Lavater, Jean Gaspard
Essai sur la Physiognomonie, destiné à faire connaître lHomme et à le faire aimer. 3 volumes.
3 volumes, folio, La Haye, 1781-1786. 145 full-page portraits (o.a. portraits of Da Vinci, Durer, Erasmus, Rubens) & 390 engravings in the text. Gilt tooled, all edges gilt. Fine large paper copy. - Without the fourth volume which was published much later, after the French Revolution in 1803. Condition: some foxing and slight damp staines, but not much. Some rubbing on the edges of the bindings. Volume 2: title page partly loose from the binding and has some folds. Front hinge a bit loose. Very rare!
Lavater is most well known for his work in the field of physiognomy, Physiognomische Fragmente zur Beförderung der Menschenkenntnis und Menschenliebe, published between 1775 and 1778. He introduced the idea that physiognomy related to the specific character traits of individuals, rather than general types. Lavater is attributed with catalysing a golden age for silhouettes through this work in physiognomy. According to him, the character of a person could be elucidated through examining their lines of countenance. The most accurate of readings were facilitated by the tracing of a profile outline portrait. This contour line could be filled with black or cut from the white paper and placed over a black backing. More often, the silhouette was simply cut from black paper. In the chapter On Shades, Lavater wrote, What can less the image of a living man be than a shade? Yet how full of speech! Little gold, but the purest." The fame of this book, which found admirers in France and England as well as Germany, rests largely upon the handsome style of publication and the accompanying illustrations. The two principal sources from which Lavater developed his physiognomical studies were the writings of the Italian polymath Giambattista della Porta, and the observations made by Sir Thomas Browne in his Religio Medici (translated into German in 1748 and praised by Lavater). (Source: Wikipedia)
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