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Crania Americana

A Comparative View of Skulls of Various
Aboriginal Nations of North and South America

With a New Introduction by Jane E. Buikstra, Ph.D.
Professor of Bioarchaeology, Arizona State University

Samuel George Morton, M.D. - 1839

 Gustav's Library Vintage Reprint

We wish to thank Dr. Jane Buikstra Professor of Bioarchaeology, Arizona State University for providing us with an excellent new introduction to this historically important work. 

Published  in 1839, 22 years before the outbreak of the U.S. Civil War, Crania Americana is an  extraordinarily rare book in any condition. Criticized in this modern, somewhat more enlightened age,  for its early 19th Century views on race, the publication of Crania Americana did provide important early steps toward the modern science of  physical anthropology.   We do feel that it is important to point out that modern scientists, as well as Gustav's Library, do not agree with the racial stereotypes presented by Morton and regard him and his biases as a product of his age.

Of particular note are the 19th Century engravings illustrating the book ranging from the pleasing to the relatively gruesome.


Crania Americana Ongpatonga [Big Elk] Chief of the Omawhaws




Ongpatonga [Big Elk] Chief of the Omawhaws


Embalmed Head - Peru


"The World - Shewing the Geographical Distribution of the Human Species"

Morton's Techniques and Apparatus

The Craniometer

The wood-cuts of this work were taken from reduced drawings made with my own hands by means of an instrument adapted to the purpose by my friend Mr. Phillips. I had applied to several artists to furnish these drawings, and the camera lucida and graphic mirror were both tried in vain. On being furnished with the annexed drawing apparatus, (which might be called a Craniograph,) I was soon able by practice to make my own drawings with great celerity and correctness. Some of my earlier essays, however, are among the last in this work, and will be recognised by their want of finish.

Crania Americana Craniograph

A represents a deal board* six feet long and one foot wide; B B two brackets to support two cross pieces one of which is seen at C, having an open space between them about two and a half inches wide, and the centre of the space six inches from the board A; D a piece of board six inches wide dovetailed to the end of the board A, supporting the eye-piece E, the hole at E being six inches from the board A, fifteen inches from the nearest surfaces of the two cross pieces C, and placed perpendicular to the medial line of the board A; G a board dovetailed into the lower end of A. The cranium was adjusted on the board G, with its centre six inches from the surface of A; a piece of glass was then laid over the opening between the cross pieces at C, where it was held down by a screw. By looking down at the cranium F, through the eye-piece E, its outline and markings were seen on the glass at C diminished to one quarter, and were traced out on the glass with a pen and India ink, with great rapidity and accuracy. The drawings thus obtained on the glass, were then traced with a pencil on paper pressed against the glass while held up to the light, after which the drawing was finished with a pen. In the above cut the eye-piece is too high.


* Note: Just in case you are wondering - a deal board is an archaic term for a  plank of softwood (fir or pine board).

The Facial Goniometer

Crania Americana Facial Ganiometer


"The following diagram represents the instrument, which may be called the Facial Goniometer, as applied to a cranium for the purpose of measurement.
     The letters A, A, A represent the rectangular basal limbs of the instrument. (which is made of brass,) the front limb sliding at B, so as to increase or diminish the distance between the right and left limbs. In order to fix the goniometer to a skull, there is attached to each of the lateral limbs a slide with a conical pivot attached, C, which enters the meatus of the car. The limb D, D, is attached by a hinge to the base, and can be brought to form any angle with it. G is a scale of one hundred degrees, attached by a hinge at I, and let through the limb D, D, at H. E is a horizontal limb, at right angles with D, D, on which it slides at F. The thin piece of wood, K, K, has an opening at L, to admit the nasal bones to pass through it. Now this piece of wood necessarily touches the most prominent parts of the forehead and upper maxillary bone, and therefore represents the facial line. To measure the facial angle, bring the upper surface of the anterior basal limb of the instrument on a horizontal plane with the nasal spine; then let the limb D, D, fall back until the lateral limb E, touches the facial line K, K, when the facial angle will be at once designated on the scale. For the purpose of greater accuracy the lateral basal limbs of the instrument are graduated in inches and parts of inches, (not represented in the diagram,) and the sliding parts of the anterior limb are fixed by screws (as seen on each side of A) whenever the instrument is properly adjusted. With this apparatus the facial angle of any skull may be ascertained with exactness in the brief space of two or three minutes.    

Internal capacity.An ingenious mode of taking this measurement was devised by Mr. Phillips, viz: a tin cylinder was provided about two inches and three-fourths in diameter, and two feet two inches high, standing on a foot, and banded with swelled hoops about two inches apart, and firmly soldered, to prevent accidental flattening.A glass tube hermetically sealed at one end, was cut off so as to hold exactly five cubic inches of water by weight, at 60 Fahrenheit. A float of light wood, well varnished, two and a quarter inches in diameter, with a slender rod of the same material fixed in its centre, was dropped into the tin cylinder; then five cubic inches of water, measured in the glass tube, were poured into the cylinder, and the point at which the rod on the float stood above the top of the cylinder, was marked with the edge of a file laid across its top; and the successive graduations on the float-rod, indicating five cubic inches each, were obtained by pouring five cubic inches from the glass tube gradatim, and marking each rise on the float-rod. The graduations thus ascertained, were transferred to a mahogany rod fitted with a flat foot, and these subdivided, with compasses for the cubic inches and parts. In order to measure the capacity of a cranium, the foramina were first stopped with cotton, and the cavity was then filled with white pepper seed* poured into the foramen magnum until it reached the surface, and pressed down with the finger until the skull would receive no more. The contents were then transferred to the tin cylinder, which was well shaken in order to pack the seed. The mahogany rod being then dropped down with its foot resting on the seed, the capacity of the cranium in cubic inches is at once read off on it.

* White pepper seed was selected on account of its spherical form, its hardness, and the equal size of the grains. It was also sifted to render the equality still greater.

This 9-3/4" x 12-1/2", 400 page, soft cover, facsimile reprint is illustrated with 78 plates, a color map and numerous in text figures. $39.95