Thai Fortune-Telling Manuscript, Before 1844

Illustrations from a 1844 Thai manuscript for owned by Paul Revere's daughter

A beautiful paper accordion manuscript from Thailand that features hand-painted illustrations of zodiac figures accompanied with text. It was made before 1844.


Thai Fortune-Telling Manuscript


Maria Revere Balestier (daughter of Paul Revere and wife to the first American consulate to Singapore) was the manuscript’s first documentable owner and she sent it to Eliza Susan Morton Quincy (wife of the Boston mayor and president of Harvard),” notes Emilie Hardman of the Houghton Library, via. “There is a note on the front cover of this manuscript that indicates it was sent in 1844 and letters between the two confirm that they shared objects and books, including a biography of Raffles.”



As we learn:

“Thai Zodiac Signs are closely related to the Chinese Zodiac as both follow the same 12 year lunar cycle. In Thai zodiac signs the dragon is replaced by a “large snake” and in Northern Thailand an elephant may be used in place of the Chinese sign for the pig.”



The original manuscript is at the Hollis Catalogue at Harvard University, from where we read:

“Fortune telling manual based on a 12 animal zodiac. Four-page spreads include paintings of the animal for a specific year, along with mascot-figure for that year, the corresponding tree for that year, and scenes depicting good and bad marriage matches for that animal zodiac. The monkey, rooster, dog, and pig are fully illustrated but do not have any accompanying text.”



More on Wikipedia:

“According to Chinese astrology, a person’s destiny can be determined by the position of the major planets at the person’s birth along with the positions of the Sun, Moon and comets and the person’s time of birth and zodiac Sign. The system of the twelve-year cycle of animal signs was built from observations of the orbit of Jupiter (the Year Star). Following the orbit of Jupiter around the sun, Chinese astronomers divided the celestial circle into 12 sections, and rounded it to 12 years (from 11.86).”


Via: ‘A treatise on fortune telling : manuscript, before 1844’, Harvard University Library.

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