Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The History of Lapland

Frontispiece to History of Lapland
This book is just so cool. It is the first English translation of John Scheffer's The History of Lapland (1674). The frontispiece shows the title printed on an unfurled reindeer skin flanked by two Laplanders in their exotic headdress with their even more exotic modes of transportation (skis!). Below, another figure sews together a skin boat. The book is filled with early ethnographic information and woodcuts illustrating the customs and manners of a people that the author finds far more interesting than those newly encountered peoples of America.

Woodcut of a man and woman leading a reindeer
We won't vouch for its accuracy, but the book boasts of its scholarly credentials. Written by a "professor of law and rhetoric" at Uppsala and based on his direct observations and interviews, it is an example of early anthropology. But, it has a second claim for scholarly significance: the imprint is "At the Theater in Oxford." Purportedly, this the first anthropological text published by Oxford University Press.

It is a beautiful book that is worth your time. Come in and ask for Stefansson DL 971.L2 S5 1674.