Natural Disasters, Prodigies, Wonders & Gruesome Tales

METEOROLOGY. ASTRONOMY. PORTENTS. Crouch, Nathaniel [pseud. Robert Burton](c. 1640-1725)

The Surprizing Miracles of Nature and Art.

London: Printed for Nath. Crouch, at the Bell next Kemp’s Coffee-House in Exchange- Alley, 1683


Duodecimo: 14.2 x 8.4 cm. A-K12

SECOND EDITION (first ed. 1676).

Contemporary mottled calf rebacked. With an engraved frontispiece, and five full-page engravings of natural and supernatural disasters (prodigies, apparitions, the eruption of Mt. Etna), and the 7 wonders of the world. Fine condition with only some occasional minor foxing and light damp-staining (affecting the lower part of two plates.)

In this populist work, the prolific printer, author, and publisher Nathaniel Crouch describes comets, meteorological phenomena, prodigious plagues of various birds and animals, and tales of desperation and disaster. A copy of the book was owned by the young Ben Franklin. The illustration on the title page shows an astronomer viewing, through a telescope, the four comets visible from England between 1664 and 1682. The last of these is Halley's.

In addition to the wondrous prodigies, Crouch includes numerous eye-witness accounts of various phenomena of scientific interest, including an English translation of Athanasius Kircher's 1638 exploration of the volcanic Phlegraean Fields near Naples, and his daring descent into Mount Vesuvius (p. 147), from his "Mundus Subterraneous". There is also a letter from the Earl of Winchilsea describing the eruption of Aetna in 1669.

Some of the tales are shockingly macabre, such as that of the starving German woman who strangled her daughter with her own hair-ribbon, hacked her to pieces with a hoe, and cooked and ate her head and part of her body before selling off the rest to her neighbors.

The title reads in full:

"The surprizing miracles of nature and art, in two parts. Containing I. The miracles of nature, or the strange signs and prodigious aspects and appearances in the heavens, the earth, and the waters for many hundred years past, with an account of the most famous comets, an other prodigies, since the birth of our Blessed Saviour, and the dreadful effects of many of them: also a particular description of the five blazing stars seen in England, within eighteen years last past, and abundance of other unaccountable accidents and productions of all kinds, till 1682. II. The miracles of art, describing the most magnificent buildings, and other curious inventions in all ages, as Solomons temple, the seven wonders of the world, and many more excellent structures and rarities throughout the whole earth."

ESTC R11001; Wing 7349