Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2018 Issue

The Portable Lavater: Never judge a book by its forehead


Emmanuel Macron - fiery passions?

3. Emmanuel Macron, French President.


- The forehead: his forehead shows a cavity, sign of a “weak spirit, sometimes stubborn and limited.” It is also irregular, which means “irascibility”.

-The eyebrows: when “far apart from each other”, they tell of “a calm and serene spirit, quick to conceive things.”

- The eyes: blues eyes belong to “phlegmatic people”.

- The nose: aquiline noses betray an “imperious character driven by fiery passions.”

- The mouth:thick, well-drawn and proportioned lips” belong to “people unable to lie, to be mean or evil, but much inclined to sensuality.



Convincing? Not really. As a matter of fact, Lavater’s death ironically speaks out against his own “science”. When the French invaded Zurich, he helped an injured French soldier who, in return, shot him in the belly—shouldn’t have Lavater foretold the ingratitude of this man by the shape of his nose, the colour of his cheeks or something in his face? In physiognomy, all criteria are subjective, which is in total contradiction with our modern understanding of science. Notwithstanding, this “portable Lavater” is a very nice book, and a pleasant read. The portraits and their descriptions are fascinating, and very funny. I’m glad I bought this copy although I was, to tell you the truth with both my heart and face, quite hesitant at first. The modest binding—half violet cloth with basic paperboards—didn’t please me much. Thank God, I’ve learnt not to judge a book by its cover.



Thibault Ehrengardt

Rare Book Monthly

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