Monday 28 April 2014, 6.00 – 7.30 pm

Lit and Phil, 23 Wesgate Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 1SE


Dr. Hellen Giblin-Jowett will introduce two texts on the fascinating topic of Nasology.

Read Your Fate in Your Nose: Was ‘Nasology’ just a harmless fad or was it a potent tool?

The illustrated manual Nasology: or, Hints Towards a Classification of Noses (1848) by Eden Warwick, was declared by its author to be ‘strictly in harmony with the deductions of the ablest physiognomists and ethnologists […] THE NOSE IS AN IMPORTANT INDEX TO CHARACTER [sic]’. Its various and conflicting interpretations, however, make for a wonderful study of how nineteenth-century pseudosciences have been subsequently received. For a start, the authorship and premise were muddied in eight editions over the next 51 years, as the pseudonym ‘Eden Warwick’ was replaced by the author’s real name, George Jabet, and the alternative title Notes on Noses was bestowed on some editions and not others. For another thing, the tone of the book is sufficiently ambiguous to have been dragged in to support a wide range of arguments and approaches. For example, Nick Kneale approvingly described Charles Dickens’ characters from Oliver Twist in terms of their adherence to Nasology’s classification of nose types. By contrast, that same classification was comprehensively dismissed by another literary critic (Sharonna Pearl in her study of physiognomic themes in Victorian texts) as a humorous novelty that was never taken seriously. As for the book’s role in Wikipedia’s entry on nineteenth-century nose categories; well! Never have I seen such vicious behind-the-scenes editing and re-editing!

So, our next questions for the Lit & Phil’s Reading Group on the Pseudo/Sciences will include, how does the author of Nasology play around with notions of ‘scientific’ authority? And when is it safe to draw conclusions from such an ambiguously scientific text? Our discussion will pertain to the first chapter of Google’s digitised version of the first edition of Nasology where Jabet/Warwick sets out his scheme for classification. I hope that readers will also observe the epigraph from Tristram Shandy on the title page.

Nasology title page  Nasology Ch I

The second link is to the archived programme for the Countway Boston Medical Library/Harvard University Medical Library ‘Talking Heads’ exhibition in 2002.

Here, Nasology is playing a bit part in a history of phrenology that privileges Bostonian contributions to the disciplines of psychology and genetics.


Refreshments available.

For further information, please contact Pat Beesley, Newcastle University, at



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