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The Forbidden Experiment: The Story of the Wild Boy of Aveyron

Shattuck, Roger

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ISBN 10: 0374157553 / ISBN 13: 9780374157555
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 1980
From Warwick Books, member IOBA (South Pasadena, CA, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

Hardcover with dustjacket. 8vo. First edition. Book and jacket are in fine condition. Glossy photograph of author and review slip laid in. Not price-clipped. 220 pp. Bookseller Inventory # 11388

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Forbidden Experiment: The Story of the ...

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York

Publication Date: 1980

Binding: Hardcover

Dust Jacket Condition: Dust Jacket Included

Edition: 1st Edition

About this title


Just before dawn on January 9, 1800, a mysterious creature emerged from a forest in southern France. Although he was human in form and walked upright, his habits were those of a young male animal. He was wearing only a tattered shirt, but did not seem troubled by the cold. Showing no modesty about his nakedness, he ate greedily, seizing roasted potatoes from a hot fire. He seemed to have no language skills, only grunting occasionally. A cause celebre developed over the question of what should be done with this puzzling wild boy. People wondered: Could he learn to speak? Or be taught to eat with a knife and fork?


On a cold morning just a few days into the year 1800, the citizens of the southern French village of Saint-Sernin awoke to a strange vision: a hairy boy, naked, who appeared as if by some witchcraft from the nearby woods. Captured while digging up vegetables from a tanner's garden, the boy did not--could not--speak. Instead, he emitted a few weird cries, trying to hide himself from his puzzled captors.

The next day, the gendarmes took the boy to a hospice in a nearby town. From there, writes the historian and literary scholar Roger Shattuck, his path took this "prisoner without a crime," now called Victor, into the studies and laboratories of revolutionary France, where the boy presented a rare homegrown instance of Rousseau's "noble savage" to the civilized world. Much scholarly and scientific debate surrounded him. Finally, Victor, now famed as the "wild boy of Aveyron," came under the care of a sympathetic young doctor who concluded that Victor was in fact an abandoned deaf-mute, intelligent but forlorn, who had somehow been able to survive on his own. Dismissed in a contemporary encyclopedia as "half wild" and "incapable of learning to speak in spite of all efforts to teach him," Victor was eventually forgotten. "A state pension kept him alive, like an animal in a zoo," writes Shattuck, "and when he died no one noticed." Scientific debate about his condition was renewed from time to time, however, and the story of the wild boy was influential in the development of several theories of language learning and human evolution. Shattuck's slender narrative is a fine work of scholarly detection, yielding an instructive episode in the history of science. --Gregory McNamee

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Warwick Books, is an Internet-only bookseller that specializes in hard-to-find books for avid readers and collectors. Many of our books are out of print. Specialties include literature, signed firsts, art and photography, design, illustrated books, cookbooks, field guides, children's books, needlecraft books, and Americana. We recently acquired a large private collection of books on military history. The focus is on World War II as well as aviation history. Warwick Books is a member of IOBA, the Independent Online Booksellers Association.

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We accept personal checks, money orders, Paypal, and credit card payments through ABE's secure ABE Commerce arrangement. California residents add 9.5 percent sales tax. Please e-mail or phone to confirm availability of books before sending payment. We can be reached at Warwick Books, 101 Warwick Place, South Pasadena, CA, att: Suzanne Mantell. Phone 323-683-3294; e-mail All items are guaranteed as described. We ship all books well protected in bubble wrap and boxes. Bo...

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