Kirby's Wonderful and Eccentric Museum; or, Magazine of Remarkable Characters, including all the Curiosities of Art and Nature, from the remotest period to the present time. Drawn from every authentic Source ( 6 vols. ).
London: R. S. Kirby, 1820. First Edition. Hardcovers. Royal octavos. Six volume set. Vol.I: viii + 476pp.; Vol.II: 490pp.; Vol.III: 434pp.; Vol.IV: 432pp.; Vol.V: 428pp.; Vol.VI: 492pp. Publisher's original decorated cloth lettered in gilt on spines. Indexes in each volume (except for Vol. I which has a "Contents" at the front of the volume instead). B/w engraved frontispieces & plates. A six-volume compilation of accounts of notable eccentrics, freaks (human and otherwise), inventions, etc. - though the entries seem slanted towards the subject of the more unusual aspects of humanity. Some of the hundreds of subjects covered include: extraordinary animals, ballooning, bizzare punishments, boiling fountains, child prodigies, cross-dressers, dwarfs, extraordinary burials, conjuring, eccentrics,foxes, ghosts, giants, gypsies, hermits, long-livers, mermaids, misers, odd crimes, pygmies, self-crucifixion, strange murders, ventriliquism, visions, witches, etc. etc. The work was apparently produced by R. S. Kirby, a London bookseller, who had had worked for one Alexander Hogg, publisher of a similar cabinet of curiosities, the "Wonderful Magazine and Marvellous Chronicle" which appeared in parts in the late eighteenth century. The two apparently worked together in the early years of the nineteenth century on another "Wonderful Magazine", until Kirby allegedly purloined not only Hogg's ideas, but much of his work, producing his own "Wonderful Magazine." A lawsuit followed, but Kirby continued to publish, producing his "Kirby's Wonderful and Scientific Museum" in parts between 1803 and 1820. The present set, "Kirby's Wonderful and Eccentric Museum," is said to have been largely a reissue of "Kirby's Wonderful and Scientific Museum" but with new title pages etc. As Mike Dash has observed in his excellent Charle Fort Institute blog on the subject, Kirby was not simply a plagiarist, but keenly sought out material himself: "Kirby himself appears to have been present at the remarkable 1804 trial of Francis Smith for the murder of the 'Hammersmith Ghost'..." The title-page announces that the work has "One hundred and twenty four illustrations" but this is presumably an error: the sets actually has 113 plates which tally exactly with the total listed as included in the individual volumes (the plates include 6 frontis-pieces, 1 folding, and 1 with two portraits). Some fraying to cloth around edges of spines, page-edges browned, Vol.I ends at the last text page, so the final blank leaf and rear free endpaper are missing; the inside front hinge of Vol.II is reinforced with clear tape; most of the endpaper hinges in the other volumes have been split & subsequently crudely repaired; occasional foxing to plates & pages; previous owner's names on front pastedowns, with a bookplate on the front pastedown of Vol.IV. Despite its flaws a solid, complete, G+ example of this rare set. Item #54539