Bibliography of Books about Tasseomancy

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From the Land of Tea

In this installment of "From the Land of Tea," we take a look at a web page that was funded by my Patreon supporters, who had access to it one full year before the public.

  • Patreon Release Date: June 14th, 2022.
  • Public Release Date: June 14th, 2023.
  • Patreon Release Date: June 21st, 2022
  • Public Release Date: June 21st, 2023.

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Tea-Leaf Reading Bibliography Part One!!
Tea-Leaf Reading Bibliography Part Two!!

Greetings, Book-Lovers!

As some of you know, i come from a family of book publishers, book dealers, book collectors, and librarians. Creating illustrated and annotated bibliographies on topics of divination and folk magic has been a hobby of mine for decades. Making bibliographies does not pay the bills and is strictly a labour of love. Lucky for me, i have a lot of friends, fans, and followers who are willing to support my bibliographies via the Patreon system of small donations.

All of the material you have access to here -- the fabulous tea cups, the instructive booklets, the nostalgic postcards, the boldly graphic matchbook covers, and all of the historical information researched and shared from the mind of the woman who is making it all happen -- can easily fit into one 8 x 10 foot room in an old Victorian farmhouse, but you would never see it without the investment of the time it takes to produce such a site and the caloric input such a site requires in the form of food for the writer, graphic designer, and database manager, as well as the US currency needed to pay for the computers, software applications, scanners, electricity, and internet connectivity that bring it out of that little room and into the world. So, as you can see, this site is the darling of many, and it is growing at a rapid rate ... but although it is "free," there also is a cost. Your financial support underwrites this cost. Thank you!

So Many Tea Leaf Reading Books!

As far as we know, written documentation of the tradition of reading tea cups began in the late 19th century with an American named John W. Hanley, an inventor who created games for telling fortunes at parties, most of which were based in astrology. In 1899 he released the Fortuna Fortune Telling Tea Cup, which combined astrology with tea reading. This came with a book that revealed how to toss a cup, and listed about 50 signs found in the leaves. Soon after, a number of marked astrology cups and saucers were released, the 1904 Nelros Cup of Fortune, designed by Neville Ross, being the best-known. It too came with an instruction booklet. A Bibliography of Booklets About Tasseomancy Issued by Pottery Companies web page can be found on this site; it is currently open for Patrons only and will open for free to the public on December 28th, 2024.

Once tea reading took off in the Anglophone world, especially in the first third of the 20th century, tea companies jumped in with lovely, illustrated booklets of their own, describing the signs found in a cup of their own brand of tea. These tea company tasseography booklets have their own Bibliography of Booklets About Tasseomancy Issued by Tea Companies web page at this site. Currently only on view to my Patrons, it will open to the public for free on June 14th, 2024.

The great bulk of good, solid tea reading books and booklets were published during the roughly 30-year period of 1917 - 1949 that encompassed the First and Second World Wars and also corresponded to the era of Female Suffrage, Prohibition, the Great Depression, and the Tea Room Craze. After that there was a lull in the issuance of new tasseomancy books for the next 40 years. During this slack period, books by the major early authors -- Kent, A Highland Seer, and Minetta -- were kept in print, however, and they informed several generations of readers. In 1989, the publishing of a new wave of tasseomancy books began, and it has been ongoing for more than 30 years as i write this. Some of the newer books are excellent contributions to the art, but many of them are puffed-up vacancies of driveling blather. (The same is true of modern dowsing books, but that's another rant for another bibliography.)

If collecting books is your passion, you may enjoy this Bibliography of Books about Tasseomancy as a sort of buyer's guide -- but be aware that it will never be complete. There are two reasons for this -- first, new books are issued regularly, as with any topic; second, tea leaf reading books, more than any class of metaphysical books except those on palmistry, are regularly shopped from publisher to publisher during the life -- and after the death -- of their authors, receiving new titles, new covers, and, in some cases, new typesetting, new illustrations, or new editorial abridgements.

Sometimes the chaos of reconfiguration is the work of one demented publisher. The classic case in point of this latter phenomenon is the British publisher W. Foulsham's barbarous butchery of Minetta's 1920 classic "Tea-Cup Fortune Telling: The Signs Illustrated and Simply Explained," with its Introduction by the highly regarded astrologer Sephariel, a pseudonym of Walter Gorn Olds. The story of how this respected book was chopped, garbled, and repaginated until it became a joke in the metaphysical world is one of the sadder tales in bibliographic byways because the crippling amputations and disturbingly ugly covers were inflicted upon a one-time best-seller by its own publisher after the death of the pseudonymous author. I cannot say enough bad words about W. Foulsham in this regard. The full and horrible story is outlined below. It's fucking tragic, is what it is.

I look forward to suggestions and contributions of information from our readers. If a book you know and like is not included on this page, please send the title and author's name, a scan of the cover (or a link to such a scan), the page-count, binding style, publisher's name, and any descriptive review you would like us to include. We will credit you, of course.

Tasseomancy Instruction Books and Bookets

"Fortune Telling With Tea Leaves" by Sophia Buckland

Buckland, Sophia. Fortune Telling with Tea Leaves: a Beginner's Guide. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016

  • An additional cover line reads: "How to tell fortunes and perform divinations by reading tea leaves."
  • 130 pages, 20 illustrations, paperback.
  • CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform is not actually a publishing company; it is a print-on-demand service operated by Amazon. As a result, CreateSpace books may be very spottily distributed, and their value to readers is unmediated by the editorial and graphic design process.
  • This book won no points with me by harping on a comparison between tea leaf reading and tarot cards. Two samples from the author's listing at Amazon: "The ancient practice of divining fortunes with tea is one which is frequently overlooked by those having heard of Tarot as a method richest in authenticity" and "While it is tempting to default to Tarot, with its rich and colorful imagery, there needn’t be the complexity when a simpler, more accessible and less arcane means of fortune telling does the task excellently."
  • The author makes special pleading for tea reading versus capital-T-tarot by explaining that "The fact you can accomplish the task inexpensively with everyday household items is a further advantage."
  • Ugh. Not purchased. Send me a used copy if you find one, but i am not paying for this.

"Tea Cup Fortune-Telling" by Yvonne V. Charlot

Charlot, Yvonne B., Tea-Cup Fortune Telling. Universal Publications Limited, 1935; rev. ed. 1937.

  • Here is a well-constructed book with excellent illustrations of sample study cups. Given its publication date, i consider it one of the best source-books on 20th century tasseomancy.
  • Universal Publications Limited, 3 Fann Street, Aldersgate, London E.C.1 published a line of 45 books on divination and fortune telling of various sorts; social help such as letter writing, dancing, and household hints; rules and strategies for popular games and sports; and other topics of general interest. The books were published in uniform editions, all priced at 1s 3p each.
  • Two other titles that Yvonne. B. Charlot wrote for Universal Publications Limited were "Conundrums of All Kinds" and "The Meaning of Christian Names."
  • Other authors who wrote for the company on metaphysical topics were the astrologer Zodiastar and the dream interpreter Professor Nicholas.
  • Under the name U.P.L. the company also produced an extensive line of party amusements and card games of the sort that require specially illustrated decks.

"The World in Your Cup" by Joseph F. Conroy and Emilie J. Conroy

Conroy, Joseph F. and Emily J. Conroy. The World in Your Cup: A Handbook in the Ancient Art of Tea Leaf Reading. DNA Press, 2006.

  • 140 pages, hardcover with dust-wrapper. The binding itself is burgundy paper over boards with silver foil stamping on the spine.
  • Joseph F. Conroy (1945 - ) and Emilie J. Conroy (1981 - ) are a father-daughter team. Joseph F. Conroy is both an author and a literary agent. Emilie J. Conroy is a fiction and non-fiction author and s Pagan clergywoman associated with the Dianic Sisterhood of Themiskyra. Their writing style is exquisite, educational, and altogether charming.
  • This book is not quite like any other tea leaf reading manual in my collection. For one thing, the list of tea leaf symbols is very short, and only a one-line meaning is assigned to each of the 96 or so images. Instead, the book delves deeply into other topics. Part One contains a history of tea, a history of tasseomancy, how to brew tea, how to grow your own tea bushes (!), and the equipment needed for reading tea leaves. This occupies 76 pages. The side-trip into how to grow tea plants is a special treasure, and sets this book apart from every other tasseomancy tome. Part Two consists of six chapters on the actual art of tea leaf reading and one chapter on reading coffee grounds. The illustrations are well done, and will help any beginner learn what to look for. Be aware, however, that you may want to acquire a supplementary book with a longer and more detailed list of images.
  • This book was published during the second phase of the development of the internet, when web sites became widely available at relatively low cost. There are many links given for suppliers and even for the book itself, but time has rusted a quite few of these and turned them to dust. This is only to be expected, and it does not detract too much from the research that went into the work. Perhaps the Wayback Machine can help, perhaps not. People don't publish long lists of suppliers' URLs these days, with good reason.

"Creative Divination: Read Tea Leaves and Develop Your Personal Code" by Tabitha Dial, 2018

Dial, Tabitha. "Creative Divination: Read Tea Leaves and Develop Your Personal Code. ‎ CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2018.

  • For more on Amazon's CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, see the entry on Sophia Buckland.
  • Here we have "creative" tea leaf reading. See Sandra Wright for a book on "intuitive" tea leaf reading. I have not purchased this book. The title was a turn-off to me, as was the cover, in which the tea leaves have been replaced by strange little green blips that resemble a microscopic view of clustered lethal bacteria.
  • The sub-title, which seems far off-topic for tea leaf reading deserves some comment: The idea of learning to "develop your personal code" is usually found among dowsers. It is a modern, backward term of art that the American Society of Dowsers has used to replace the older term "train your pendulum." In training a pendulum, you teach it to respond to your perception of yes, no, or maybe by means of linear or circular motions. Calling this "your personal code" became common in the ASD dowsing community during the 1990s.
  • I have never heard the term "develop your personal code" applied to tea leaf reading, and it makes little sense to me, because training a pendulum consists of linking a few simple movements between your mind, your hand, and your eye. It is not equivalent to observing an open-ended thematic apperception test in a tea cup.
  • As i interpret it, "creative" tea leaf reading in which you "develop your personal code" sounds like, "make up your own meanings for how you feel about what you see and write them down on the workbook pages to create a completely solipsistic system of tea leaf reading that will not relate to human culture or historical lore in any way." Just a guess. As if that navel-gazing were not enough, the inclusion of fill-in-the-blank "workbook pages" additionally makes this a paper-wasting exercise in narcissism.
  • There are 79 ritualized methods for you to read the tea leaves in this book. None of them have to do with tea leaf reading as we know it.
  • Bizarre quote from the book: "You don't have to travel back to the Summer of Love to feel a sense of tranquility and understanding." Okay.
  • It gets weirder. In one of the ritualized readings you are to model your tea leaf reading on the Serenity Prayer. The bottom of the cup is "What serenity has -- or has not -- looked like to you in the past." The handle is "Your role in serenity." And so it goes, all the way up to the rim, which is "Future gifts from working with your serenity throughout your life." I can't even. I just can't.

"Tea Leaves" by Katie Dinan

Dinan, Katie [Catherine Genevieve Hagen]. Tea Leaves. Avice Dahlin, Publisher, 1949.

  • This is a limited edition art book as well as tea leaf reading manual. Each traditional tea leaf symbol is illustrated and each printed illustration is embellished with watercolour designs by the author-artist. The book gives the impression of having been created by a talented Bohemian artist who made and decorated individual copies for her friends.
  • The introduction runs from pages v -- xvii and there are 34 numbered pages of tea leaf symbols. Counting all pages, numbered and unnumbered, the book consists of 52 pages. It is bound in stiff pale-green boards. The pages are printed on thick rag art paper and each page is doubled over but uncut. These four leaf / two page fascicles are side stitched and then bound with dark green binder's tape. All text is printed in reddish brown, the colour of black tea, and additional watercolor art of tea leaves is hand-painted over and around each drawing in green, the colour of green tea.
  • There are 5 illustrated tea leaf symbols per numbered page, for a total of 170 images with interpretations, each with additional hand-painted watercolour art that overlays the printed art.
  • Catherine Genevieve Flaherty Hagen (July 21, 1897 - January 21, 1991) was born in Montana. Her mother's maiden surname was Dinan. Catherine was of Irish descent and it seems that her family nickname was Katie. Like many readers before her, she used her mother's maiden surname to express her female lineage in the world of fortune-telling. She did not trouble to hide her real name, for she placed it in the copyright notice. She was 52 years old when she wrote and illustrated this book. Her death, at the age of 94, was recorded in Contra Costa County, California, that is, in the northern portion of the East Bay Area.
  • The book's publisher, Avice Aimee Hall Dahlin (October 10, 1886 - September 24, 1985), listed her place of business as 156 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, California. She was born in California to Daniel Tompkins Hall (1825 - 1893) and Elizabeth (Lizzie) Sims (1864 - 1938). She and her husband, Mr. Dahlin, had one child, Gladys, born in 1911. She was 63 years old when she published this book, which was an obvious labour of hand-craft and artistry. She died in Berkeley, California, at the approximate age of 99.
  • 300 copies were made of this book and all were hand-illustrated, numbered, and signed by the author as Katie Dinan. With 170 illustrations per book, times 300 copies, the artist made a total of 510,00 additions to the printed images with her watercolour paint. My copy is #288. Rank this among the rarest-of-the-rare ... if you are lucky enough to find a copy. I found mine in Northern California, so it did not travel far from its source.
  • I would love to showcase some of Katie Dinan's artwork here, but the book is so tightly bound that it cannot be opened for scanning without breaking the spine or the hinges.

"Tea Leaf Reading for Beginners" by Caroline Dow

Dow, Caroline. Tea Leaf Reading For Beginners: Your Fortune in a Tea Cup. 2011

  • This is one of the many titles in Llewellyn's "For Beginners" series. Like all of them, it is adequate, well edited, and inoffensive. The term "For Beginners" is accurate, yet at the same time, the book promises that "in six simple steps, you'll learn to read tea leaves like a pro." Well, at least you'll know six basic steps.
  • One unusual thing about this book, which distinguishes it from others, is that four sample readings are illustrated with photos rather than line-art. This will no doubt appeal to literal-minded visual learners.
  • Official bio: "Caroline Dow (Boulder, CO) holds a PhD in Luso-Brazilian Studies and has taught at Brown, Pittsburgh, and Colorado universities. She has also worked for many years as an intercultural trainer and assessor. Additionally, Caroline has been a practicing herbalist for thirty years. She owns a successful herbal mail-order company and conducts popular workshops all over the country. Caroline's previous books include The Healing Power of Tea."

"Tea Cup Fortune Reading" published by Dynamo House, circa 1993-1994

Dynamo House. Tea Cup Fortune Reading. Dynamo House, [n.d.; ISBN is circa 1993-1994].

  • This is a real oddity. It consists of two separate 24 page square-format booklets bound into one colorful board cover, with a bound-in elastic strap to keep the assemblage closed.
  • The book is undated but carries an ISBN which the National Library of Australia estimates to refer to a publication date of 1993-1994. This looks about right to me, given the graphic and fontagraphic style of the package.
  • Interior booklet number one, affixed the front cover, is titled "Cup Fortune Reading Notebook." It consists of six pages of grey drawings of a blank tea cup, repeated nine times per page in a grid layout. These pages are headed "Interesting examples." The next six pages are imprinted with nine blank squares per page in a grid pattern, with the header "Recurring symbols. The final 12 pages consist of seven horizontal white spaces in which to write, and are headed "Notes." This is a complete waste of paper.
  • Interior booklet number two, affixed to the back cover, is titled "Tea Cup Fortune Reading." It consists of a nice cover and 6 page introduction to how tea cups are read, followed by about 375 tea leaf symbols on 16 pages in tiny-tiny, but readable type. This 24-page booklet is the entire learnable content of the two-part book-package.

"Fortune and Fame in Tea Cup Reading" by Em-Ja-Dee (Michael J. Duff); this copy is surprinted for Finkle's Tavern of Summitville, New York, Loren Finkle, proprietor

Em-Ja-Dee [Michael J. Duff]. Fortune and Fame in Tea-Cup Reading. A. Mitchell, 1939.

  • Also marked as "Printer’s Booklet No. 57," this excellent instruction manual was designed as a promotional item to be sold in tea rooms. It is therefore found surprinted with various tea room names on the cover; however, aside from the surprint, the content, design, and paper stock is always the same.
  • 1939, saddle stitched, illustrated stiff paper cover.
  • The symbolism on the cover of this booklet is intentionally cross-cultural. The lettering is pseudo-Chinese -- a hand-drawn variation of a typographic font-family often named after one specific font, Chopsticks -- but the omen-images are overwhelmingly European: a witch, a rose, a fish, a star, a diamond, a dog, a bee, a pine tree, and a chicken.
  • The writer-artist "Em-Ja-Dee" is identified in the booklet itself as Michael J. Duff, and the publisher (and presumed printer) is A. Mitchell, but my cursory research has not produced any more information on these people.
  • I have two copies of this fantastic booklet in my collection. The one shown here is printed for Finkle's Tavern of Summitville, New York, Loren Finkle, proprietor, but the other is blank. It's a good guess that A. Mitchell was located in New York, because in the mid-20th century, the concept of nation-wide branding and distribution was in its infancy.

"Tea Leaf Reading" by Dennis Fairchild

Fairchild, Dennis. Tea Leaf Reading: A Divination Guide for the Bottom of Your Cup. RP Minis, 2015.

  • RP Minis is a division of Running Press that specializes in tiny, miniature books.
  • Official bio: "Dennis Fairchild is the author of numerous Running Press titles, including Fortune Telling: A New Guide to Palm Reading and Tarot, as well as the Palm Reading and Tarot Miniature Editions."
  • This is a thick and sturdy mini-book, just a little larger than a standard stack of Post-It notes. It is adorably cute and makes a great gift basket stuffer when combined with a package of fancy tea and a beautiful cup and saucer set.
  • The information is accurate, albeit condensed in scope.
  • 144 pages, hardcover, with its own mini dust-jacket.

Fortune Telling by Tea Leaves" by Sasha Fenton, 1988

Fenton, Sasha. Fortune-Telling by Tea Leaves: A Practical Guide to the Ancient Art of Tasseography. Aquarian Press, 1988.

  • Official bio: "Sasha Fenton became a professional astrologer, palmist, and tarot card reader in 1974, but she tailed off her consultancy business when her writing took off. She has written 136 books, mainly on mind, body & spirit subjects. She has total sales of around 7 million copies to her credit, and translations of some titles into twelve languages. Sasha has taught, broadcast and lectured all over the world, and has written for many magazines and newspapers. One of her favourite features was a detailed Chinese Astrology column in Prediction magazine, starting with the January 2012 issue. She has concentrated on making Chinese Astrology accessible to western audiences. She is a past President of the British Astrological and Psychic Society (BAPS), past Chair for the Advisory Panel on Astrological Education, and past member of the Executive Council of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain. Sasha and her husband Jan Budkowski created MBS Professionals Ltd, an international accreditation and certification home for Mind, Body & Spirit professionals. They now spend time running Zambezi Publishing Ltd., and in their brief spare time, a spot of fly fishing in the beautiful South West of England is a great way to relax."
  • Fenton's Zambezi publishing company, in conjunction with Sterling Publishing, was the publisher of the first edition of "Tea Leaf Reading" by Jacqueline Towers; see under Towers.
  • I have not seen this edition, but believe it to be identical with the next entry, which would then be a retitled 2nd edition. I await comments from readers.

"Tea Cup Reading" by Sasha Fenton, 2002

Fenton, Sasha. Tea Cup Reading: A Quick and Easy Guide to Tasseography. Weiser Books, 2002.

  • This wonderful little guide is a favourite beginner's book on the subject of telling fortunes by tea leaf reading according to traditional Scottish, English, and Irish methods. It also teaches how to read coffee grounds in the Eastern European style.
  • Profusely illustrated with images of tea-leaf and coffee ground symbols, it gives the time-honoured meanings for the images, along with historical overviews of tea and coffee, including their social impact and some of their medical uses.
  • If you need just one contemporary mass-market book on tasseography to get you started reading tea leaves for friends and clients, this may be the one. It is fun, upbeat, informative, and completely accurate with respect to the "old ways" of fortune telling in a teacup.

"Tea Leaf Reading" by William Hewitt, 1st edition

  • 144 pages, trade paperback.

Hewitt, William W. Tea Leaf Reading. Llewellyn Publications; 1st edition (1989)

  • Cover painting by Victoria Poyser Lisi
  • 256 pages, paperback.
  • William W. Hewitt was born in 1929 and was 60 years old when Lewellyn published this book. He dedicated it "to my wife Dee" and "to the memory of my mother, Dorothy Agnes Hewitt," cementing his male expertise to that of the female members of his family.
  • There are more than 400 entries for tea leaf images, with lengthy descriptions and a solid alphabetical index. Very few of the images are illustrated, but those that are are drawn as tea-leaf clusters, which is helpful to the novice learner. The sheer quantity of images described puts this book in the top ten percent of all tea leaf reading guides.
  • The following description came from the publisher: Learn the ancient art of interpreting the shapes of tea leaves for yourself and others in "Tea Leaf Reading" by William W. Hewitt. "Tea Leaf Reading "is your complete guide to reading and interpreting tea leaves. You don't need any prior knowledge or psychic abilities -- just a teacup, some tea, and the desire to have fun Each step is completely explained so you can be giving tea leaf readings in minutes. You'll learn how to:

- Phrase questions effectively.
- Prepare the tea cup (how much loose tea to use, how to mix water with the leaves, how to infuse the tea leaves with your energy, and how to disperse the leaves around the inside of the cup).
- Analyze the tea leaves for the reading, including numerous examples You will learn what the tea leaf patterns mean by referring to the extensive, illustrated glossary of more than 400 symbols.
- Find out about the different "zones" of the teacup, and how you can determine what's in store for you for the next twelve months.
- You can also use the tea leaves to answer specific questions. Do you see a bride's dress? Expect extensive changes in your life. Is there a firecracker in the cup? That means enjoyable excitement. A roof implies protection for you, your family and your possessions. Skis indicate that you are moving too fast and need to pay greater attention to detail. - - - Discuss the philosophies of tea leaf reading.
Reading tea leaves is nearly as easy as tea drinking -- and even more enjoyable. Pour yourself a cup of tea and find out what the future has in store for you with the help of "Tea Leaf Reading."

  • Llewellyn has a habit of republishing books with variant covers, leaving the contents unchanged. Such is the case with this book. See also the 2nd and 3rd editions.
  • 256 pages, paperback.

"Tea Leaf Reading" by William Hewitt, 2nd edition

Hewitt, William W. Tea Leaf Reading. Llewellyn Publications; 2nd edition (circa 1994)

  • Llewellyn has a habit of republishing books with variant covers, leaving the contents unchanged. Such is the case with this 2nd edition. See the entry on the 1st edition for more information.
  • 256 pages, paperback.

"Tea Leaf Reading" by William Hewitt, 3rd edition

Hewitt, William W. Tea Leaf Reading. Llewellyn Publications; 3rd edition (October 8, 1999)

  • Llewellyn republished this book a third time, with another variant covers. leaving the contents unchanged. See the entry on the 1st edition for more information.
  • 256 pages, paperback.

"Tea Cup Reading: How to Tell Fortunes by Tea Leaves" by A Highland Seer

Highland Seer, A. Tea Cup Reading: How to Tell Fortunes by Tea Leaves. George Sully. c 1917-1918. [Also an early edition by A. Burt, and many later reprints.].

  • The identity of "A Highland Seer" remains unknown. It is obvious that he was educated about folklore, and was conversant with Scottish methods of reading the leaves.
  • Extract from the publisher's introduction: "From time immemorial, humankind has tried to uncover the meaning of divining the future. While druids followed the stars and Greeks sought counsel from the Oracle at Delphi, the "spae-wives" of the Scottish highlands found the answers to life in the tea-leaf patterns in their cups. Lines of dust meant journeys, swans foretold of love, and snakes warned of disaster. These and other symbols were passed down from generation to generation. This work reproduces the writings of an anonymous Scottish seer who recorded the secrets of the ancient art of reading tea leaves, including an alphabetical list of the various signs and their meanings. It features illustrations of sample cups, and their interpretations show how to weave and balance the symbols together, transforming a cup of tea into the voice of the Fates. The book combines that manuscript with modern writings on the history and philosophy of foretelling the future."
  • 96 pages, hardcover.
  • Many reprints can be found, both in hardcover and paperback, and as the book is out of copyright and in the public domain, it is also available for download in various electronic formats.
  • No tea leaf reader should be without this brief book. It set the scene for every guide to tasseomancy that followed. The only documentation on tea leaf reading that preceded it were instructional sheets supplied with specially marked cups, such as John Hanley's 1899 Fortuna Fortune Telling Tea Cup and the 1904 Nelros Cup of Fortune. It was followed, but not rendered obsolete, by Cicely Kent's magnum opus of 1922.

"Tea Leaf Reading" by Highland Seer, with a new introduction by James Norwood Pratt, 1993

Highland Seer, A. Tea Leaf Reading [cover] / Tea-Cup Reading and the Art of Fortune-Telling by Tea-Leaves [title page]. With an Introduction by James Norwood Pratt. Privately Published for John Harney and Sons, Ltd. and James Norwood Pratt Tea Luxuries. 1993.

  • This is a reprint of the 1917 edition, with a few changes. First, there is the 32-page Introduction by James Norwood Pratt, which conveys a sense of the historical background to the tea trade and to the oracular use of tea. Then follows the original text. The rather inadequate sample cup images of the original have, however, been replaced by ten gloriously photoshopped half-tone images of cups. Finally, there is a 3-page Afterword by John Harney. of Harney and Sons, Ltd. which indicates that the reprint has been intended as a tea company promotion, The book is printed in Canada.
  • All in all, if you cannot afford the original edition, which is not rare, merely expensive, i recommend this as the next nest edition. It is not as common as the tiny, square edition with the yellow-gold cover, but its size and layout give you more of a sense of the era in which A Highland Seer was writing.. Pratt's intro is a bit long, and may give the impression of overshadowing the valuable original material, but it is well intentioned and not a bad read in its own right.

"Reading Tea Leaves" by A Highland Seer, with a new introduction by James Norwood Pratt, 1995

Highland Seer, A. Reading Tea Leaves, with a new introduction by James Norwood Pratt. Clarkson Potter, 1995.

  • 90 pages, hard boards with pictorial cover.
  • This re-titled and retypeset reprint of "Tea Cup Reading: How to Tell Fortunes by Tea Leaves" by A Highland Seer is a strange one; the new introduction overwhelms the original content, and the printing is too "artsy" for clear readability. The original edition is superior, but this gift-book copy made a big splash in the mid-1990s and re-introduced a lot of people to the magical world of the legendary Highland Seer.

"Telling Fortunes by Tea Leaves" by Cicely Kent

Kent, Cicely, Telling Fortunes by Tea Leaves: How to Read Your Fate in a Tea Cup. Dodd, Mead And Company, 1922 -- and many subsequent printings through 1946.

  • Cicely Kent’s 1922 bombshell, “Telling Fortunes by Tea Leaves: How to Read Your Fate in a Tea Cup,” was, and remains, the most exhaustive book on cup reading symbolism. Every author since Kent has consulted her large dictionary of symbols, and my co-author Gregory Lee White and i are no exception, for our own book, "The Stranger in the Cup," draws heavily upon her work (and unlike some other authors, we actually credit her).
  • 144 pages, illustrated hardcover.
  • Shown here is the hardbound book in its original dust-wrapper. Underneath the paper wrapper, the binding is light blue cloth with black stamping for the first few printings, and light green cloth with black stamping for at least one subsequent printing.
  • This book is out of copyright and in the public domain; it can be found for free online in various electronic formats; paper facsimile reprints are also available.
  • Kent is notable for devoting an entire chapter of her book to how to read the Nelros Cup of Fortune, a 1904 astrology and symbol cup by Aynsley which itself if still imitated and copied by other makers to this day. Her book precedes the introduction of the first Cup of Knowledge cartomancy cups by three years or she would likely have included a chapter on that style of cup as well.

"Tea Cup Tales" by Margaret Lange McWhorter, 1984

McWhorter, Margaret Lange. Tea Cup Tales: Tales of Tea and How to Read the Tea Leaves. Ransom Hill Press, 1984.

  • The June 1, 1984 1st edition of McWhorter's book has a different sub-title, cover, and page-count than the 2nd edition.
  • 42 pages, paperback, with a black-and-white cover.
  • The 1st edition of this small self-published book is very hard to find, but that is not too bad, because it is probably only of value to completists, as the 2nd, enlarged edition is much nicer.

"Tea Cup Tales" by Margaret Lange McWhorter, 1998

McWhorter, Margaret Lange. Tea Cup Tales: The Art of Reading Tea Leaves. Ransom Hill Press, 1998.

  • The January 1, 1998 2nd edition of McWhorter's book has a different sub-title, cover, and page-count than the 1st edition.
  • 112 pages, paperback, with a colour cover.
  • This is a charming little self-published book. I carried the bright pink 2nd edition in my shop for many years, until it went out of print. Used copies command a fairly high price in the vintage book trade.

"Tea Cup and Card Fortune Telling" by Mercury, hardcover in dustwrapper, 1937

Mercury. Tea Cup and Card Fortune Telling. W. Foulsham, n.d. (c. 1937).

  • 96 pages, hardcover, issued with pictorial dustwrapper; dark red cloth binding.
  • Around 1930 the publisher W. Foulsham brought out an odd little double-book — 48 pages on tasseomancy and 48 pages on card reading bound together as “Tea Cup and Card Fortune Telling: How to Tell Your Fortune and That of Your Friends” by the anonymous "Mercury."
  • Despite having been released by the same publisher as Minetta's "Tea-Cup Fortune Telling," this is an entirely different book. As far as i can tell, its reprint history was short at best, which is a shame, because it is not a bad book at all.
  • Just a collector's side-note: The dustwrapper is a stunning example of art deco design.

Minetta. (1) Tea-Cup Fortune Telling: The Signs Illustrated and Simply Explained. W. Foulsham, n.d. (c. 1920).

  • 160 pages, illustrated, hardcover; dark cloth binding; it may have had a dust-wrapper; by copy has none..
  • The 1st and 2nd editions carry an Introduction by Sepharial (William Gorn Olds).
  • There are at least a dozen editions of this book from both British and American publishers, with variant covers, titles, sub-titles, contents, and page-counts.
  • This is an excellent book, if you can get a copy of the original edition. Look for the Introduction by Sepharial and the Author's preface and the 160 pages of content.
  • Each passing revision became worse and worse. The original edition has a red cloth binding. It is out of copyright and in the public domain, but the trouble with buying reprints is that you may get snookered into a reprint of a later and lesser edition. Check out the tale of the diminishing page-counts. Beware.

Subsequent reprints follow in descending page-count order.

(2) "The Art of Tea Cup Fortune Telling" by Minetta, Foulsham, 160 pages

Minetta. (2) The Art of Tea Cup Fortune Telling. Foulsham, 1953.

  • 160 pages, hardcover with pictorial dust-wrapper.
  • I am only guessing, but given the date, i would assume that this is one of the last 160-page editions.

(3) "Tea-Cup Fortune Telling" by Minetta, David McKay, c. 1950, 96 pages

Minetta. (3) Tea-Cup Fortune . McKay Company n.d. (c. 1950).

  • 96 pages, illustrated, side-stapled, printed pictorial board cover.
  • Notable for its art deco cover in red, black, and tan with yellow cloth tape on the spine that covers the staples.
  • This American edition carries the Introduction by Sepharial (William Gorn Olds) and the Author's Preface by Minetta.
  • The book has been retypeset. The subtitle ("The Signs Illustrated and Simply Explained.") and Minetta's name have both been eliminated from the cover, although they appear on the title page.
  • Dozens and dozens of entries have been eliminated, resulting in a loss of 64 pages!

Minetta. (4) Tea-Cup Fortune Telling: The Signs Illustrated and Simply Explained. David McKay Company n.d. (c. 1958).

  • 96 pages, illustrated, hardcover; green cloth with black stamping; it was probably issued with a dust-wrapper but my copy has none.
  • This American edition carries the Introduction by Sepharial (William Gorn Olds) and the Author's Preface by Minetta.
  • The book has been retypeset. Dozens and dozens of entries have been eliminated, resulting in a loss of 64 pages!

(5)"Tea-Cup Fortune Telling" by Minetta, Arco, 1953, 96 pages

Minetta. (5) An Arco Book of Tea-Cup Fortune Telling." Arco, 1953.

  • 96 pages, illustrated, hardcover; brown, black, and white paper wraps with a black line0art illustration od a woman reading a tea cup.
  • Yes, another cheesy 96-page chop-shop edition of Minetta's classic book. What more can i say? Poor Minetta was probably pissed off as hell in the spirit world. I sure would have been.

(6)"Tea-Cup Fortune Telling at a Glance" by Minetta, I, & M. Ottenheimer, 1958, 96 pages

Minetta. (6) Tea-Cup Fortune Telling At-A-Glance. I. & M. Ottenheimer, 1958.

  • This American edition is retitled and noted on the title pages as "Revised 1958." However, it does carry Sephariel's Introduction and the Author's Preface,and runs the full length of the abridged Mckay edition. Its worst flaw, aside from being butched, is the typesetting on the dust-wrapper.
  • 96 pages, hardcover with a yellow-and-black dust-wrapper. Under the dust wrapper the binding is pale green cloth with black stamping.

(7) "Tea-Cup Fortune Telling: The Signs Illustrated and Simply Explained" by Minetta, Foulsham, circa 1960, 72 pages

Minetta. (7) Tea-Cup Fortune Telling: The Signs Illustrated and Simply Explained. W. Foulsham, n.d. (c. 1960).

  • 72 pages, illustrated paperback, tan boards with a full-colour dust-wrapper showing a pair of hands holding a tea cup, and beneath that, a foursome of two women and two men drinking tea.
  • Underneath the pretty wrapper is a tan chipboard cover with the title printed inside a rhomboid placard, from which descends a ribbon and the logo of W. Foulsham.
  • This edition is often sold without the wrapper, under the assumption that the tan rhomboid-and-ribbon design is the original cover, without noting that the dust-wrapper has been lost.
  • This prettily-wrappered falsity clocks in at only 72 pages because the Introduction and Author's Preface were deleted, and so was a lot more of the text. 24 more pages out the window and a total loss of 88 pages, or more than half the contents, since the 1st edition. And we're not done yet.

(8) "Tea-Cup Fortune Telling: The Signs Illustrated and Simply Explained" by Minetta, Foulsham, 72 pages, circa 1965

Minetta. (8) Tea-Cup Fortune Telling: The Signs Illustrated and Simply Explained. W. Foulsham, n.d. (c. 1960).

  • 72 pages, illustrated paperback, red and yellow.
  • The contents and page count duplicate the pretty 72-page edition above. The only difference is the shocking cover.
  • This horrific red and yellow paperback edition is a warning of worse things to come.

(9) "Tea-Cup Fortune Telling: The Signs Illustrated and Simply Explained" by Minetta, 72 pages, circa 1970

Minetta. (9) Tea-Cup Fortune Telling: The Signs Illustrated and Simply Explained. W. Foulsham, n.d. (c. 1960).

  • 72 pages, illustrated paperback, green and yellow.
  • The contents and page count duplicate the pretty 72-page edition above. The only difference is the unpleasant cover.
  • Avoid this one like the plague. It may damage your eyeballs.

(10) "Tea-Cup Fortune Telling: The Signs Illustrated and Simply Explained" by Minetta, Foulsham, 1972

Minetta. (10) Tea-Cup Fortune Telling: The Signs Illustrated and Simply Explained. W. Foulsham, 1972.

  • 64 pages, illustrated paperback, cyan and red.
  • The book is now marked on the cover and internally as a part of the "Foulsham's New Popular Handbooks" series.
  • Oh, you thought that the 72-page edition of Minetta was bad, did you? Well, Foulsham's red and cyan paperback edition has that beat, having lost 96 pages from the original, 32 pages from the revised edition, and 8 pages from the previous edition! The art has been redrawn. The type has been reset. More entries have been eliminated.
  • For completeists and self-torturing biblio-obsessives only. You have been warned.
  • I can't believe that my love of creating bibliographies led me to purchase this, just so that i could catalogue it. Don't make the same mistake. You don't need the sorrow.

(1) "Teacup Fortune Telling" by Minetta, Foulsham, 1992

Minetta. (11) Tea-Cup Fortune Telling: The Signs Illustrated and Simply Explained. W. Foulsham, 1992.

  • 64 pages, illustrated paperback.
  • The book is now given a photographic cover and marked as a part of the "Esoteric Know How" series.
  • Minetta's name no longer appears on the cover.
  • The typetting and internal art is the same as the above cyan and red edition and is virtually useless for teaching tea leaf reading, but at least it will not blind you.

"The Muriel Method of Tea-Leaf Reading" by Muriel

Muriel. The Muriel Method of Tea-Leaf Reading. Muriel Publishing Co., 1938.

  • Muriel's true identity remains a mystery, but her booklet is a unique and valuable window into the scantly-documented world of psychic readers who presented divination at tea rooms during the 20th century. Her text provides meanings for basic tea leaf symbols, but it also contains information about working as a tasseomancer in Detroit, Michigan in 1938, with specific instructions on how to present oneself, where to position oneself in the tea room, and how much money to expect from professional tea reading (enough to augment the family income, but not enough to support the family).
  • The title-page for this booklet, and a little more about the legal status of tea room readers in Detroit during the 1930s, can be found on the page about Having Your Fortune Told At a Tea Room.

"Learn How to Tell Tea Cup Fortunes" by S.E.M. Putnam

Putnam, S. E. M. Learn How to Tell Tea Cup Fortunes. San Fernando Valley Press, c 1938.

  • This is an excellent manual that goes far beyond merely listing tea leaf symbols and their meanings; it provides valuable folklore about the domestic rituals and practices of tea cup tossing as the author had learned it. Gregory Lee White and i quoted a couple of important points from Putnam, with credit to the author, in our book, "The Stranger in the Cup."
  • The author, whose full name is unknown at this time, wrote poetry about tea leaf reading, which is archived at this site. The style of the poetry is English-Irish and may indicate a female author.
  • This is a very rare item, printed for the author by a local newspaper, the San Fernando Valley Press, and distributed in Southern California during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

"Tea Cup Reading" published by Silver Digest

Silver Digest. Tea Cup Reading: Fate and Fortune in Tea Leaves. Silver Digest, [n.d., circa 1960s - 1980s].

  • 64 pages, paperback. "An Australian Edition." "Printed by Ross Offset for the publishers Silver Digest Publishing Company, Avalon, N.S.W." "All the Facts in a Few Words ... Little Books of Knowledge."
  • True to their name, the Silver Digests were small, saddle-stitched booklets in stiff wraps, printed with silver ink on the exterior and interior cover pages. No other titles are listed, but the topics include Weddings, parties, Speeches, Home Management, Australian Animals, Sydney's Northern Beaches, World Religions, Alcoholism, Choosing a Career, How to Stop Worrying, Family Happiness, How to Be Rich, Memory Training, Phrenology, Yoga, and Witchcraft, to name but a few. This is title No. 123 in a series of unknown length.

To my American eyes, the Silver Digest series looks like an Australian version of the rackable supermarket checkout line booklets of the 1960s - 1980s. The use of the word "Offset" in the printer's name points to that era as well.

  • The book is illustrated with several sample cups and contains the meaning for about 400 tea leaf symbols, all of them traditional and some even antiquated. At least three -- "Aboriginal," "Kangaroo," and "Koala" -- are distinctly Australian.

"The Art of Tea Leaf Reading" by Jane Struthers, 2006

Struthers, Jane. The Art of Tea-Leaf Reading. Godsfield Press, a division of Octopus Publishing Group Ltd., London. 2006

  • 128 pages, paperback, full colour throughout on glossy paper; heavily illustrated, with charming watercolour art by Nicola Gregory. In addition to the female author and illustrator, the entire masthead consists of women: Executive Editor:, Brenda Rosen,; Editor, Charlotte Wilson; Executive Art Editor, Sally Bond; Designer, Janis Utton; and Production Manager, Louise Hall.
  • More than half the book falls into the "lore and romance" category, augmented by instructions on how to conduct a reading. During this section the concept of dividing tea cup readings into special formats is introduced: reading for pets, reading for moving house, reading for romance, career, money and values, reading for health. Once the readings are thus divided, the tea leaf symbols themselves are sorted, and in the approximately 48 pages devoted to listing images, colour-coded pages demarcate the sections on love, wealth, and so forth. After the removal of alphabetization from the list, an end-of-book index must them be produced, and it takes up four pages.
  • All things considered, this is a lovely, well-made gift book and serves its purpose admirably, despite the strange idea of chopping the images up by category of reading. Some folks may like that; i found it a bit distracting. However, i liked the book enough to buy it anyway, and to add it to my permanent collection, in large part because it is so pretty.

"Simply Tea Leaf Reading" by Jacqueline Towers

Towers, Jacqueline. Simply Tea Leaf Reading. Sterling/Zambezi, 2008.

  • Jacqueline Towers produced this book for Sasha Fenton's Zambezi Publishing (see the entry on Fenton above), and it was also part of Sterling's "Simply Series" of light-weight metaphysical instruction books for newbies. Many of these Sterling books were designed for gift-giving.
  • Jaqueline Towers also wrote "Simply Dreams" for the "Simply Series." It was repackaged as "The Little Book of Dream Symbols" for Sterling, as part of the company's "Little Book" line of small, square volumes.

"Tea Leaf Reading" by Jacqueline Towers

Towers, Jacqueline. Tea Leaf Reading: Discover Your Fortune in the Bottom of a Cup. Weiser, 2018.

  • This is a retitled reprint of the same author's "Simply Tea Leaf Reading," with a new publisher. The "Simply" title had to be changed because the "Simply Series" was a trademark of Sterling Publishing. See the above entry.

"Tucker's Tea Cup Reader" by Frederick Charles Tucker

Tucker, Frederick Charles. Tucker’s Tea-Cup Reader. Tucker’s Publications, c 1938.

  • An intriguing book from Australia. Hard to find.

"The Stranger in the Cup: How to Read Your Luck and Fate in the Tea Leaves" by Gregory Lee White and catherine yronwode

White, Gregory Lee and Catherine Yronwode. The Stranger in the Cup: How to Read Your Luck and Fate in the Tea Leaves. Lucky Mojo Curio Co., 2022.

  • 96 pages, heavily illustrated, paperback.
  • The cover of this book was executed by Grey Townsend, inspired by the cover of "The Cup of Knowledge: A Key to the Mysteries of Divination" by Willis Mac Nichol (William Nicholson and Sydney MacNamara) from 1925.
  • The list of 800 basic images draws, with credit, upon the work of Cicely Kent and other authors of the past, and is the largest such grouping of traditional symbolism ever assembled in one book.
  • A history of the women-led Tea Room Movement of the early 20th century is included, with reference to how free tea leaf readings were performed in such eateries.
  • Reading methods, cup layout, timing of events, and cultural customs surrounding the reading, such as the "wish sign" and the "love drop," are fully explained.
  • 40 study-cups are included for learners to use as examples of how readings are constructed. These are in some cases adapted from older books, but each cup has been redrawn by White and reinterpreted by Yronwode.

"Reading the Leaves by Sandra Mariah Wright and Leanne Marrama

Wright, Sandra Mariah and Leanne Marrama. Reading the Leaves: An Intuitive Guide to the Ancient Art and Modern Magic of Tea Leaf Divination. TarcherPerigee, 2020.

  • From reader reviews we are meant to understand that these authors are hip, hep, up-to-date, and au courant. They are not invoking the cup lore of the Elder Grandmothers, that's for sure: "An approachable, savvy guide." "A smart, fun dive into a path of intuitive discovery." "Smart, modern, practical and witty!." "Tasseomancy for our time."
  • "Sandra Mariah Wright owns an events business (Spirit Beacon Psychic Fair & Mystical Marketplace), as well as a jewelry and occult supply company (Gallows Hill Witchery), and manages the largest annual psychic fair in the country (the Salem Psychic Fair & Witches' Market). She has appeared on the Travel Channel and Showtime, and has been featured on Dish Network's Magnificent Obsessions."
  • "Leanne Marrama is a full-time professional psychic. She teaches classes, presents at festivals around the country, and hosts weekly séances in Salem. Among her many media appearances, she has been featured on TLC's What Not to Wear, Ghost Chronicles, and Beyond Belief with George Noory."
  • Intuitive tea leaf reading sounds like finger-painting to me. I feel the same way about "intuitive" tarot, "intuitive" I Ching, "intuitive" numerology, "intuitive" astrology, and "intuitive" palmistry. Your mileage may vary.

Books And Articles About the Tea Room Movement

Brandimarte, Cynthia A., To Make the Whole World Homelike: Gender Space and America’s Tea Room Movement, Winterthur Portfolio 30, No. 1, Spring 1995.

Coleman, Mildred H., Recovering Frances Virginia and the Frances Virginia Tea Room: Transition Era Activism at the Intersections of Womanism, Feminism, and Home Economics, 1920-1962. Thesis, Georgia State University, 2012.

Whitaker, Jan. Tea at the Blue Lantern Inn: A Social History of the Tea Room Craze in America. St. Martin’s Press, 2015.

Thanks to my husband nagasiva yronwode for helping with scans and cleanup. I couldn't have done it without you, dear.

catherine yronwode
curator, historian, and docent
The Mystic Tea Room

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