A Charming and Wacky Look at Pulchritude

TRACTATUS PHYSIOLOGICUS DE PULCHRITUDINE. JUXTA EA QUAE DE SPONSA IN CANTICIS CANTICORUM MYSTICE PRONUNCIANTUR.

(Bruxellis: Typis Francisci Foppens, 1662). 170 x 107 mm. (6 3/4 x 4 1/4"). 4 p.l., 60 pp., [1] leaf (approbation). FIRST EDITION.

Older limp vellum, spine with title and date written in ink. Woodcut initials and tailpieces, and 30 engravings on title and in text of female faces and animal faces to which some of them are compared. Front pastedown with stamp of A. Van Loock; each page of text within ink-ruled frame. Dorbon 5014; Wellcome V, 322; Brunet V, 1026 ("orné de jolies gravures au trait"). Vellum a little soiled and rumpled, a portion of the title page with light offset from something previously laid in, isolated trivial soiling in the text, otherwise quite a fine, large, fresh, and clean copy.

This is the sole printing of an obscure but fascinating physiological treatise on pulchritude. The text is divided into 14 sections, each of which begins with a quotation from the "Song of Songs," followed by an explanation of how the quoted "mystic" words show that Solomon indeed knew what perfect female beauty was. For example, in chapter 1, the quotation "your head is like the camel's" is used as evidence that a woman's head ought to be lofty, and juxtaposed engravings of a (wary) camel and a (despondent) woman give a graphic reinforcement to the point. The chapter, like the other 13, ends with an appropriate short poem, presumably by the author. Brunet, in an understatement, says that the title of this charming, wacky, and scarce work (one copy in ABPC since 1989) "gives some indication of its singularity." This copy's singularity is further enhanced by the fact that every untrimmed page is ruled in brown ink.
(ST12934)

Keywords: Physiology

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PJP Catalog: CA19BF.075

TRACTATUS PHYSIOLOGICUS DE PULCHRITUDINE. JUXTA EA QUAE DE SPONSA IN CANTICIS CANTICORUM MYSTICE PRONUNCIANTUR. PULCHRITUDE, ERNESTUS VAENIUS.