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.
Bound in 18th c. mottled calf, spine richly gilt, (upper board stained, discreet repairs to corners, also to head and foot of spine and label.) Blank upper margin of title trimmed off and repaired, not affecting text. Variable spotting as often, heavier to some signatures, but a very good copy. The text is illustrated with 1,500 woodcut illustrations (including some repeats) showing monsters, “savages”, human and animal deformities, plagues, earthquakes, floods, violent meteorological phenomena, comets, eclipses, meteors, the “earliest depiction of a UFO”, and the oft-reproduced double-page image of the ocean filled with whales, sea serpents, and monstrous crustaceans assailing sailors and swimmers. Some of the woodcuts are the work of Hans Rudolf Manuel Deutsch (1525-1571) and David Kandel (1520-1592). Among the events for which there exists hard evidence is the Ensisheim meteorite (depicted on p. 500) that fell on 7 November 1492. The massive (280 lbs.) meteorite is preserved in Ensisheim’s Musée de la Régence.
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