The Hungarian "Monster" - The Conjoined Sisters Ilona and Judit Gófitz


Disputatio medica de Monstro Hungarico.

Leipzig, Christian Goez, 1707


Quarto: 19 x 15 cm. 20 p. A-C4


Bound in modern speckled boars, spine worn. A nice copy, lightly foxed, complete with the engraved frontispiece showing the conjoined sisters at age 22.

A description of the conjoined Hungarian twins, Ilona and Judit Gófitz, who were born at Szőny on October 19, 1701, and who lived, without being separated, to adulthood. From the age of 2 until the age of 9 the girls were "exhibited" throughout Europe.

The sisters were examined by numerous physicians and scientists, and an account of the twins was read before the Royal Society in May 1708. The girls were conjoined at the buttocks (their spines were fused from the second vertebra of the sacrum down through the coccyx) and shared a single rectum. They also shared a single vulva but had separate vaginal tracts, with the result that they menstruated and urinated independently. (In his poem "celebrating" the twins, Alexander Pope tastelessly described the intimate details of their anatomy and bodily functions.) The girls were unable to master walking in unison, with the result that one needed to drag the other along behind her. They shared no physical sensation except at the point where they were joined. The present account, written by Georg Christian Werther, describes the girls at the age of six, at which age the weaker of the two, Judit, suffered a stroke and became paralyzed on one side of her body.

At the age of nine, after seven years of enduring the exhibition circuit, the girls entered the convent of St. Ursula in Presburg, where they lived for the remainder of their days. Although they suffered from most illnesses independently, when they reached the age of twenty-two, Judit suffered what was probably another severe stroke. Her sister Ilona remained well for several days, but then declined rapidly. Both girls died within moments of each other, on February 8, 1723.