The Foundation of Physiognomy

    Giovanni Battista della Porta. De Humana Physiognomia Libri III. Ad Aloysium Card Estensem. Vici Æquensis: Apud Josephum Cacchium, 1586.

    First edition. Folio. (Approximately 12 x 8 inches). [iv], 272 pages. Engraved title with portrait of Porta within architectural border containing heads of men and animals, and 117 engravings comparing human and animal physiognomy in the text. Decorative woodcut head- and tail-pieces, woodcut historiated initials.

    Sympathetically rebound in modern full vellum, covers stamped in blind on boards, spine with green gilt morocco lettering label. New endpapers and blanks. Text washed. Some pages repaired with no loss to text (title page with some restoration to text, and [ii], 14, 27, 196, and several other pages with repaired marginal worm damage). Some pages restored with considerable loss to text at top (pages 261-272). Some margins a bit close. Gutter near final page of text cracked, yet still solid. Overall, good.

    "Physiognomy (literally 'knowledge of nature') is the art of reading a person's character, disposition and even his future from signs in his face...Porta, in his treatise on human physiognomy, attempted to rationalize the art, establishing a 'scientific' basis for the correspondence between external form and internal character by analyzing the likeness of various human features to those of animals. In the eighteenth century Porta's work was revived and expanded upon by Lavater, who in turn provided inspiration to the nineteenth-century founders of phrenology" (Norman Library 1723, describing the first edition).

    Graesse V, p. 417. Wellcome 5198.

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