Roger Gaskell Rare Books

Enquire about this Print this

CAMPER, Petrus (1722–1789)

Dissertation physique ... sur les différences réelles que présentent les traites du visage chez les hommes de différentes pays et de différents âges; sur le beau que caractèrise les statues antiques et les pierres gravées. Suivie de la proposition d’une nouvelle méthode pour déssiner toutes sortes de têtes humaines avec la plus grande sûreté. Publiée après le décès de l’auteur par son fils Adrien Giles Camper. Traduite du Hollandois par Denis Bernard Quatriemere d’Isjonval

Utrecht: chez B. Wild et J. Altheer, 1791
4to: π2 *2 A–O4 P2, 62 leaves, pp. viii 114 [2].
[bound after:]
Discours prononçés par feû Mr. Pierre Camper, en l'Acadêmie de dessein d'Amsterdam, sur le moyen de représenter d'une manière sûre les diverses passions qui se manifestent sur le visage; sur l'étonnante conformité qui existe entre les quadrupèdes, les oiseaux, les poissons et l'homme; et enfin sur le beau physique: publiés par son fils Adrein Gilles Camper, traduits du Hollandoîs
Utrecht: chez B. Wild & J. Altheer, 1792
4to: π2 *4 A–N4 O2, 60 leaves, pp. [4] viii 107 [1] (last page blank)
12 engraved plates: frontispiece portrait signed ‘Reiner Vinkeles ad vivum delin. et sculp. 1778’ and pls I–XI (bound at the end, portrait and Pls III–VII folding).
10 engraved plates numbered Tab. I–IX [X] (bound at the end, I–V folding).
Condition: 256 x 205mm.
Binding: Contemporary half green morocco, flat spine with gilt bands. Rubbed and corners worn.
Provenance: 1. 'J. Faivre dt en med', early inscription; 2. 'R. Andry-Aout. 1936', inscription, both on half title of Discours.
Dissertation. First edition in French, a translation of Verhandeling ... over het natuurlijk verschil der wezenstrekken in menschen van onderscheiden landaart en ouderdom (Utrecht, B. Wild, 1791) by Denis-Bernard Quatremère-Disjonval (1754–1830). Another translation was published as Dissertation sur les variétés naturelles que caractérisent la physionomie des hommes (Paris, 1791) and the work was also translated into German (1792) and English (1794).
Discours. First edition in French, a translation of Redenvoeringen ... over de wyze, om de onderscheidene hartstogten op onze wezens te verbeelden (Utrecht, B. Wild, 1792) by Denis-Bernard Quatremère-Disjonval (1754–1830).
Bibliography: Dissertation. Waller 1728; Blake p. 76. Discours. Wellcome p. 293; Waller 1724; for the Dutch edition see Garrison-Morton 6604.91; Bierens de Haan 764; Blake p. 76.

Two influential works, the first on craniology, introducing the facial angle or ‘Camper's angle’; and the second on the scientific representation of the human form in art. The measurement of the facial angle, was one of the first measurements to be made in physical anthropology. Camper was initially concerned with the correct drawing of the human face and he determined that classical statues were modelled on an angle of 95–100°, while modern Europeans had an angle of 90°, ‘Orientals’ 80°, Negroes 70° and orangutans 58°. He noted that Africans were the furthest removed from the Classical ideals of beauty, but believed that all races evolved from a common ancestor and he was opposed to slavery. It was only later that his results were taken up by overtly racist scientists. Camper developed and discussed his method of facial measurement in the 1760s and 70s but it was not formally published until the publication of the Verhandeling and its French translation in 1791, presumably at roughly the same time.
The other work, Redenvoeringen, is based on ‘lectures on the methods of representing the different passions in the human face; on the astounding similarity between quadrupeds, birds, fish, and man, and on the beauty of form … Only incomplete fragments of the same, with a number of sketches, were found after Camper's death. From these fragments the text for this edition was compiled and was then provided with explanatory outline drawings.’ (Choulant-Frank)
Both works were edited posthumously by the author's son Adrian Gilles Camper (1759–1820). These are the official French translations, published in the same year as the Dutch editions by the same publisher. They were widely disseminated and Camper's theories of physiognomy remained fashionable until the middle of the nineteenth century and the concept of the facial angle is still in use.
Literature: Choulant-Frank p. 286.
Keywords:     science of art    anthropology