John Bulwer, Anthropometamorphosis

Originally posted at, the now-discontinued blog of the OU History of Science Collections. Neither this post nor any of its content should be taken as an official communication of the University of Oklahoma.

Bulwer-1653-466.jpgBulwer-1653-460.jpgRecent acquisition: In 1653, an English physician, John Bulwer (1606-1656), published a curious work in comparative cultural anthropology entitled Anthropometamorphosis: Man Transform’d (London, 590 pages).

Bulwer presented abundant woodcut illustrations of all manners known to him of decorating or transforming the human body, whether ancient or modern, New World or Old. For example, Bulwer depicted tattooing, scarring, circumcisions, binding, lip-piercing, ear-piercing, and the growing of the fingernails.

Bulwer discussed subjects as diverse as women’s maladies, cosmetics, eunuchs, deformities, tooth-rites, breast feeding, children, and monstrosities. An author of five published books, Bulwer is best known for his work on methods for communicating with the deaf via gestures.

View Bulwer image gallery.

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