Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Physica Curiosa by Gaspar Schott

Here is something you don't see every day.

Physica Curiosa by Gaspar Schott, published in 1662. The first part documents ghosts, demons, angels and witches and has such oddities as a one eyed human and an elephant headed human. The second section documents wonders of the animal world such as the elephant, giraffe and rhinocerous.

Other copies are available at Enter the search term "physica curiosa"
to see copies. The oldest one with the same date as the one for sale on Ebay is listed at $6700.

Here is a description from the seller:

" An extensive work by the famous scientist and Jesuit Gaspar Schott dealing with the world of angels, ghosts, demons and the diversity of species in the animal kingdom. The two volumes are introduced by a beautiful full-page engraved frontispiece.

This amazingly detailed copper plate was made by the renowned German artist Jacob von Sandrart, who studied under the Dutch masters Danckerts and Hondius and was one of the most popular artists of his time. His frontispiece for the "Physica Curiosa" shows a faun playing a flute surrounded by various animals. A mermaid and different species of fish are also depicted listening to the faun's music.

The title page was printed in red and black ink and shows verso a pompous engraving of a magnificent shield with three different coats of arms. This image probably served as a dedication as one of the coat of arms shows the Bavarian insignia and the shield itself is held by Bavarian lions. 55 full page and 3 double paged engraved copper plates illustrate the two volumes of Schott's work on mythical creatures and animals. The first volume dealing with angels, witches, ghosts and other demonic creatures contains very detailed images of humans with one eye or an elephant's head, centaurs and winged dragon like beasts and various other ghoulish beings.

The second volume deals with the unique diversity of animal species. Apart from some domestic animals such as deer, beavers and horses most of the plates concentrate on exotic animals like lions, giraffes, elephants and rhinos. As the artists had never seen any of the species and only depicted them from eye-witness accounts most of the engraved animals have quite curious proportions and abilities."

Here is a link to another blog mentioning the book: BibliOdyssey.

Many images are available at the Iowa Digital Library.

Physica-Curiosa 1


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