As it’s now December and 2011 will soon be drawing to a close, many people will start to think about resolutions and aspirations for the year to come. But if we are to believe the predictions of Mrs Cecil Crofts in her book The Birthday Book of Fate (class mark 1916.6.266) then we may as well forget about any good intentions we may have, as Mrs Crofts asserts that our fate is decided by our birthday. And her fortune-telling motto seems to have been: you have to be cruel to be kind.

We have all kinds of fortune-telling books in the Tower collection, but this one in particular captured our attention for its dramatic boldness and lack of positive spin as is popular in modern fortune telling, where we are always told that great things will happen to us. In the Tower Project office some of us were left quite perturbed by our predicted fate, whilst others could sit back and take it easy as Mrs Croft had predicted wonderful things for them! As we read each other’s fortune aloud there were a few gasps of dismay when we heard what was in store for us, not to mention quite a few laughs.

Front cover

In the book the fortune for each birthday begins with an overarching symbol for that day, from which Mrs Crofts then elucidates further in the longer description below. This symbol supposedly describes the characteristics of the day of those born under it. These symbols in themselves are extremely bizarre. I quite like mine, which is “A party of men dining sumptuously” – I like to think that bodes well for a good fortune (how wrong I would be). Whilst a Tower Project colleague’s is “A man caning the hand of a boy.” She was not impressed. If you were born on December 5 it doesn’t look too promising either: “A man beating his head against a closed door”, and June 7 has to be the weirdest symbol: “A man shaving a poodle”. What can you make of that? These cryptic symbols had us in stitches, and we were impatient to find out more about our destiny …

Fond of breaking bad news, an ominous looking Mrs Crofts

The full description of one’s fate proved just as intriguing.  Apparently I lead “a very irregular life, in private such a one will be a “law unto himself”” and “would succeed best in a foreign land”. That really made my day. A colleague was similarly disappointed with their fortune, although it does describe their job role of cataloguing books rather accurately: “You will only excel in copying or perfecting the work, views, ideas, or dress of others.” Although none of us took the predictions particularly seriously, they do crop up in conversation from time to time, so we haven’t quite forgotten them. And at least if things start to look a bit rough I could always go and try my luck in a foreign land.

A selection of entries (apologies if your birthday falls on any of these dates!)

Are those born on March 23 destined to a life of loneliness?

Dare to dream? You probably shouldn't.

Oh dear, would you even want to know if this were your fate?

This book really is worth a look, and we all amused ourselves looking up family and loved ones’ fates. I certainly intend to spoil a few friends’ Christmases by writing their fortune in their Christmas card!