Signs and Portents: Monstrous Births from the Middle Ages to the Age of Enlightenment

Author Name: 
Dudley Wilson
As reports in the popular press often illustrate, the fascination with monstrous births is still with us. Whether as objects of salacious curiosity, medical study, or as signs and portents, monstrous births have been studied throughout history, yet comparatively little has been written to explore this peculiar interest. In "Signs and Portents" , Wilson charts the changes in attitude to monstrous births from the Renaissance to the 19th century. Drawing on a wealth of printed sources throughout Europe, many of which are little known to scholars, he shows how monsters were interpreted in the 16th century as mysterious visitations from God, auguring bad times and bewitchment. Through the Enlightenment these ideas gradually changed to include the natural historian's curiosity in the strange and wondrous, before monsters increasingly came to be seen as problems for medicine to understand. Illustrated with quotations from an abundance of pamphlets and books, as well as including unfamiliar illustrations, "Signs and Portents" is the first full-length study of monstrous births for over half a century. This book should be of interest to undergraduates and postgraduates; history, history of medicine and history of ideas.