Mysticism and fortune-telling were popular subjects for the publishing industry in the early 1800s.
This book, subtitled The Telescope of Prescience, was published in 1838 by Thomas Richardson of Derby. It claims to be based on a much-consulted item from the personal collection of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821), found after his defeat at Leipzig in 1813, hence his appearance on the frontispiece.
The reader is invited to make marks at random on a grid of dots, and then use the results to derive predictions about the future – the exercise is called the ‘Oraculum’. (‘Decline these travels, for they will not be to your advantage.’)
The book lists ‘unlucky days’ on which the user should avoid consulting the book, and gives a clear warning not to use the oraculum twice in a day – presumably because conflicting results would impair the book’s credibility.
- Article by:
- Ruth Richardson
- Reading and print culture, Popular culture
Chapbooks were small, affordable forms of literature for children and adults that were sold on the streets, and covered a range of subjects from fairy tales and ghost stories to news of politics, crime or disaster. Dr Ruth Richardson explains what this literature looked like, its subject matter and the ways in which it was produced.