Essays on Physiognomy, designed to promote the knowledge and the love of mankind. By John Caspar Lavater, citizen of Zurich, and minister of the Gospel. Illustrated by more than eight hundred engravings accurately copied; and some duplicates added from originals. Executed by, or under the inspection of Thomas Holloway. Translated from the French by Henry Hunter, D.D.
London: printed for John Murray; H.Hunter; and T.Holloway, 1789. (1792, 1798).
The Philosophical Research Library is a rich repository of social and cultural history and a wonderful resource for scholars exploring how ideas developed and shifted from antiquity to the present. The library collection includes rare books that preserve ideas that were once commonly accepted as true but later became objects of amusement or ridicule as thinking evolved. Physiognomy is a case in point. It is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the art of discovering temperament and character from outward appearance.” Its use in divination can be traced back to ancient Greece with Pythagorus and Aristotle asserting that signs of character could be discerned from physical appearance. During the 17th century, opinions shifted with the advancement of science. The study of physiognomy was disparaged as an accurate measure of character. However, during the 18th century there was a resurgence of in scientific interest in Physiognomy. Johann Caspar Lavater (1741-1801) was a catalyst for this revival.
Lavater was a Swiss Protestant pastor, poet, and author of religious and devotional literature; however, he became most renowned as a physiognomist. It was his deep devotion to Christianity that prompted his interest in the subject. Like Emanuel Swedenborg, he was convinced that there was a spiritual basis for physiognomy. He believed that God created man in his own image and was searching for the face of God through the analysis of human faces. The more beautiful a person, the more godly, speculated Lavatar. He was certain that a strong correspondence existed between the interior and exterior of a human being. He believed that physiognomy represented the inner-most soul of a person and sought to not only to promote physiognomy as a science but to integrate it with theology.
This lavishly illustrated three-volume set in five folio volumes was considered to be the most important and complete work on the subject of its time. It is an anthology of facial types with commentary. There are hundreds of copper plate engravings of famous individuals including Socrates, Julius Caesar, Voltaire, Sir Thomas More, and George Washington, as well as Satan and the Virgin Mary. Thomas Holloway was the chief artist-engraver of the set, but other famous engravers, including William Blake, contributed illustrations for the set. Almost every image has a brief explanation identifying the type of character that can be deduced from the physiognomy.
Raphael's Witch!!! or, The Oracle of the Future
by Raphael, 1795-1832
William Charlton Wright: London, 1831
This first edition, with ten color illustrations including two large folding plates by R.Cruikshank & the author, was printed in 1831. It also includes sheet music composed especially for the work by J. Blewitt. The preface states: "This book is adapted to lay about in drawing rooms - to be read in gardens and groves, to ornament the boudoir - for amusement in evening parties, as an innocent substitute for cards - to be consulted in every mind and temper. For singular as it may seem, not a thought can arise, nor a wish originate, but the LADY-WITCH OF RAPHAEL will easily solve and satisfy. It removes ennui and low spirits, but cheering the heart--brightening the ideas, and alluring to virtue, happiness and bliss."
Raphael, the mystical archangel associated with Mercury, was the pseudonym of a series of astrologers. It was first adapted by R.C. Smith (1795-1832). He was an alchemist and astrologer with a extensive interest in the occult. He was one of the most prolific astrological writers of his time, and a key figure in the 19th century revival of astrology. Our library has several of his works including The Astrologer of the 19th Century; or the Master Key to Futurity; being a complete system of Astrology, Geomancy & Occult Science (1825), A Manual of Astrology (1828), The Royal Book of Dreams (1830) and The Royal Book of Fate (1833),
In this fold out plate of the Magical Wheel of Pythagoras, Raphael shows how the letters of the alphabet are assigned to certain numbers. This Pythagorean concept is the foundation of modern numerology.
The fold out illustration of the Cabalistic Tablet of the Stars shows four scenes that represent Raphael as a magician, astronomer, and astrologer. The center chart is used as a key to a system of geomantic fortunetelling.
In 1827, he began publishing The Prophetic Messenger, an almanac predicting weather and events for the year. Under his leadership, each of the almanacs featured a hand-colored frontispiece. After his death, the almanac continued to be published by six different astrologers who carried on the pen name of Raphael.
Ephemeris for 1477
by Johannes Regiomontanus (1436-1476)
J. Müller: Nuremberg, 1474
The oldest book in our collection was written by Johannes Müller (1436 - 1476), better known as Regiomontanus. He was a brilliant German mathemetician, astronomer and scholar. His impact to the world of science is reflected by the fact that the crater Regiomontanus on the Moon is named after him. He was a much sought after astrologer and cast horoscopes for famous patrons of the court of Emperor Frederick III.
In 1471, Regiomontanus went to Nuremberg where he set up the first observatory in Germany, with the help of a wealthy benefactor. The observatory was equipped with scientific instruments crafted by Regiomontanus. It was here that he observed the great comet of 1472, later known as Halley’s Comet.
Ephemerides are astronomical almanacs consisting of tables showing the position of celestial bodies during the course of a number of dates in a regular sequence. They show the future positions of the sun, moon, planets, comets and eclipses. According to Manly P. Hall, the ephemerides of Regiomontanus were regarded as the most authentic of their time. This ephemeris for 1477 consists of fourteen unnumbered leaves printed on heavy handmade paper. It is very rare; complete copies are virtually unknown. The Ephemerides of Regiomontanus are believed to have been used by Christopher Columbus. They guided him on his journey to the New World, and enabled him to predict the lunar eclipse of 1504, which astonished the Indigenous peoples. They were so impressed by this prediction that they agreed to provide his crew with much needed food.
The invention of movable type by Johann Gutenberg in 1454 inspired Regiomontanus to set up the first printing house devoted to the printing and publishing of scientific books in Nuremberg. He realized the tremendous value of producing multiple identical copies of scientific texts would have on the advancement of scientific knowledge. This book was printed by his press.
Sandys Travells; Containing an History of the Original and Present State of the Turkish Empire; Their laws, Government, Policy, Military Force, Courts of Justice and Commerce: The Mahometan Religion and Ceremonies; A Description of Constantinople, The Grand Signior's Seralgio and his manner of living: AIso of Greece, with the Religion and Customs of the Grecians. Of Egypt; the Antiquity, Hieroglyphics, Rites & Customs, Discipline and Religion of the Aegyptians. A Voyage on the River NYLUS: Of Armenia, Grand Cairo, Rhodes, The Pyramids of Colossus; The former flourishing and present state of Alexandria....
The Special Collections section of the Philosophical Research Library has over 1,200 items including rare or unique books, manuscripts, photographs and artifacts. The materials span a wide range of topics including Alchemy, Astrology, Comparative Religion, and Philosophy. Many of these items are fragile and access must be restricted. This segment of our website will showcase items from this collection.