Basel: Henricus Petrus, 1557.
Folio: 28.7 x 20 cm. , 670,  pp. Collation: a4, b2, A6, B-C4, D-Z6; Aa-Zz6; AA-II6, KK4, LL6.
An exceptional copy, bound in contemporary alum-tawed pigskin (some scuffs and light soiling), elaborately tooled in blind, with stamps of the evangelists, medallion portraits of the reformers, and various floral motifs. With its original paper label, faded, affixed to the upper board. The text is in unusually fine condition for a book usually found foxed and browned, with only a little scattered light toning. The margins are wide and some deckled edges are preserved. Provenance: With the large woodcut bookplate “Hic Liber Spectat ad Monasterium Benedictoburanum.”(Warnecke 165) Benediktbeuern is the oldest monastery in Upper Bavaria, dating from early Carolingian times (739). According to tradition, St. Boniface (672-754) consecrated its first church. It was in the Benediktbeuern that the Bavarian manuscript of the “carmina burana”(1230) was discovered.
First edition of the Swiss humanist Conrad Lycosthenes’ “Chronicle of Prodigies and Portents that have occurred beyond the right order, operation, and working of nature, in both the upper and lower regions of the World, from the beginning of the World up to the Present Times”. In 1552 Lycosthenes had supplemented and published an edition of Julius Obsequens’ fourth-century “Book of Prodigies”. Five years later, he published his “Chronicon”, a work of far-greater ambition and scope, in which he documented (with illustrations) and interpreted every marvel from the appearance of the snake in the Garden of Eden to the birth of a microcephalic child born at Basel in 1557. Events from 1496 (the appearance of the Roman monster on the banks of the Tiber) up to the date of publication make up about 20 percent of the book. The description and image of the purported UFO, seen over Arabia in 1479 appear on page 494. Due to his anti-Catholic interpretation of a number of portents (including the “Pope-Ass” and “Monk-Calf”), the “Chronicon” was put on the Index of Prohibited Books in 1559. (See Daston and Park, “Wonders and the Order of Nature”, p. 183 ff.)
Human Prodigies (and Shakespeare’s cannibals):
In his opening chapter, Lycosthenes describes various types of exotic humans who either lived in distant antiquity or were said to still exist in the 16th century in far-flung corners of the world. These various groups were produced by God after the fall of the Tower of Babel and the resulting “confusion of tongues”. In Africa there are the hirsute, forest-dwelling Cynnamini, the tree-dwelling Ilophagi, and the Spermathophagi, who lived on fruit, all most likely forest-dwelling primates. Africa is also home to the Androgynes (a race of hermaphrodites), the four-eyed Aethiopes, and the beaked, stork-necked Eripeans. In Asia there are horse-hoofed men, cyclopes who eat only the meat of wild beasts, and werewolves.
The “Blemmyes”: Lycosthenes also describes and illustrates the two types of cannibals described by Shakespeare’s Othello: “And of the Cannibals that each other eat, / The Anthropophagi and men whose heads / Do grow beneath their shoulders.”(Othello 1.3.139-44) The former are shown chopping up victims with meat cleavers and roasting them on a spit. There are also the single-footed Scipodes, the feathered and mouthless Astomi, six-armed men of India, dog-men, pygmies, and more.
Thorndike VI, 489; Adams W-250; Durling, NLM, 2878; Wellcome I, 3917; Zinner, Geschichte und Bibliographie der Astronomischen Literatur 2177; Ackermann I, 565