THE CACTUS HUMANUS, METHODICALLY, VIZ.; INDUCTIVELY & DEDUCTIVELY, TREATED, ANALYZED, & ILLUSTRATED, BY ALBIGRAECUS CACATUS PEDO, TRANSLATED FROM THE LATIN MS., FREELY ANNOTATED, & PROVIDED WITH AN ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION AND APPENDIX, BY BEAUMONT & FLETCHE
[Reading, PA]: np, 1875. First Edition. Original manuscript of 42 leaves, plus two hand-drawn plates. In contemporary composition book of sheep-backed marbled (tourniquet) boards; inked in a fine though unusual hand on blue-lined, chain-laid paper with calligraphic title and dedication pages. Leather spine perished; boards detached; several leaves separated from the text block; old soil and staining to dedication leaf. Else apparently complete; fair to good only, but fresh and fully legible condition. (Item ID: 12590)
An eccentric piece of 19th-century scholarly humor, the more remarkable for being the product of a small, provincial American city. The author, using the pseudonym of "Beaumont & Fletcher," purports to present a scholarly translation of a medieval Latin MS by one "Albigraecus Cacatus Pedo" (which loosely translates as "Dog Turd - Shit Foot") on the many shapes, varieties, and life-histories of the "Cactus Humanus," the authorís euphemism for the singular unit of human excretion, or, if one prefers...the turd. Using the language and format of nineteenth-century scholarly botanical treatises (with which he is clearly familiar), the author delineates the taxonomy of various "Cactus" species, including sub-species and local variations. Throughout, the text is peppered with multilingual puns (Horace: "Ö"Exegi monumentum aere perennius"); broad double-entendres ("Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness on the desert air"); and pseudo-scholarly references to imaginary works by both real and non-existent authors. A detailed and fully-realized parody, some 7500 words in length, accompanied by two finely rendered plates of figures (laid in) ñ the first keyed to passages in the text; the second a "pictorial history of the development of conservatories" (i.e., "privies" - above left). A work of Swiftian brilliance with a heaping measure of Sterne thrown in, a hilariously modern (or even postmodern) piece of Merdiana.