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LAVATER, John Caspar.

Essays on Physiognomy.

For the Promotion of the Knowledge and the Love of Mankind. Written in the German Language and Translated into English by Thomas Holcroft. Second Edition. Illustrated by Four Hundred and Eighteen Engravings. To Which are Added, One Hundred Physiognomical Rules ... and Memoirs of the Life of the Author, Compiled principally from the Life of Lavater, written by his Son-in-Law G. Gessner.

Published: London: Printed by C. Whittingham for H. D. Symonds, 1804

Stock code: 104088

Price: £1,200

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Second edition in English of this work by Lavater, “the last of the descriptive physiognomists” (Garrison & Morton). Most prized for the remarkably range of illustrative engravings, portraits of historical and contemporary notabilities – including Goethe, a friend of Lavater’s, Socrates, Locke, Samuel Johnson, Bach, George Washington, Diderot, Wren, and Voltaire – drawn as examples of the “psychological” or emotional interpretation of physical features. The illustration of the volumes was supervised by Lavater’s friend Henry Fuseli (described by Lavater as “one of the greatest imaginations in Rome … everything in extremes … hurricane and tempest”) and employed the talents of Fuseli himself, Chodowiecki, Thomas Holloway, Bartolozzi and William Blake, with four of the engravings being signed by Blake. The illustrations include the famous plate of “madness”, “a real scene in the Hospital of St. Spirito at Rome.” An attractively bound set of this defence of the pseudo-science of physiognomy – more correctly pathognomy – “the age old quest for the art how to know men” (Hunter & MacAlpine).

3 volumes in 4, tall octavo (232 x 139 mm). Near contemporary red half calf, marbled sides, raised bands, titles and decorations to compartments gilt, marbled edges and endpapers. Engraved frontispiece portrait to Volume I and numerous engravings throughout. Bookplate of Vane Londonderry to front pastedowns. Extremities a touch rubbed and bumped, boards slightly scuffed, light tanning to margins of plates; a couple of puncture marks to rear board of Volume I. An excellent set.

Bibliography: Bentley, "Blake Books" 481; Garrison & Morton 154; see Hunter & MacAlpine p.712; Keynes 102; Lowndes 1321, "a sumptuous edition"; Osler 3178; Wellcome III, 45

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