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Inspired by the pig guest book featured on the blog two weeks ago, I decided to find some of the weird and wonderful ‘party game books’ that I remember cataloguing in the past few months. Four books particularly came to mind; all of them quite bizarre and hilarious, and, possibly, a little worrying… Let no one say that the Victorians and Edwardians didn’t know how to enjoy themselves at a party!

Fortune telling for amateurs

The first is a fortune-telling book that is useful for amusing your friends. You take the first letter of your first and surname, read the table at the beginning of the book (shown below, click on the image for an enlarged version) to see which (completely random) number has been assigned to each letter, subtract the smaller number from the larger and then check the page with the number that results from this sum. Confused? Yes, me too.  The fortunes told range from relatively ordinary pronouncements (“Be prepared for a disappointment”) to the positively riduculous (“A lame person will bring you good news” – really? Um, great…).

 
 
 

Instructions and the mystic alphabet

 

So that you can play along, here’s a list of the possible fortunes with their numerical values:
  1. Good fortune awaits you at the next moon. 2. Let not the dark-haired one gain too much influence. 3. Look toward the sun and health shall be yours. 4. Guard well your treasure, a loss is indicated. 5. Happiness comes in your train. 6. Trust your own judgement and abide by the result. 7. It shall come as you desire. 8. Make the most of the sun, clouds are gathering. 9. A kindred soul is travelling toward you. 10. Wednesdays are unlucky for you. 11. Your outlook grows brighter. 12. Your courage will shortly be tested. 13. The owner of this house has something for you. 14. A fair person will be responsible for your misfortune. 15. Show your affection and you will be surprised at the result. 16. Remember the value of silence. 17. A lame person will bring you good news. 18. Beware of the flesh-pots, therein lies danger. 19. A happy old age awaits you. 20. Be prepared for a disappointment. 21. There is some one who loves you passionately. 22. Be guided by your second thoughts. 23. You have no cause to worry. 24. You must learn economy. 25.Pay attention to detail.

Kelly, from the Isle of Man (apparently)

The other books are, if possible, even more bizarre. The one I liked best has to be My favourite microbe, in which your friends are supposed to draw a humorous rendering of an (entirely made-up) microbe and endow it with a name, an occupation, recreations and its main source of food. The one shown on the cover is also on an example sheet in the book with the following details: “Name: Kelly, from the Isle of Man. Occupation: Reading works by Hall Caine (a Manx author who wrote novels and plays and was well-known among contemporaries). Recreation: Forgetting them (I detect subtle criticism of the author’s works…). Food: Manx cats (or possibly bats, it was quite hard to read).”  See – hilarious! I have the sneaking feeling that you might have to be incredibly bored or quite drunk to enjoy these party books properly.

The last two books both work on a similar principle to autograph books, although the autograph itself is not the main point of either book. The first, worryingly entitled The Ghosts of my friends, has a vertical fold down the centre of each page. The instructions then go as follows: “Sign your name along the fold of the paper with a full pen of ink, and then double the page over without using blotting paper.” This results in a smudged signature which resembles a ghostly figure. Hence the ghosts of your friends; murder, mayhem, ghostly moaning and groaning and the rattling of chains in dark dungeons definitely not involved. Phew, what a relief…

Kiss o graphs

The final book, entitled Kiss o graphs, is the one that I thought was the weirdest of the lot. You might agree when I tell you that instead of (or rather as well as) signing the book, you painted your lips with glicerine and cochineal (red dye)  and then kissed the book, signing your name next to the impression of your lips. My first thought was “How horribly unhygenic.” The microbes (real or imaginary) must have had a field day with this one…

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