Popular Magic Handbooks Available in New Zealand 1850-1935

Advertisements for various fortune telling handbooks of the kind sold in the UK as chapbooks. The national library of Scotland as well as the internet archive have large collections, readable online, of these books.  Typically they will consist of a body of text dealing with the main subject (i.e. fortune telling by consulting a set of formulaic questions then consulting a set of tables decided by esoteric means for the answers, or an alphabetic list of dream imagery interpretations, then some shorter articles on fortune telling through palmistry, or reading moles on the face, or other very simple “fortune telling” devices, such as what the colour and type of a man’s hair says about his qualities as a husband or a small number of charms or spells for finding a husband or wife).

‘Nile’ fortune cards appear to be regular playing cards with interpretations written on them around the outside and the regular face in the centre.

1852
Dream book
Fortune Teller

1852

1879

Dream Book and Fortune Teller
Wide Wide World and Dream Book, Fortune Teller, Letter Writer and Reciter

1879

1891

Fortune Telling
Everlasting Fortune Teller
Mother Shipton’s Fortune Teller

1891

1906

Royal Fortune Teller
Imperial Fortune Teller
Imperial Dream Book
Napoleon’s Book of Fate

1906

1912

The Fortune Teller

1912

1915

The Imperial Royal Dream Book and Fortune Teller
Hands and How to Read Them
The Dream Book

1915 1
1915 2
1915 3

1920

1920

1924

Napoleon’s Book of Fate
Zadkiel’s Dream Book and Fortune Teller

1924

1932

Everybody’s Fortune Teller Book
The Universal Dream Book
Dreams and Omens and Tea-Cup Fortune Telling
Fortune Telling by Tea Leaves
The Dream Book and Fortune Teller

1932

Paper’s past has hundreds of adverts containing references to this genre, at least one for every decade (save the 1860s, and very few for the 1880s), These tend to be quite repetitious with a single bookseller dominating each decade (though there seems to have been more book sellers advertising this kind of material from 1900-1930) by the mid 30s they had seen their heyday (which mirrors their popularity in the rest of the English speaking world, with, especially American, examples being produced well into the 1920s) though a few stranglers of the genre were being offered  into the 1940s, sold alongside cookbooks and birthday novelties. The decline of the genre overall can be seen in the kinds of books they are advertised along side, from being a part of a large body of literature of all kinds being made available at an affordable price to a mas audience in the 19th century, to finding a home amongst sensationalist popular fiction and aspirational self improvement/vocational handbooks in the early 20th century, to a homeless novelty literature by mid century. Whether this was due to being an outdated format (it’s chapbook contemporaries not surviving the 19th century) or a diminishing audience of more demanding and rational readers, it’s tenuous survival was likely due to promises of power, comfort and control in a financially and presentationally accessible manner that wouldn’t see a format update until the first main-streaming of wicca in the early 1970s.

With thanks to the National Library of New Zealand’s papers past project.

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