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LICETI, Fortunio (1577-1657)

De monstrorum caussis, natura, et differentijs libri duo. In quibus ex rei natura monstrorum historiæ, caussæ, generationes, & differentiæ plurimæ a sapientibus intactæ, cum generatim & in plantarum, & belluarum genere, tum seorsum in humana specie tractantur. Multis illustrium autorum locis difficillimis explantis, de masculo parturiente, de feminis in viros mutatis, de hermaphroditorum natura, de difsimilium [sic] specierum venere prolifica, de castratorum fecunditate, depuero lapidescente, de animantis aurea parte, alijsque admirabilibus. Secunda editio correctior, auctior, & iconibus æneis monstrorum præcipuorum illustrata.
Patavii, apud Paulum Frambottum, 1634 [Colophon 1633].

Second enlarged edition, and the first to be illustrated, of Liceti's most popular work, first published in Padua in 1616. Liceti’s treatise on monsters has been called a masterpiece of credulity. It is a collection of everything which the imagination of both the ancients and the modern had been able to relate to human and animal monstrosities. The insertions of the copperplates depicting curious and fantastic monstrosities certainly was a means of marketing the book by clever publishers. It became very popular and went through several editions. A French translation appeared in Jan Palfyn’s Description anatomique in 1708. A new French translation was published by F. Houssay in 1937. Pictorial records of malformations were made long before man could write – some are found on rock carvings of the Stone Age. During the sixteenth century books on monsters were popular. The famous French surgeon Ambroise Paré catalogued all cases known to him. His book on monsters (1573) is illustrated with woodcuts chiefly taken from earlier works. Most of the 70 copperplates in Licet's work on the same subject are improved copies of the woodcuts in Paré’s and other sixteenth century works, and include fantastic creatures resulting from intercourse of humans with animals, obviously drawn from hearsay. The splendid illustrations depict a host of deformities, both human and animal, as well as mixtures of the two, such as satyrs, bird-men, elephant-men, etc., but also actual malformations of great teratological interest, such as Siamese twins, hermaphrodites and cyclops. Liceti, latinized Licetus, born near Geneva, is said to have received his name Fortunio from having survived a very premature birth - it was believed before the seventh month. His father, who was a physician, brought him up with great care and gave him an excellent education. He graduated at Bologna and in 1609 became professor of logic and Aristotelian physics at Pisa, professor of philosophy at Padua from 1613, and later accepted a chair at Bologna. Finally he was recalled to Padua as professor in chief of the theory of medicine. This position he held until his death in 1657. He is known as one of the opponents of Harvey, with an absurd alternative theory of two circulations, venous and arterial blood being transmitted through the coronary veins.

Collation: Pp (16), 262, (26), with 51 engravings (mostly half-page, some repeated) in the text. The engravings on pages 82 and 84 have been changed, cancels pasted on to the original illustrations. Additional engraved title-leaf.

Binding: Contemporary vellum.

References: Hirsch, III, 775; Osler 3234-35; Ballantyne, J.W. Teratogenesis: an inquiry into the causes of monstrisites. History of the Theories of the Past. Edinburgh, 1897; Holländer, E. Wunder, Wundergeburt und Wundergestalt in Einblattdrucken der 15.-18. Jahrhunderts (1922); Cole, History of Comparative Anatomy, (1944) pp. 150-55; Hagelin, Womans Booke, pp 42-45. Waller 5779 (Ed. 1665).

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