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Anonymous. [tise on physiognomy. (Netherlands?, ca. 1790)].

Physiognomy is the science of relating an individual's character, personality, and temperament to the shape of his or her face, head, and/or body. The theories behind it go back to Hippocrates, who believed that physical characteristics of the human body revealed personality traits; Aristotle performed studies on how hair, limbs and facial features predicted personality and temperament. Such theories thrived throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and the noted Girolamo Cardano (1501–1576) was one of its main proponents. By the 18th century, the study of physiognomy was still taken very seriously as a medical topic, with important additions to the field made by Johann Caspar Lavater (1741–1801). Franz Josef Gall (1758–1828) attempted to make its study even more scientific by measuring human and animal craniums to find correlations between skull shape and behavior, founding the field of phrenology.

The author of this fine, manuscript treatise and sketchbook on physiognomy is unknown. The text is written in Dutch and was probably composed in the 1790s; it is possible that it was created as a dissertation by a medical student.

Further Reading:

Hagner, M. "Prolegomena to a history of radical brains in the nineteenth century: physiognomics, phrenology, brain anatomy." Physis Riv Int Stor Sci., 1999; 36(2):321-38.

Howells, J. G.; and M. L. Osborn. A reference companion to the history of psychology. (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1984).

Jenkinson, J. "Face facts: a history of physiognomy from ancient Mesopotamia to the end of the 19th century." J Biocommun., 1997; 24(3):2-7.

An example of the 20th-century clinical literature on physiognomy: Paterson, D. G. Physique and intellect. (New York: The Century Company, 1930).