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(Album amicorum)

The Family Tree or, the Hoax-o-Graph.

  • An unusual, early-20th century version of an album amicorum or autograph book in which participants place a drop ink onto a page and then blow on it, creating random and amusing, tree-like patterns, before adding their name and the date. This example was presumably a Christmas present, as the first six entries were added on Christmas Day, 1913, mainly by members of the Chichester family, and it seems likely that the book was published for the Christmas shopping season that year. Additional “family trees” were added up to February 1917, a remarkably long life for a novelty of this kind.

    The publishers Dow & Lester seem to have had a sideline in novelty books, also being responsible for the popular sensation The Ghosts of My Friends by the female album compiler Cecil Henland, which asked that participants sign their name along the gutter and then close the book without blotting the ink, creating an interesting mirrored pattern across the facing pages. (It's unclear whether Henland was also responsible for The Family Tree or any of the other anonymous albums published by Dow and Lester.)

    Whether because few copies were printed, or even fewer were saved, this book is rare. We can locate only one institutional copy, at Princeton, and no records for copies sold at auction or online.

  • London: Dow and Lester, [c. 1913].

    Narrow octavo. Original green cloth, titles to spine and upper board gilt, paste-on depicting a “family tree” to the upper board. Printed example “family tree” and 48 printed leaves of which 34 have been completed and 14 left empty. Spine rolled, lower corner bumped, tiny nick to the edge of the upper boards, cloth a little darkened and rubbed with some small white spots and ink stains, light spotting to early and late leaves, excess ink affecting the edges of the text block as expected.

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