Early Printed Books by John Bulwer — A Pioneer in the Education of the Deaf in England

Our October 24 sale of Early Printed, Travel, Scientific & Medical Books brings an impressive offering of material that includes works by the late-Renaissance English doctor and philosopher John Bulwer.

Born in London in 1606, Bulwer was an important figure in the study of deafness, gesture, and the human body, as well as a pioneer the education of the Deaf in England. He published five works on the subject before his death in 1656. Set to come across the block are three first editions of Bulwer’s publications. Below we touch on the seventeenth-century medical texts and their importance.

 
 

Chirologia

 
 
John Bulwer, Chirologia, first edition, showing cover and title page, London, 1644.
John Bulwer, Chirologia, first edition, London, 1644. Estimate $1,500 to $2,500.
 

Chirologia: Or, The Natural Language of the Hand is present alongside the illustrated companion text Chironomia: Or, the Art of Manvall Rhetoricke. The publication is an exhaustive study of gesture that draws extensively on biblical and classical literature to describe and classify its uses in religious ritual, public oratory and stage performance. While this work mentions sign language among the deaf only tangentially, Bulwer would later go on to write the first work in English that dealt with deaf education—Philocophus.

 
John Bulwer, Chirologia, first edition, showing a page with etchings of hand gestures and their meanings, London, 1644.
John Bulwer, Chirologia, first edition, London, 1644. Estimate $1,500 to $2,500.
 
 

Philocophus

 
 
John Bulwer, Philocophus, first edition, showing cover and title page, London, 1648.
John Bulwer, Philocophus, first edition, London, 1648.
 

Philocophus: Or, The Deaf and Dumbe Mans Friend was published four years after Bulwer’s Chirologia. Philocophus brings forth several firsts: the work is the first of its kind to discuss the possibilities of educating the deaf through lipreading, and the first book in English published about the deaf. The present copy features an engraved allegorical title by William Marshall.

 
John Bulwer, Philocophus, first edition, showing a two page spread of title page, London, 1648.
John Bulwer, Philocophus, first edition, London, 1648. Estimate $1,000 to $2,000.
 

Since the publication of Bulwer’s seventeenth-century texts the ideas surrounding the community of people who are hard of hearing or Deaf has evolved. The National Association of the Deaf in America provides a current and nuanced look at the community, culture and preferred terminology of Deaf and hard-of-hearing people.

 
 

Anthropomentamophosis: Man Transformed

 
 
John Bulwer, Anthropometamorphosis, first edition, showing the cover with title page, London, 1650.
John Bulwer, Anthropometamorphosis: Man Transformed, first edition, London, 1650. Estimate $1,000 to $2,000.
 

Bulwer’s final work was Anthropometamorphosis: The Man Transformed; Or, The Artificiall Changeling presents a strong attack against the artificial alteration of natural human appearance. The work includes an exhaustive inventory of forms of body modifications practiced in Europe and non-European societies as examples.

 
John Bulwer, Anthropometamorphasis, first edition, etching of different faces in rows of four, London, 1650.
John Bulwer, Anthropometamorphosis: Man Transformed, first edition, London, 1650. Estimate $1,000 to $2,000.
 

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October 21, 2019
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Category: Books