historiography of Philosophy: Four genres’, an essay published by Richard Rorty. He welcomed the interest for what he called Geistesgeschichte (Hegel, but also Heidegger, Reichenbach, Foucault, Blumemberg and MacIntyre), but considered right or proper the rational reconstruction of an author or a movement, that is an understanding of a philosopher of the past ‘in our terms’, according to the interests and the achievements of analytical Philosophy. In Oxford Michael Dummett wrote that thanks to our progress in philosophy we are now able to understand what a philosopher of the past should not have said and what he perhaps wanted to say.
Neverthless starting from the nineties and still continuing in this century many publishers and especially University Presses (like Cambridge, Oxford, Edinburgh) including some American University Presses have been producing an amazing amount of titles (companions, commentaries, critical editions, monographs) with a major care for a historical perspective. .