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Though his theory of `the born criminal' is not likely to win many supporters today, Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909), an Italian physician and criminologist, is now widely considered one of the most important founders of criminology. His once widely popular ideas about how and why some people commit crimes were very influential in the 19th century Europe and America, and this book is the first critically annotated translation of the book which still gives a chance for an intriguing read and deeper understanding of the Western culture.
Lombroso's theory is based on the idea of `the born criminal,' certain group of possibly dangerous people marked by what he called `anomalies.' According to him, certain people who have particular physical traits are more likely to commit crimes than other `normal' people, and by carefully checking the bodies and faces of the criminals, including their cranial capacities or tattoos, Lombroso established his unique theory that sounds unusual today. He insists, for instance, "Nearly all the criminals have ... thick hair and thin beard." (p. 53) Today this crude statement would never be convincing.
In short 'Criminal Man' is an analysis of the nature of crime, a pseudo-science based on empirical data. Over the five editions of `Criminal Man' Lombroso developed his theory by accumulating data, articles, photos, and even the poems and drawings by the criminals, and he developed his theory with more categories and sub-categories added to his original idea, later covering the territories of prostitution, insanity, and even botany.
[ABOUT THE EDITIONS] The original book was first published in 1876, and this one-volume edition later expanded to the fifth edition (3 volumes and 1 atlas) in 1896-97. Instead of choosing one particular edition as the basis of the English translation, editors/translators Nicole Hahn Rafter and Mary Gibson made a sensitive decision. They divided their translation into five sections - EDITION 1, EDITION 2 ... and EDITION 5. The translated book's EDITION 1 includes every chapter of the first edition of the original book except for several chapters, which are postponed until their EDITION 2 section where they appear in fuller detail. The same pattern goes on until EDITION 5. According to the translators' notes, Lombroso never eliminated the older contents, and rarely revised them, so in this way the translation could keep the substance virtually intact, but within each chapter abridgement was done because of the numbers of the examples quoted by Lombroso, which they found too many.
The translation has all prefaces by Lomroso, notes by the editors, and the list of references. The book also has very useful glossary that explains the meaning and background of such words as atavism, physiognomy, positivism, recidivism, and others.
There is a "companion piece" titled "Criminal Woman, the Prostitute, and the Normal Woman" written by Lombroso and translated by Nicole Hahn Rafter and Mary Gibson.