John Bulwer: A view of the people of the whole world (1654)


William Hunt, London. Leatherbound.

Full title: “A view of the people of the whole world: Or, a short survey of their policies, dispositions, natural deportments, complexions, ancient and moderne customes, manners, habits & fashions. A work every where adorned with philosophicall, morall and historicall observations on the occasions of their mutations & changes throughout all ages.” Running head: “Man Transform’d: Or, The Artificiall Changling.” Photos showing book’s condition and all woodcuts here. I am posting high-resolution images of all the woodcuts on Twitter.

Desmond Morris adored Bulwer and his View was one of Morris’ six favourite books: “The first serious attempt at creating a comparative anthropology. Bulwer, a London doctor, was intrigued by the ways in which different human societies decorated or modified the human body. Each chapter deals with a different part of the body, including oral monstrosities, lip gallantry and tooth rites.” As well as beard-haters, face-painters and eyebrow-abusers. The Appendix of the Pedigree of the English Gallant shows the debt of Early Modern English fashion to supposed savages – “Bulwer may view some practices of remote tribes as laughable or barbaric, but no more laughable or barbaric than those of the ‘civilised’ world.”

The 1650 first edition was unillustrated and entitled “Anthropometamorphosis: Man Transform’d, or the Artificial Changeling. Historically presented, in the mad and cruel Gallantry, foolish Bravery, ridiculous Beauty, filthy Fineness, and loathesome Loveliness of most Nations, fashioning & altering their Bodies from the Mould intended by Nature. With a Vindication of the Regular Beauty and Honesty of Nature, and an Appendix of the Pedigree of the English Gallant.” The 1653 edition (downloadable PDF) was much enlarged and illustrated with numerous woodcuts showing body modification and decoration old and new, near and far. The 1654 edition is a reprint of 1653, retitled and dedicated to “Thomas Gibbs, gent.”

559 pages + index + advertising, early binding, ca. 175 woodcuts (some repeated), 18 x 14 x 7.5 cm.

Provenance. Possibly acquired by Simon Jones of Bala (1805-73), draper, Congregationalist preacher & Cromwellian tub-thumping orator in Merioneth. The notion that this was part of the extraordinary library of sexual psychology and deviance kept by his grandson, Dr. Thomas Trevor ApSimon (1880-1976), in his Keynsham greenhouse, where he chain-smoked and sunbathed naked, is undermined by the relatively good condition of the pages.

Contact me to discuss mailing/insurance etc. Delivery in person within six miles of Homerton Hospital, London.


Condition: Collectible – Acceptable. Front and back covers separated from spine, spine cracked down centre and some stitching loose at that point, some discoloration on content page edges, small tear on one page, pages otherwise in good condition. Markings: “Henry Laidlaw” on title page, £1 3s 0d (?) on previous verso, “[deleted] 1790” on previous recto. ISBN: none. Box MC13

Out of stock


From the library of the archaeologist Arthur ApSimon (1927-2019). Reminiscences and obituaries in Salon (Society of Antiquaries), Mike Pitts’ Digging Deeper, Proceedings of the University of Bristol Spelæological Society, Cornish Archaeology (paywall).

The circa 500 books to be sold will be listed here gradually, and additional photos and details may appear. Updates may be posted on the blog (subscribe to the RSS feed or the mailing list in the right-hand column) and, more probably, on Twitter. Ask Trevor stuff here.

A watercolour of Stonehenge by the young Arthur ApSimon.