Figure Name prosopographia
Source Silva Rhetoricae (; Peacham 1593; Bullinger (1898) ("prosopographia; or, description of persons")
Earliest Source None
Synonyms prosographia, counterfeit countenance, description of persons, personae descriptio
Etymology Gk. prosopon, "face" or "person," and graphein, "to write"
Type Trope
Linguistic Domain Semantic

1. The vivid description of someone's face or character. A kind of enargia. Also, the description of feigned or imaginary characters, such as devils or harpies. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. Prosographia is a forme of speech by which as well the very person of a man as of a fained, is by his form, stature, maners, studies, doings, affections, and such other circumstances serving to the purpose so described, that it may appeare a plaine and lively picture painted in tables, and set before the eies of the hearer. The circumstances by which such descriptions be made are many, ye tthe most principal and most usuall are these, parentage, nation, countrey, kind, age, education, discipline, habite of body, fortune, condition, nature of mind, studie, former deedes, apparell, & c. By these and such like circumstances the whole man is lively painted and portraited as wel his mind as his body, and as aswel his qualities as his quantity. (Peacham)

3. [see Etymology]... Hence Prosopographia is a vivid description of a person by delineating the general mien, dress manners, etc. (Bullinger, 469)


1. He is a monster both in mind and in body; whatever part of mind or body you consider, you will find a monster quivering head, rabid eyes, a dragon's gape, the visage of a Fury, distended belly, hands like talons ready to tear, feet distorted, in short, view his entire physical shape and what else does it all present but a monster? Observe that tongue, observe that wild beast's roar, and you will name it is a monstrosity; probe his mind, you will find a horror; weigh his character, scrutinize his life, you will find all monstrous...through and through he is nothing but a monster. —Erasmus, De copia (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. for example, we may by the circumstances of age describe an old man in this manner, “with crooked limmes, and trembling jointes, his head white, his eies hollow, his sight dimmes, his hearing thicke, his handes shaking, his legges bowing, his colour pale, his skin wrinkled, weake of memory childish yet covetous, suspicious, testy, greedy of newes, credulous, misliking of the present world, and praising the former times” Eccles. 12. (Peacham)

3. See Matt. 3:4, where John's appearance, etc., is described. (Bullinger, 469)

Kind Of Identity
Part Of
Related Figures figures of description, enargia, effictio
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Ioanna Malton
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes
Reviewed No