“AND IF THESE SACRIFICES OF BEASTS ARE NOT SUFFICIENT… THEN INFANTS ARE TO BE OFFERED IN SACRIFICE UNTO HIM…”: PSALMANAAZAAR’S DESCRIPTION OF FORMOSA, 1704
PSALMANAAZAAR, George. An Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa, an Island Subject to the Emperor of Japan… By George Psalmanaazaar, a Native of the Said Land, now in London. London: Dan Brown et al., 1704. Octavo, modern full brown speckled calf, raised bands, red morocco spine label. $2500.
First edition of one of the most notorious and successful publishing hoaxes, with 15 plates (two folding).
Psalmanaazaar (actually a Frenchman whose real name was never discovered) originally presented himself in Europe as a Japanese. After teaming up with William Innes, he began presenting himself as a native of Formosa. “To improve his position, Psalmanaazaar, at Innes’s instigation, prepared a full account of what he alleged to be his early life and experiences… It was completed in two months, and was issued before the end of 1704, with a dedication to Bishop Compton, as An Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa, an Island subject to the Emperor of Japan. There was prefixed a long introduction, describing his reception in England, his travels, and his conversion to Protestantism. He seized every opportunity of abusing the Jesuits, a policy which commended the work to English churchmen. In a later section the language, dress, religious beliefs, and political constitution of Formosa were set forth in detail… the book met with much success.” When his mentor Innes abandoned him to become chaplain-general to the English forces in Portugal, Psalmanaazaar was unable to continue the imposture, and gradually lost credibility. By 1708, he was widely ridiculed in the press. Ex-library, with ink- and blind-stamps on the title page and dedication page.
Occasional light foxing, neat paper repair to folding plate of Formosan alphabet. Attractive binding fine.