Exhibit Title Page


Animal magnetism is a healing system devised by Franz Anton Mesmer. It is based on the belief in the existence of a universal magnetic fluid that is central in the restoration and maintenance of health. The first seed for this thought was planted when he coined the term “animal gravitation” in 1776. Mesmer renamed this universal force to “animal magnetism” and articulated its basic principles in twenty-seven propositions in his Mémoire sur la découverte du magnétisme animal of 1779.

Mesmer’s interest in invisible forces found concrete expression in his early medical practice, where he experimented with using iron magnets to treat illness. Later, he used new techniques which involved “magnetic passes” or sweeping movements of the hands to direct magnetic fluid to diseased parts of the patient’s body. Using these methods, Mesmer performed some remarkable cures in Austria, Germany and France. He attempted to gain acceptance for his theory of animal magnetism from the medical establishment of Vienna, then in Paris.

The medical faculty of Paris was alarmed at the popularity of Mesmer’s clinics and two commissions were constituted to investigate animal magnetism. Both of them produced reports unfavorable to animal magnetism, but at the same time contributed to the popularity of the movement by initiating the wave of pamphlets and books supporting or objecting to conclusions of both reports. Some of those early works participating in the heated discussion on animal magnetism are exhibited here.

Animal magnetism, though completely forgotten today, influenced the future research. The most important stream – psychological – stemming from the discovery of “magnetic sleep” by Puységur paved the way for research in psychotherapy through the work of James Braid, Ambroise Liebeault, Jean-Martin Charcot and Sigmund Freud. The followers in medical stream pursue Mesmer’s interest in healing. They also used animal magnetism as anesthetic for surgery. The third stream – parapsychological – influenced by the romantic philosophy lead to experimentation with “magnetic magic”, paranormal phenomena, somnambulism, and eventually spread of spiritualism.

On display in the Falk Library lobby from June to August 2014, the original exhibit presented only the selected early texts on animal magnetism. This online exhibit has been expanded to include all eighteen and nineteen century works on the subject housed in the library's Rare Book and Special Collections. Some of the annotations come from Adam Crabtree's Animal magnetism, early hypnotism, and psychical research, 1766-1925 available at http://www.esalen.org/ctr-archive/animal_magnetism.html and include the reference number to the source of citation. The annotations without a reference number were created at the library.

Topham Title Page

Topham, William and Ward, W. Squire

Account of a case of successful amputation of the thigh, during the mesmeric state, without the knowledge of the patient: read to the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society of London, on Tuesday, the 22nd of November, 1842. London: Baillière, 1842.

The original account of the operation described by Elliotson in his Numerous Cases. It was the first use of animal magnetism as a surgical anaesthesia in England. Topham was the magnetizer; Ward the surgeon. The painless operation was described in an address delivered to the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society of London and then published in this form. The resulting controversy is related in Elliotson’s book.

(Crabtree, 464)

Bound with other works. Binder's title: Tracts on mesmerism.

Sandby Title Page

Sandby, George

Mesmerism the gift of God: in reply to “Satanic Agency and Mesmerism,” a sermon said to have been preached by the Rev. Hugh M’Neile: in a letter to a friend by a beneficed clergyman. London: W.E. Painter., 1843.

This letter is signed G.S. (George Sandby, vicar of Flixton). It is a polemic defending mesmerism written in response to the unauthorized publication of McNeile’s sermon in Penny Pulpit, which was widely distributed by anti-mesmerists.

Scarce pamphlet bound with other works. Binder's title: Tracts on mesmerism.

Colquhoun Fallacy Title Page

Colquhoun, John Campbell

The fallacy of phreno-magnetism detected and exposed. Edinburgh: Wilson, 1843.

A criticism of a hybrid branch of animal magnetism which combines it with phrenology considered by the author to be a pseudo-science.

Scarce pamphlet bound with other works. Binder’s title: Tracts on mesmerism

Elliotson Title Page

Elliotson, John

Numerous cases of surgical operations without pain in the mesmeric state: with remarks upon the opposition of many members of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society and others to the reception of the inestimable blessings of mesmerism. London: H. Baillière, 1843.

An important document in the history of animal magnetism. Elliotson describes the case history of an amputation of a leg above the knee while the patient was mesmerized and experienced no pain. The magnetizer was William Topham, the surgeon was W. Squire Ward. Elliotson also writes about the negative reactions to the operation by the medical establishment. He was indignant that such a beneficial tool could be met with what he considered to be incredible obtuseness.

(Crabtree, 474)

Mesmer Precis Title Page

Mesmer, Franz Anton

Précis historique des faits relatifs au magnétisme animal jusques en Avril 1781. London, 1781.

This collection of documents and comments was translated into French from an outline written by Mesmer in German. The original outline was later destroyed and the German version of this work published in 1783 was a translation from the French edition. The translator and editor was apparently D’Eslon. The work attempts to give a history of animal magnetism to date by reproducing and commenting on important relevant documents. The history of animal magnetism is divided into five time periods: 1) dealings with the Faculty of Medicine at Vienna, 2) dealings with the Academy of Sciences at Paris, 3) dealings with the Royal Society of Medicine at Paris, 4) various activities in the two years following, and 5) dealings with the Faculty of Medicine at Paris. Mesmer uses the documentation format to reiterate his views and emphasize his side in the various disputes in which he had been involved.

(Crabtree, 17)

Brack Title Page


Lettre de Figaro au Comte Almaviva sur le magnétisme animal. Madrid and Paris, 1784.

One of a number of pamphlets written by Brack against animal magnetism. The Spanish references from the title (Figaro’s letter to count Almaviva…) are fictional. It was written by a physician from Lyon – Brack, who is known only by his last name. His Lettre was very popular and was issued several times in that year. However, like any ephemera focused on a hot topic in hand, it was short lived, popular when needed and tossed away when the interest in animal magnetism faded out. Consequently, his works are quite rare.


Mesmer Letters Title Page

Mesmer, Franz Anton

Lettres de M. Mesmer, à M. Vicq-d’Azyr, et à messieurs les auteurs du Journal de Paris. Brussels: n.p., 1784.

A collection of letters written by Mesmer to the editors of the Journal de Paris and a letter written by him in response to a critical article by Vicq-d’Azyr published in that journal.

(Crabtree, 85)

Deleuze Title Page

Deleuze, Joseph Philippe François

Histoire critique du magnétisme animal. 2 vols. Paris: Mame, 1813.

Deleuze is a central figure in the history of animal magnetism. After serving as a lieutenant in the French infantry, he decided to devote himself to the study of the natural sciences, eventually becoming assistant naturalist of the Garden of Plants in Paris and secretary to the association of the Museum of Natural History. Deleuze was highly respected by his contemporaries as a great scholar with a balanced approach to scientific issues. In 1785 Deleuze heard about the work of Puységur, but found it hard to believe that he had been able to do what was claimed. However, when a respected friend of Deleuze went to see Mesmer and was then able to induce somnambulism, Deleuze decided to visit his friend and find out for himself. He was impressed with the demonstration and began to pursue his own study of animal magnetism. He was influenced most strongly by the ideas of Puységur, and it is clear from reading Deleuze’s writings that he was like Puységur in temperament and attitude towards the people he worked with. The Histoire is Deleuze’s first work on animal magnetism and it is one of the most important ever written on the subject. In the process of depicting the history, Deleuze also conveys a great deal of information about the theory and practice. In his presentation, he pays a great deal of attention to detail and strives to be objectively fair. Although a partisan of animal magnetism, Deleuze does not close his eyes to legitimate criticism. The Histoire is about as balanced a treatment as one could find from a man who was engaged in a daily practice of that art.

(Crabtree, 243)

Galart de Montjoie Title Page

Galart de Montjoie, Christophe Félix

Lettre sur le magnétisme animal Paris and Philadelphia: Duplain, 1784.

In the first part of this defence of Mesmer and animal magnetism, Galart de Montjoie tries to find points of rapprochement between Mesmer and the astronomer Bailly. He then compares the ideas of Mesmer to those of Descartes and Newton, siding with Newton against Bailly in his view of matter and motion. The author explains Mesmer’s view of the ebb and flow of magnetic fluid and attempts to show how it is in agreement with the best contemporary views of physics. In the second part, Galart de Montjoie takes up the report of the Franklin commission, devoting considerable space to the issue of the place of the imagination in the action of animal magnetism. He examines the place of the will in the action of the magnetic fluid, stating that it is principally by the will that the fluid is directed and that it is involved in magnetization at a distance.

(Crabtree, 62)

Bertrand Title Page

Bertrand, Alexandre Jacques François

Du magnétisme animal en France. Paris: Baillière, 1826.

Du magnétisme animal is one of the most important works on the history and theory of animal magnetism, and Bertrand’s second book on the subject. Between the writing of his first book (Traité du somnambulisme) and this one, Bertrand changes his mind about the true nature of animal magnetism and magnetic somnambulism. He no longer accepts the existence of a universal magnetic fluid as the agent that produces the phenomena associated with animal magnetism, even though he maintains the genuineness of the phenomena themselves. Bertrand believes that evidence often cited in favor of the existence of the fluid (e.g., claims of somnambulists to be able to see the fluid emanating from the fingertips of the magnetizer) is largely based on preconceived ideas that affect the imaginations and expectations of both magnetizer and magnetic subject. With this acknowledgement of the importance of suggestion, Bertrand anticipates the ideas of Braid about the true nature of animal magnetic phenomena. Most of the book is devoted to the history of animal magnetism and is one of the best sources for that subject up to the time of its publication. It includes the reports of the French commissions of 1784 (including the secret report) and also a report of the Academy of Medicine written by Husson and delivered in 1825. The second part of the book takes up the subject of ecstasy and its relationship to somnambulism. This part has a very valuable discussion of the history of ecstatic phenomena over the ages.

(Crabtree, 324)

Fournel Title Page

Fournel, Jean François

Essai sur les probabilités du somnambulism. Paris: Gastelier, 1785.

After the discovery of “magnetic somnambulism” by Puységur in 1784, Fournel was the first person to attempt to theorize about the nature of this new phenomenon. He sees magnetic somnambulism as a state midway between waking and sleep, a state essentially the same as natural somnambulism, which had been widely recognized as a reality. Fournel points out that the seemingly extraordinary phenomena associated with magnetic somnambulism, such as suggestibility and clairvoyance, have been noted for centuries in connection with natural somnambulism. Speaking of the sudden rise to popularity of magnetic somnambulism, he estimates the number of somnambulists in Paris and the provinces to be in the neighborhood of six thousand. Fournel makes a strong case for accepting magnetic somnambulism as a genuine phenomenon which deserves further study.

(Crabtree, 139)

Thomas d’Onglée Title Page

Thomas d’Onglée, François Louis

Rapport au public de quelques abus auxquels le magnétism animal a donneé lieu. Paris: Hérissant, 1785.

Report for the public on some misuses of animal magnetism.

Bergasse Title Page

Bergasse, Nicolas

Considérations sur le magnétisme animal. The Hague: n.p., 1784.

Bergasse, along with Kornmann, helped Mesmer found the Society of Harmony of Paris, the first of many which would take on members for a fee to teach them the doctrine and techniques of animal magnetism. Bergasse delivered lectures to the members of the Paris Society, and these lectures were distilled into the content of the present book. He and Mesmer had their disagreements and although in Considérations Bergasse vigorously defends Mesmer against all attacks, divergences of doctrine do nevertheless appear. Within a year after the publication of the book, Mesmer and Bergasse publicly ended their association.

(Crabtree, 36)

Thouret Title Page

Thouret, Michel Augustin

Recherches et doutes sur le magnétisme animal. Paris: Prault, 1784.

Thouret was a member of the Royal Society of Medicine in Paris and one of the leading spokesmen of the opposition of that society to animal magnetism and the teachings of Mesmer. In this work Thouret claims that his main concern is not to examine the details of cures being performed by animal magnetism, but to trace the history of the theory and practice of animal magnetism. He nevertheless clearly sides with those who reject animal magnetism as an illusion. Admitting that many persons of stature accept animal magnetism as an effective cure, Thouret uses his considerable erudition to show that such cures are not new and that Mesmer was simply the most recent of a long tradition of thinkers who posited a hidden power of nature that produces healing effects. He cites Paracelsus, Kircher, Maxwell, and Fludd as examples of men who held views similar to those of Mesmer. He also points out that there have been many healers over the ages who have accomplished cures resembling Mesmer’s, mentioning the exorcist Gassner and the “stroking doctor” Greatrakes as examples. Thouret’s learned critique was extremely influential and served as a starting point for much of the discussion at the time about the originality and effectiveness of animal magnetism.

(Crabtree, 116)

Archbold Title Page

Archbold, Jean-Baptiste-Gérard

Recueil d’observations et de faits relatifs au magnétisme animal, présenté à l’auteur de cette découverte, et publié par la Société de Guienne. Philadelphie; Paris: Marchands de Nouveautés; Chez Gastelier, 1785.

A collection of observations and facts about animal magnetism, in a form of letters between Anton Mesmer and the members of the Harmonic Society of Guyenne is attributed to Jean-Baptiste-Gérard Archbold.

Bailly Title Page

Bailly, Jean Sylvain

Discours et mémoires. Paris : Chez de Bure l'aîné, 1790.

Second volume includes two famous reports:

  • Rapport des commissaires chargés par le roi de l’examen du magnétisme animal. Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1784.

    In the spring of 1784 the King of France appointed this commission made up of members of the Academy of Sciences to investigate the claims of animal magnetism. He chose some of the most eminent men of science of his day. The chairman was Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790), a founding father of the United States of America, ambassador of that country to France, and a person highly knowledgeable in electricity and terrestrial magnetism. The commission’s president was Antoine Laurent Lavoisier (1743 –1794), a follower of Condillac and one of the most important chemists of the age. The secretary of the commission and editor of its report was the famous astronomer Jean Sylvain Bailly (1736–1793). The commission also included the director of the Academy of Sciences, Jean Baptiste Leroy (1724–1800), an investigator of electricity of some note. The fifth member of the commission was the physician de Bory, about which nothing is known today. The commission began its investigations on March 12, 1784, and published its report in August of that year. Both this commission and one made up of members of the Faculty of Medicine of Paris, appointed by the King at the same time, investigated animal magnetism as practiced by Charles D’Eslon, a disciple of Mesmer. D’Eslon wanted this official inquiry, while Mesmer strongly opposed it. By cooperating with the commissions, D’Eslon effectively removed himself from his teacher’s fold. Although D’Eslon’s theory of animal magnetism, as presented to the commission, was somewhat different from that of Mesmer, the commissioners did not seem to be bothered by that fact. They contended that theory made no difference to their mandate, which was to decide about the existence and utility of animal magnetism. Their conclusion was that they found no evidence for the existence of an animal magnetic fluid. They ascribed any cures or improvement of health that might occur through the application of animal magnetism to the action of “imagination.” The report was very influential and became a center of a vigorous controversy which raged for a number of years, with pamphlets and books being written for and against its conclusions.

    (Crabtree, 31)

  • Exposé des expériences qui one été faites pour l’examen du magnétisme animal. Lu à l’Académie des sciences, par M. Bailly en son nom & aux nom de Mrs. Franklin, Le Roy, de Bory, et Lavoisier, le 4 Septembre 1784. Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1784.

    Presented as a courtesy to the members of the Academy of Sciences which had been commissioned by the king to investigate animal magnetism. This brief report was intended to give them an account of some of the experiences which the commissioners had during their investigation. It is considerably shorter than the official report (see above).

    (Crabtree, 30)

Archiv Vol.12 Title Page

Archiv für den thierischen Magnetismus

Archiv für den thierischen Magnetismus. Edited by Carl A. Eschenmayer, Christian Friedrich Nasse, Dietrich G. Kieser. Vols. 1–12. Leipzig: Herbig, 1817–1824.

Falk Library has only volume 12. Edited by Carl A. Eschenmayer, Dietrich G. Kieser and Christian Gottfried Daniel Nees von Esenbeck. The contents include many contributions of Bende Bensen, Carl Eschenmayer, and Dietrich Kieser.

Full text is available from journals@UrMEL

Colquhoun Report Title Page

Colquhoun, John Campbell

Report of the experiments on animal magnetism, made by a Committee of the Medical Section of the French Royal Academy of Sciences: read at the meetings of the 21st and 28th of June, 1831, translated and now for the first time published; with an historical and explanatory introduction, and an appendix. Edinburgh: Robert Cadell, 1833.

An English translation of the favorable report on animal magnetism made by the French Royal Academy of Medicine (see also the later translation of Henri Marie Husson's work by Poyen Report on the magnetical experiments). The translation is preceded by a long introduction by John Campbell Colquhoun, who was one of animal magnetism’s staunchest supporters in England. This book constitutes, in fact, the first edition of what Colquhoun would later call Isis Revelata. Colquhoun states in the title that the report is “now for the first time published” because the original French edition by Husson was very rare and never broadly distributed publicly.

(Crabtree, 354)

Husson Title Page

Husson, Henri Marie

Report on the magnetical experiments made by the Commission of the Royal Academy of Medicine, of Paris, read in the meetings of June 21 and 28, 1831. Translated from the French, and preceded with an introduction, by Charles Poyen St. Sauveur. Boston: D. K. Hitchcock, 1836.

An English translation of the favorable French report on animal magnetism produced in 1831 by Husson. The translator is Charles Poyen, a key figure in the early popularization of animal magnetism into the United States. His long introduction is an important document in itself, and so this item is listed separately from the French entry of the Report.

(Crabtree, 374)

Short Sketch Title Page


A short sketch of animal magnetism : intended to direct attention to the propriety of practically examining that question. London : J. Hatchard, 1838.

The unidentified author, calling himself a physician, presents a short history of mesmerism, the effects resulting from magnetism (both physiological and psychological) and he discusses the modes of producing magnetic influence. The author promotes the idea of curative efficacy of magnetism without falling for the early magnetizers' assertion that "There is but one disease and one remedy, and that remedy is magnetism." Trying to maintain his objectiveness, he comments also on the conclusions of the commission named by the Royal Academy of Medicine in 1826 to examine the question of animal magnetism.

Scarce pamphlet bound with other works. Binder’s title: Tracts on mesmerism

Colquhoun Hints Title Page

Colquhoun, John Campbell

Hints on animal magnetism, addressed to the medical profession in Great Britain. Edinburgh: Maclachlan & Stewart, 1838.

An open letter to the medical practitioners of England, asking that they seriously consider the evidence with regard to the efficacy of animal magnetism as a cure for illness. Colquhoun also criticizes some of the critics of his Isis Revelata including the respected Dr. John Elliotson.

(Crabtree, 396)

Scarce pamphlet bound with other works. Binder’s title: Tracts on mesmerism

Zoo-magnetic journal First Page

Zoo-magnetic journal

The zoo-magnetic journal. No. 1 & 2. Edinburgh: Thornton and Collie, Printers, 1839.

The journal established to provide those engaged in cultivation of zoo-magnetic science in Scotland a common place to share the views with the public. Only two issues were published. Contents:

  • A short historical sketch of animal magnetism
  • Review of objections to animal magnetism
  • Advice to those persons who attempt the practice of animal magnetism
  • Somnambulism by Colquhoun
  • Investigation of animal magnetism
  • Dr. Elliotson and animal magnetism
  • Dr. Elliotson and the University College, London
  • Neuro-voltaism by E. Stanley
  • Transference of sensation by Colquhoun
  • On certain curious facts which tend to demonstrate the intimate connexion that subsists between physiological and psychological science.

Scarce item bound with other works. Binder’s title: Tracts on mesmerism

Wilson Title Page

Wilson, John

Trials of animal magnetism on the brute creation. London: Sherwood, Gilbert, & Piper, 1839.

This unusual little book, written by a Middlesex physician, describes experiments he performed with animal magnetism on animals. Wilson decided to try these experiments for a number of reasons. The most important reason was to see whether effects produced in animals could remove objections to the reality of the effects of animal magnetism based on possible collusion on the part of magnetizer and magnetized or deception on the part of the magnetized alone. Among the animals Wilson treated were cats, dogs, fish, a cock, macaws, a horse, pigs, and even elephants. He seems to have successfully placed all of them in a trance state using magnetic passes.

(Crabtree, 419)

Scarce pamphlet bound with other works. Binder’s title: Tracts on mesmerism

Gautier Title Page

Gauthier, Aubin

Traité pratique du magnétisme et du somnambulisme: ou, résumé de tous les principes et procédés du magnétisme, avec la théorie et la définition du somnambulisme, le description du caractère et des facultés des somnambules, et les règles de leur direction. Paris: Germer Baillière, 1845.

A thorough general treatise on the theory and practice of animal magnetism. Among other topics, Gauthier discusses the effect of magnetic treatments, the way the mental and physical condition of the magnetizer affects the outcome, the methods of magnetizing, the use of magnetized objects in treatment, the use of animal magnetism on animals, the phases of magnetic cures and the phenomena of magnetic somnambulism. As in most of Gauthier’s work, a historical orientation for all aspects of animal magnetism is apparent.

(Crabtree, 513)

Ashburner Title Page

Ashburner, John

Notes and studies in the philosophy of animal magnetism and spiritualism. With observations upon catarrh, bronchitis, rheumatism, gout, scrofula, and cognate diseases. London: H. Baillière, 1867.

A London physician, and a friend of John Elliotson who wrote articles for Elliotson’s mesmeric journal, the Zoist. Ashburner had become convinced of the reality of animal magnetism in the 1840s. In the 1850s he came to believe that spirits are able to manifest and communicate with the living, that the force involved in animal magnetism and that involved in spirit manifestations are identical, and that the phenomena manifesting in both experiences were compatible with Christian belief. Notes and Studies is an attempt to bring together the traditions of animal magnetism, spiritualism, and Christianity.

(Crabtree, 901)

Binet Title Page

Binet, Alfred and Féré, Charles Samson

Le magnétisme animal. Paris: Ancienne Librairie Germer Baillière et Cie; Félix Alcan, éditeur, 1887.

A well researched and widely read treatment of animal magnetism and hypnotism by two respected psychological investigators. The book includes a brief but informative history of those phenomena up to the time of its publication. It also contains a treatment of the stages of hypnotism, the nature of hypnotic suggestion, and the therapeutic application of hypnotism. The theoretical understanding of hypnotism presented is strongly influenced by the Salpêtrière school.

(Crabtree, 1162)

Dampierre Title Page

Dampierre, Antoine Esmonin de

Réflexions impartiales sur le magnétisme animal. Geneva: Chirol; Paris: Périsse, 1784.

Dampierre was a theologian, magistrate, and president of the parliament of Bourgogne. A member of the mystical Lyons school of freemasons, he developed a philosophy of animal magnetism that viewed it as an aid to the healing and social evolution taking place according to hidden laws of nature. Dampierre delineates four different types of “magnetic crisis” that can be experienced by an individual suffering from illness. […] Out of these, the fourth type of crisis is that produced by the action of animal magnetism in susceptible persons who have a strong desire to remain in the state of crisis—this type being dangerous to the patient. Since none of these crises leads, with the possible exception of the first, to a fruitful conclusion, Dampierre and his colleagues at Lyons sought an alternate, positive healing crisis. Dampierre believed that the crises most often produced by animal magnetism as practiced by those who used the techniques of Mesmer were of the harmful type described. He considered these crises to be embarrassing and obscene for the patient and narcissistically flattering for the magnetizer. Dampierre’s solution was the magnetic technique developed by his fellow freemason at Lyons, the Chevalier Barberin. In contrast to that of Mesmer which relied on magnetic “passes” that involved physical contact, or were applied at the most a few inches from the body, the magnetizing of Barberin was done at a distance, sometimes a distance of miles. This Lyons brand of freemason animal magnetism was strongly oriented towards the occult worldview of the magical tradition of the West.

(Crabtree, 49)