There exists a book entitled “An Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa“. For several years, it was considered the authortative work on the customs and culture of what we now consider Taiwan in Britain. This amuses me to no end. The customs and culture described within are little short of ridiculous. In one section, it claims that “Men walked naked except for a gold or silver plate to cover their privates”. Yet, it was taken, if not seriously, to be worthy of curiosity by many educated gentry. True, it’s writer and backer did much to help with this claim: His strange habits included eating raw meat and sleeping upright in a chair, and was good at arguing the point. Still, even as a novelty, one must wonder how people were willing to suspend their disbelief to play such a game.
It is my intention to find a copy of, scan in high detail, and transcribe this gem of hoaxery. It’s an important historical document: It’s author and the claims within are referenced in “A Modest Proposal”. It’s also an interesting view of what a large world it seemed in the early 1700’s, and what people were willing to accept.