John Caspar Lavater, Essays on Physiognomy, trans. T. Holcroft ( 1789), 9th edn. ( London: William Tegg, 1855), 6-7, 9-10, 54-5, 64-5, 339-40, 379-84, 400-3.
Although Lavater's work spawned numerous imitators, this work remained the crucial text on physiognomy for the general reader through the nineteenth century. The extracts highlight the religious base of Lavater's theories, and the skills he deemed necessary for physiognomical analysis. We include guidelines for interpreting those two crucial physiognomical features, the forehead and eyes, and Lavater's reflections on the relationship between race, sex, and physiognomy.
Man [...] is in himself the most worthy subject of observation, as he likewise is himself the most worthy observer. Under whatever point of view he may be considered, what is more worthy of contemplation than himself? In him each species of life is conspicuous; yet never can his properties be wholly known, except by the aid of his external form, his body, his superficies. How spiritual, how incorporeal soever, his internal essence may be, still is he only visible and conceivable from the harmony of his constituent parts. From these he is inseparable. He exists and moves in the body he inhabits, as in his element. This material man must become the subject of observation. All the knowledge we can obtain of man must be gained through the medium of our senses. [...]
The moral life of man, particularly, reveals itself in the lines, marks and transitions of the countenance. His moral powers and desires, his irritability, sympathy, and antipathy; his facility of attracting or repelling the objects that surround him; these are all summed up in, and painted upon, his countenance when at