The first Essays on Physiognomy by the Swiss theologian Johann Caspar Lavater (1741 - 1801) were
published in Germany in the late eighteenth century as: Physiognomische Fragmente zur Befφrderung
der Menschenkenntniss und Menschenliebe, Leipzig and Winterthur, 1775 - 8. In French translation
from 1806 - 9, and English from 1789, his Essays on Physiognomy went on to become one of the
most influential books of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. By the middle of the nineteenth
century there were well over 150 editions. The most important feature of the publication was the
hundreds of illustrations since these soon circulated outside of their original contexts into popular
science, particularly phrenology, and popular illustration. These illustrations, which varied greatly in
number and quality from edition to edition, are the focus of this digital version of Lavater. Although
Lavater's publication was a sensation when first published, it is important to note that the early editions
were generally published in folio size and were very expensive - suggestive of the market for which
they were intended. The real penetration of Lavater's ideas came through the more popular and
cheaper editions that followed in volume throughout the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century.
This digital version does not go any way to replicating the complete text, much of which has a
proselytizing tone repetitively arguing for the benefits of the science of physiognomy. In fact, the only
extended text extracts included here are those which relate directly or indirectly to the illustrated
plates. This includes the complete sections on Portrait Painting, Beasts, Monkeys, National
Physiognomy and Parts of the Human Body.
This copy of Lavater's Physiognomy, was taken by a web page of University of Newcastle, which is now inactive.