Relaçaõ de hum horrivel e formidavel monstro. ANON.
Relaçaõ de hum horrivel e formidavel monstro.
Relaçaõ de hum horrivel e formidavel monstro.
Relaçaõ de hum horrivel e formidavel monstro.
A Portentous Rhinoceros.

Relaçaõ de hum horrivel e formidavel monstro.

Only edition of this pamphlet reporting the sudden appearance of a "horrific and formidable beast" outside Constantinople in 1735, and which the anonymous author asserts, with the authority of the Portuguese Inquisition backing him up, is a portent foretelling the demise of the Ottoman Empire. This Relaçaõ is a prime example of a literature popular in Portugal in the first half of eighteenth century, whereby exotic, monstrous beings—deformed housecats, outsize dogs, multiply-limbed humanoids, ship-sinking colossi, snakes coiled in bellies—were reported and interpreted in ways that often signaled either the fall of a national enemy, or the elevation of Christian Portugal, or both. Theses pamphlets, devoured by a wide reading public, bore a number of common features. They were often hastily printed in quarto on cheap paper; they usually were illustrated with crude woodcuts of the subject monsters; the texts were always an alchemy of fact and fiction, and were presented by anonymous authorities who cited witnesses of unassailable probity—doctors, clergy, scholars, travelers. The ephemeral pamphlets were sold in the streets by a confraternity called The Brotherhood of the Blind Men of the Infant Jesus, who since 1707 had enjoyed the exclusive privilege of distribution and sale of "monster books;" this group was universally condescended to, even by the printers who relied on the brotherhood to sell their works. Our Relaçaõ is most notable for its woodcut illustration of a beast clearly inspired by Albrecht Dürer's 1515 print of a rhinoceros, which art historian T. H. Clarke exclaimed was probably the most influential animal picture in the history of art. Dürer himself based his print on a sketch and a written description provided by a witness to an actual rhino brought from India to Lisbon by Portuguese mariners earlier that year. (Dürer never saw the animal in the flesh.) As such, popular culture in Portugal had already been invested by rhinoceros imagery for more than two centuries, and it made sense as a portent at a time when the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud I was a growing threat to Portuguese Christendom. According to our pamphlet, Mahmud I had forbidden anyone to speak of the appearance of the monster, and news of it only reached Lisbon because an escaped Christian slave carried it with him. After Lisbon was destroyed by an earthquake in 1755, with as many as 60,000 killed, portentous monster literature naturally vanished: no portent had told of that unimaginable disaster.

Full title: RELAÇAÕ | DE | HUM HORRIVEL, E FORMIDAVEL | MONSTRO. | QUE APPARECEO NO | IMPERIO DA TURQUIA | No preſente anno de 1735. | Tirada de cartas fidedignas eſcritas de | varios Reynos. | Com a copia verdadeira do | meſmo Monſtro. || [Woodcut ornament] || LISBOA OCCIDENTAL, | Officina de JOSEPH ANTONIO DA SYLVA, | Impreſſor da Academia Real. | [Rule]  M. DCC. XXXV. | Com todas licencas neceſſaires.

Lisbon: Joseph Antonio da Silva, 1735.

Quarto, 205 x 145 x 2 mm. [A]4 =7, [1] pp. Modern sewn dun wraps, unlettered. Covers separating at spine. Interior: Leaves foxed.


Acquired by W. S. Cotter from Daša Pahor Rare Books, Munich, in February, 2022. Unidentified shelf label to upper cover; cataloguer's notes in pen to inside upper cover. This copy evidently passed through the rooms of Eclectical Auctions in 2000.

PorBase finds a single copy, at the BnP; copies also located at Bavarian State Library, and at Princeton and Penn State in the US. Overlooked by Innôcencio. See also: Fontes da Costa, Palmira (ed.), O Corpo insólito: Dissertações sobre monstros no Portugal do século XVIlI, Lisbon: Porto 2004; Fontes da Costa, Palmira, "Between Fact and Fiction: Narratives of Monsters in Eighteenth-Century Portugal," Portuguese Studies, Vol. XX (2004), pp. 63-72; Subrahmanyam, Sanjay, Empires between Islam and Christianity, 1500-1800, SUNYP, 2018, pp. 312-3; and on Dürer, see Clarke, T. H. The Rhinoceros from Dürer to Stubbs: 1515–1799, London: Sotheby's, 1986, p. 20.

Item #233

Price: $5,200.00