GHOSTLY ILLUSIONS

Trugbilder: Eine Anleitung Erscheinungen, auf optischer Täuschung beruhend, nach Belieben hervorzuheben und wissenschaftliche Erklärung derselben … mit 10 Illustrationen und 16 colorirten Taflen. 

Stuttgart, Rieger, 1865. 

4to, pp. 16, with hand-coloured lithographic frontispiece and 15 lithographic plates (of which 12 hand-coloured); 10 further woodcut illustrations printed in-text; some foxing and spotting throughout the text, and marginal tear to foot of plate 3, plates largely clean; in the publisher’s illustrated cloth-backed boards; somewhat worn and soiled, short cracks to hinges, but sound.

£1250

Approximately:
US $1556€1454

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Trugbilder: Eine Anleitung Erscheinungen, auf optischer Täuschung beruhend, nach Belieben hervorzuheben und wissenschaftliche Erklärung derselben … mit 10 Illustrationen und 16 colorirten Taflen. 

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First German edition, rare, of this fascinating study of mirages and optical illusions, in particular ghostly apparitions, in which the author attempts to demonstrate using the principles of optics how they might appear, with the aim of proving the absurdity of the superstitions to which they give rise. 

Although the subject and scheme of the work are taken from John Brown’s Spectropia, or surprising spectral illusions, first published in London in 1864 and quickly both republished and translated into other languages, the introductory text here is Refell’s and the illustrations within it are new, albeit in most instances closely copying Brown’s.  In each plate, the reader is invited to look for fifteen seconds at a small mark on each of the coloured images of ghosts, and then to look at a white wall, whereupon the eye will continue to see the colour and the shape of the image.  Although the intent is to demonstrate facts about sight and perception, the choice of ghosts and demons for the images was deliberate, as the author wanted to show that what might seem magical or supernatural could be easily explained by science. 

For notes on Brown’s work and its context, see J. Wachelder, ‘Toys as mediators’ in Icon 13 (2007), pp. 135-169; see Nekes Collection Catalogue 350.  Outside Continental Europe, OCLC records copies at the British Library, the Library of Congress, Cincinnati, Princeton, and Yale. 

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