The Strange Case of George Psalmanazar

  • 19 February, 2021

If you had told someone in 18th Century Europe that you had visited Taiwan, you would have to forgive them for either laughing or scowling at you. In 1704 a new book about Taiwan was published in London, An Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa, an Island subject to the Emperor of Japan. Its author is a man in his 20’s with strange habits who says he has come from Taiwan. But there’s a big catch. 

In 1704, Taiwan is not subject to the Emperor of Japan. Open the book, and you’ll find woodcuts with elephants, strange altars, and even a floating city.  Look at a portrait of the author, and you’ll be even more surprised- he’s described as pale, blond, even Dutch-looking, and he seems to fit this description. We’ve stumbled on one of the most bizarre footnotes in Taiwan’s history. It’s the peculiar case of George Psalmanazar.