George Psalmanazar, Description of Formosa (London, 1704).

An early engraving of the elaborate funerary ceremonies practised on the island of Formosa, including mourners and elephants in procession. Or not. In reality George Psalmanazar was a Frenchman of unknown name who had certainly never been to Formosa, and had originally attempted to pass himself off as a Japanese convert to Christianity. Later he decided that he was in fact still a pagan, living on raw flesh and roots, and it was only after teaming up with Alexander Innes, a Scottish military chaplain, that he changed his nationality to that of Formosan, as at the time this was more obscure to European audiences. The deception published in this book was very comprehensive, with pictures of Formosan fashions and architecture. Psalmanazar even developed a Formosan alphabet and language in which he wrote a catechism.

Bequest of Thomas Gisborne.