L'uomo delinquente in rapporto all' antropologia, giurisprudenza ed alle discipline carcerarie. Delinquente, nato e pazzo morale.

Lombroso, Ezecchia-Marco (“Cesare”), 1835-1909.

Torino : Fratelli Bocca, 1884.

Description, 3rd ed. : xxxv p., 610 p., [17 l.] pl. ; ill.: 5 phots., 12 liths., engrs., tbls., ; 24 cm.

Photographs : 5 composite photolithographs, thumbnail portraits of male and female offenders.

Printer : Doyen (Camillo, Michele, & Leonardo).

Subject : Brain — Functional disorders ; anthropology (criminal).

Notes :

Un'altra mancanza grave, quindi, cui dobbiamo riparare in questa edizione è quella di segnalare quante volte il tipo criminale si manifesti completo, in opposizione a quanto accade nei normali, e quante volte ei si riscontri non solamente nei criminali, celebri, recidivi più volte, ma nei comuni, in tutti coloro che ebbero a commettere azioni criminose, che, se non sono tutti antropologicamente criminali, lo sono giuridicamente.

Per colmare questa lacuna e per colmarla in modo di non poter essere accusato di parzialità nella scelta dei tipi, avendo ottenuto il permesso di cavare copia dall'Album criminale germanico, ho pregato l'ill. prof. Liszt di spedirmene, egli, senza una scelta speciale, le fotografie che qui riproduco col metodo lito-fotografico, aggiungendovi alcune pubblicate nella quarta pagina dei giornali, tanto più significanti, inquantochè destinate a ottenerne l'arresto e fatte eseguire dalle polizie locali, e così pure quelle pubblicate nel Police Journal di New-York, che mi permettevano di studiare così anche i tipi degli anglo-americani criminali (Page 258: »»).

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His instruments were imperfect, his calibrations error-prone, and his corpus often tautological. Notwithstanding these weaknesses, Lombroso's contributions to psychiatry, and his agency as the founder of the Italian school of criminal anthropology, were pivotal in the nineteenth century shift from classical science to a statistics-generated and less rhetorical methodology (positivism). In the early 1880's, coinciding with the launch of his journal, Archivio di Psichiatria, Lombroso took up the camera to defend against his critics and counterclaim with quick, accessible, and visible records of his observations on the physiognomic anomalies (stigmata) in the criminal man. An indexical criminal type – revealed by careful measurements of facial features, such as prognathism, a beaked nose, sessile ears – could also be enumerated by the photographic portrait. Cross-referencing of statistics with portraits was more persuasive than numbers or tables standing alone on the page. Photographs added dimension to the evidence he provided to support his theoretical insights into Darwinian throw-backs (atavism). Lombroso was not the first to advocate for scientific photography, nor even for a photographic medium to serve law enforcement. As early as 1856, Norman Chevers wrote on the promising utility of the camera to identify and control offenders, published in his textbook, A manual of medical jurisprudence for India. The third edition was illuminated with the photograph of a murdered rape victim, possibly the first published example of its kind. But whereas Chevers believed in the transformational power of photography, its potential to shock a perpetrator into confessing his crime, for Lombroso the camera was simply a propositional device he could use to expose the congenital retrogression of the "nato criminale." Plate 9 of L'uomo delinquente, titled, "Fotografia di tre assassini Ravennati," shows three assassins celebrating their bloody coup with a re-enactment staged in a photographer's studio (1884: »»). In Lombroso's eyes, this cold-blooded pantomime was a marker of a felon's emotional insensitivity and was tied to a deeper, biological insensitivity to pain, a trait that he could measure in the laboratory with the induction coils of an algometer.

By the third edition of L'uomo delinquente, Lombroso's dedication to the camera was all-in. The assassins photograph – reproduced as a rough sketch pasted onto page 65 in the first edition – was now a skillfully rendered lithograph. There are a total of five composite photolithographs introduced and supplementing a new chapter titled, "Fotografie e tipi di criminali." Plate 5 is a photomontage of police sketches extracted from newspapers, similar to Plate 4. Centrally prominent in Plate 7 is the death mask of a "libidine," who had raped and pimped his daughter, boxed in with four thumbnail portraits of other sexual deviants (p. 268: »»). Lombroso calls attention to the bulging eyes, narrowed palpebral fissure, full lips, and protruding tongue that he believed were stigmatic of the libidinous criminal. Plates 4, 6, and 10 are slightly altered and re-issued photomontages from two of his papers – "Album of German criminals" and "Physionomy of the female criminal" – published in Archivio di Psichiatria, and intended to deflect criticism that came from a Dorpat University professor (1883: »» & »»).

Lombroso defended his work at length in the preface, but a growing international reputation accrued to the number of his detractors, particular the French forensic psychiatrists led by Léonce-Pierre Manouvrier (1850-1927), Paul Topinard (1830-1911), and Alexandre Lacassagne (1843-1924). The following year, an especially stinging refutation of Lombroso's monograph was published by an Italian jurist, Aristide Gabelli (1830-1891), who declared that Lombroso was resuscitating the pseudoscience of Gall and Lavater. Referring to the sweet countenances of the Ravenna assassins in the lithograph, he dismisses Lombroso's theory of a criminal physiognomy (1885, p. 582: »»). Again Lombroso defended his work, this time with a Polemica, in which he responded to Gabelli's attacks with a rhetorical question:

"Now, between him who writes a critique while ignoring, or pretending to ignore, that there existed under his eyes 302 photographs from which to form an opinion more serious than from a single lithograph – and myself, who offers this way to verify my observations – who is more biased, who better arms himself against prejudices?" (1886, p. 7: »»).

It is also revealed in the polemic, that Lombroso had begun conducting sociological experiments with photographs. To test for human perceptivity of face and character – a native intelligence that he believed was shared by most people – he would divvy up a random selection of portraits and ask his test subject to pick out the faces of criminals. This would work, in theory, even for a grouping in which a potential felon had not yet committed his crime, but still could be identified as an atavistic type. In the example Lombroso provides, three doctors were presented with a collection of 200 photographs from which they were able to identify the potential criminal, eventually proven correct. The same test was given to a 12 year-old school girl, with the same outcome (1886, p. 7: »»). For experiments conducted in the laboratory, Lombroso adapted Morro's plethysmograph to test the physiological responses and emotional reactions of a felon exposed to various stimuli, including photographs of nude women. His subjects were young, ages 19 to 26, because, citing Darwin, the sign of blushing diminishes with age. The data with its charts were reported in a study titled, "La reazione vasale nei delinquentei e nei pazzi" (1884, p. 5-12: »»), and included in the monograph beginning on page 348. Although, strictly speaking, he was testing sensitivity to psychic and physical pain, and not deceptive behavior, the study can be considered the first use of a polygraph, attested by his daughter in the English edition:

My father sometimes made successful use of the plethysmograph to discover whether an accused person was guilty of the crime imputed to him, by mentioning it suddenly while his hands were in the plethysmograph or placing the photograph of the victim unexpectedly before his eyes (Lombroso-Ferrero, Gina, Criminal Man ; 1911, p. 226: »»).

Fourth edition.

An enlarged fourth edition, in two volumes with additional photographic plates, was released in 1889. However, it was preceded by its French number in 1887, probably transcribing a work in progress. The French title, L'homme criminel, came with a separate atlas for the plates, 32 in number, including two additional photo plates – nos. 15 & 25. The following year, an expanded reissue of the atlas was produced, more closely aligned with the forthcoming Italian edition, and augmented by eight plates for a total of 40 in number, including three more photographic plates – nos. 36, 37, & 38 (1888: »»). The Italian edition came with thirty plates in Volume 1 and sixteen plates in Volume 2, with plate numbers corresponding to the volume in which they appeared (1889, vol. 1: »» & vol. 2: »»). There are also a few in-text phototypes adorning the Italian edition.

As was true for the third edition of L'uomo criminale, much of the new material in the fourth edition was comprised of redacted texts that first appeared in the Lombroso Archivio. The most significant change, besides the two-volume format, was the addition of sections on epileptoid criminality and criminality of the insane, both illustrated with composites of thumbnail portraits (1889, vol. 2, p. 1: »» & vol. 2, p. 169: »»). The chapter on epilepsy was a revision of a paper titled, "Identità dell' epilessia colla pazzia morale e delinquenza congenita," published with the plate in Volume 6 of the Archivio (1885, p. 1: »»), and updated for the French translation, presented orally before the First International Congress of Criminal Anthropology held in Rome in 1885 and published in its proceedings (1886-7, p. 231: »»). The chapter on the criminally insane was an expanded reprint of a paper titled, "I pazzi criminali," published with its two plates in Volume 9 of the Archivio (1888, p. 156: »»).

Besides the three new composite photolithographs of criminal portraits, there were also two photo plates of skulls introduced in the fourth edition – nos. 4, & 4-bis, both in Volume 1 of the Italian monograph (nos. 25 and 38 in the French atlas). Plate 4 was a reprint from a paper titled, "Note anatomiche ed antropologiche sopra 60 crani e 42 encefali di donne criminali italiane," written by Serafino Varaglia and Bernardino Silva, published in Volume 6 of the Archivio (1885, p. 113: »»). Plate 4-bis represented superimposed photographs of skulls after the Galton method of composite photography and was a reprint of a plate accompanying a letter published in Volume 9 of the Archivio, addressed to his mentor:

A. MOLESCHOTT. Dedico a voi, che primo e per tanto tempo, solo fra gli scienziati italiani, comprendeste e favoriste l'incremento dell'antropologia, questa nota su un esperimento che mi pare coroni l'edificio nostro (1888, p. 416: »» ; see also: Revue Scientifique, v. 41, p. 731: »» ).

Francis Galton was a natural ally, both men were inveterate collectors of physio- and psychometric data. It can be argued that Lombroso became an enthusiast of scientific photography through Galton's study of prisoners, conducted in 1878, although I don't believe he learned of the "metodo Galtoniano" before 1882, when the composites were first published in the Notices of the Royal Institution (1882, vol. 9, p. 168: »»). That is also around the time he would have gotten letters about the misspelling and misplacing of Galton's name in a review of the paper, written by Stefano Branca for the Archivio (1882, vol. 3, p. 493: »»).

Ghosts in the negative.

It is difficult to grasp why, after a lifetime of scholarly achievements built on skeptical inquiry, Lombroso would focus his science on the parlor tricks of a spiritual medium like Eusapia Paladino (1854-1918). Or grasp why, given his familiarity with the multiple exposure techniques that Galton used to produce a generic portrait, he would write with credulity on the false manipulations of a spirit photographer like William H. Mumler (1832–1884). Lombroso's final published work was a romp into the occult titled, After death – what?: Spiritistic phenomena and their interpretation, with a chapter on photographing ghosts, illustrated by laughable images of phantoms that are less spooky, and considerably more carnate, than any Galton photograph (1909: »»). Lombroso's first investigation of Eusapia Paladino took place in 1891, more than a decade after he was first contacted by her manager, "Professor" Ercole Chiaia (d. 1905). He later reported on his observations of a seance in Volume 28 of the Archivio from which was extracted a large portion of the monograph (1907, p. 472: »»). There are two plausible interpretations that can be filtered out of the sum of cynical reactions to Lombroso's late work. The first is that he was caught up in the collective folly surrounding the remarkable Mrs. Palladino, who was able to transfix the minds of a great many distinguished doctors and scientists. For a while, even Marie and Pierre Curie were spellbound by her extraordinary abilities to deceive, though they, better than anyone, had insights into phosphorescent paint or the chicanery of a psychic's hands, dusted with a radioactive powder and transferring, in Lombroso's words, "..the impression of four fingers made by her on a prepared photographic plate covered with three sheets of very dark paper" (p. 188). The preferable interpretation, however, is that to a highly disciplined and consummate positivist, like Lombroso, it simply does not matter what the subject is, anything can be investigated for its properties, real or potentially real, the median occipital fossa or a ghost of a concept. Lombroso's last brush with photography should be reconsidered as a work of science for science's sake.

Yet, for all this, I would not undertake to overthrow the positivist theory. I do not propose (need I say it?) to break a lance in defence of pure disembodied spirits, — which are, besides, beings of which we can form no conception, — but of bodies the substance of which is so subtile and refined as to be both imponderable and invisible except in special circumstances; such as the radio-active bodies, which have the power of emitting light and heat, and even other bodies (helium), without apparently losing any weight whatever (p. 187).

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