George Psalmanazar

George Psalmanazar was a historical person. He was born in 1679 and claimed that he was the first inhabitant of the island of Formosa, who visited Europe. It appeared in Northern Europe around 1700. Although Psalmanazar was dressed in European clothes and looked like a European, he claimed that he had come from the remote island of Formosa, where he had previously been captured by the aborigines. To prove this, he told in detail about their traditions and culture. Inspired by the success, Psalmanazar later published the book ‘A Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa, an Island subject to the Emperor of Japan.’ According to Psalmanazar, indigenous people of the island walked completely naked, and snakes were the favorite food of the Islanders. They allegedly preached polygamy, and the husband had a right to eat his wife for infidelity. He claimed that aborigines executed murderers, hanging them upside down, and annually sacrificed 18,000 young men to the gods. Also, the islanders rode horses and camels. The book had great success, and Psalmanazar himself began to give lectures on the history of the island. After six years, in 1706, George Psalmanazar became bored with this game, and he admitted that he had just fooled everyone. The Proposer, obviously, is unaware of this sad truth and bases some of his suggestions on Psalmanazar’s stories. He claims that on the island of Formosa the hangman usually sells the body of a young man executed to notable people, as the highest good and delicacy. Once the body of one plump fifteen-year-old girl, crucified for an attempt to poison the emperor, was sold in parts directly from the cross to the First Minister and other noble court people for four hundred crowns and everyone was satisfied.

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George Psalmanazar in the Essays