"The Young Savage" from the 1820 edition of Kirby's Wonderful and Eccentric Museum
"The Young Savage", 1820, Kirby's Wonderful and Eccentric Museum
Victor of Aveyron was a young boy of twelve found in the woods in Southern France in 1798. Victor was found with various scars on his back that were theorized to be the result of living in the wild for almost six years, although the marks may also been the result of familial abuse prior to abandonment. After being housed by a couple of different hosts, he was taken under the wing of a physician named Jean Marc Gaspard Itard.
The physician was curious to study the young boy, who they believed, knew nothing of civilization and learning. He then attempted to teach the boy to speak and read. While the young boy eventually adapted somewhat to the others around him and learned to express his desires through signs, such as handing his caretakers a jacket when he wanted to go outside or giving them a bowl when hungry, he never learned to say or read more than two words: "Dieu" (god) and "lait" (milk).
19th century fascination with Victor relates to the concept of the Noble Savage. During the Enlightenment, writers such as Rousseau and Locke championed the idea that men are shaped by nurturing and the influence of civilization. They said that we all begin as blank slates, and theorized that a man isolated from society and raised in nature would be what they called a "noble savage." Victor, they insisted, was such a being whose intents and thoughts were innocent, motivated only by the simplest of instincts. Unremarkably, this idea was well-accepted at the time and contributed to a colonial mindset that insisted foreign cultures were primitive and inferior.
Although not as successful as he may have hoped, the studies conducted by Itard are significant as a precursor to modern-day education for the deaf. However, historians have agreed that Victor, along with many other "feral" children, were most likely autistic. At the time, autism was not well understood and rarely if ever treated, and many autistic children were often abandoned by their families.
Kirby's Wonderful and Eccentric Museum is a rare collection that was issued in six volumes, and featured over a hundred engravings of a series of characters regarded by Victorian audiences as entertaining for their perceived physical deformities, strange occupations, or personalities, and include a collection of misers, feral children, and dwarves.
Plate size: 5" x 7.75"
Sheet size: 5.50" x 8.75"
Condition: Some minor foxing outside of plate, but otherwise in fine condition