Bibliography of Books about Tasseomancy

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From the Land of Tea
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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. This page is a simple place-holder for a much more extensive page which my Patrons have paid for at the rate of $2.00 per week or more, as they wish. After one year of exclusive viewership by Patrons, this page will open to the public in greatly expanded form in June 2023.

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"Tea Cup Fortune-Telling" by Yvone V. Charlot
"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
"Tea Cup Reading How to Tell Fortunes by Tea Leaves" by A Highland Seer
"The Cup of Knowledge: A Key to the Mysteries of Divination" by Wllis Mac Nichol (William Nicholson and Sydney MacNamara)
"Tea Cup Fortune Telling: The Signs Illustrated and Simply Explained" by Minetta
"The Muriel Method of Tea-Leaf Reading" by Muriel
"Learn How to Tell Tea Cup Fortunes" by S.E.M. Putnam
"Tucker's Tea Cup Reader" by Frederick Charles Tucker


Tea Leaf Reading Bibliography

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.

If collecting books is your passion, you may enjoy our Bibliography of Books about Tasseomancy. It will never be complete -- and we look forward to suggestions and contributions of information from our readers.

Tasseomancy Instruction Books and Bookets

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

  • This is a well-constructed book with excellent illustrations of sample study cups. Given how early it was, i consider it one of the best source-books on 20th centurt 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.

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

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; however, aside from the surprint, the content, design, and paper stock is always the same.

Fenton, Sasha. Tea Cup Reading

  • Originally published in 2000. This wonderful "Quick and Easy Guide to Tasseography" is a favourite modern 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 book on tasseography to get you started reading tea leaves for friends and clients, this is the one. It is fun, upbeat, informative, and completely accurate with respect to the "old ways" of fortune telling in a teacup.
  • 142 pages, trade paperback.

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.].

  • 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.

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 opus, “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 we are no exception.

McWhorter, Margaret L. Tea Cup Tales: The Art of Reading Tea Leaves

  • 112 pages, paperback.

Mercury. Tea-Cup and Card Fortune Telling. W. Foulsham, n.d. (c. 1925).

  • Around 1925 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” by “Mercury.”

Minetta. Tea-Cup Fortune Telling: The Signs Illustrated and Simply Explained. W.Foulsham, n.d. (c. 1926). .

  • At least six editions issued with variant covers and sub-titles, revised ed. 1958, plus two American editions, by David Mackay and I. & M. Ottenheimer

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 1930d, can be found on the page about Having Your Fortune Told At a Tea Room.

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

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

Tasseomancy Booklets Issued by Pottery Companies

Anton, John Tea Leaf Reading Booklet, Taltos Cup of Fortune, 1975

  • 24 pg. John Anton Taltos Booklet.

Aynsley. The Cup of Knowledge. Aynsley China, 1924.

  • Can be used with any Aynsley, Alfred Meakin, J & G Meakin, Booth's, Grosvenor Jackson & Gosling, or Fairylite Cup of Knowledge.
  • 6 pg. tri-fold with the line drawing of a dragon on the front.

Barbreggo. The Romany Cup of Fortune. Creative Art Products, 1935.

Hanley, John W. The Fortune Telling Tea Cup: Prophetic, Interesting, Amusing, and Instructive. Fortuna Tea Cup Co., 1899.

  • The first book on tasseomancy that did not accompany a tea set was “Tea Cup Reading: How to Tell Fortunes by Tea Leaves” by “A Highland Seer,” published circa 1917-1918. The pseudonymous author was literate and well-versed in the history of the spae-wives of Scotland, the prophetesses who read the tea leaves.

Mac Nicol, Willis [William Nicholson and Sydney MacNamara]. The Cup of Knowledge: A Key to the Mysteries of Divination. n.p, , n.d. [1924 and 1925, for the British Empire Exhibition.

  • Two editions, “tall” and “square.” The former is the earlier; the latter soon replaced it as the square shape fits the packaging for a cup and saucer.]
  • In 1924 The Cup of Knowledge by William Nicholson and Samuel MacNarama (“Willis Mac Nichol”) was a huge hit. The first cartomancy cup. it came with a fanciful book of history and full instructions for use.

Paragon. Signs and Omens Cup and Saucer. Paragon Fine China, n.d. (c. 1930).

Red Rose Tea

  • Tea Leaf Reading Booklet, Cup of Fortune, Red Rose Tea, c1965
  • 10 pg. Booklet
  • Issued by a tea company, this booklet was also issued in conjunction with the sale of a set of three fortune telling tea cups from the Taylor and Kent pottery company, and so it is double-listed and appears in both categories.

Royal Kendall

  • Tea Leaf Reading Booklet, Taltos Cup of Fortune, 1980
  • 24 pg. Booklet.

Vernon, Lillian

  • Tea Leaf Reading Booklet, Lillian Vernon Fortune Teller Cup, 1985
  • Original folded sheet for Lillian Vernon 's ICG Cup of Fortune.

Wimsatt, Genevieve. Chinese Fortune-Telling Teacup. Wimsatt, 1931.

Tasseomancy Booklets issued by Tea Companies

Benevente, Marcia, Tea Fortunes!. Stephen Leeman Products, Variant covers and advertisements; contents otherwise identical, 1931, 1946.

Bushnell’s Blue Label, How to Read Tea Cups. Bushell’s Ltd, c.1934-1946.

  • At least two editions with identical contents and different photo-covers.]\

Lipton. The Cup of Knowledge — Lipton’s. Thomas J. Lipton, Ltd., 1938.

  • Lipton's Tea Cup of Knowledge, Alfred Meakin Royal Marigold Cup.
  • 16 pg. Booklet

Princess Romana. Your Fortune in the Tea Cup. Thomas J. Lipton, Inc., 1934.

Red Rose Tea

  • Tea Leaf Reading Booklet, Cup of Fortune, Red Rose Tea, c1965
  • 10 pg. Booklet
  • Issued by a tea company, this booklet was also issued in conjunction with the sale of a set of three fortune telling tea cups from the Taylor and Kent pottery company, and so it is double-listed and appears in both categories.

Salada. Cup Reading. Salada Tea, c 1934 - 1940 with variant covers and contents.

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.

Articles about Public Tea Leaf Readers

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

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