Curios: Scouts in Bondage & How to Change Your Face

I promise it isn’t what you think. But what you’re thinking is why Scouts in Bondage is the cover image and borrowed title of this particular book. The full title might help make a little more sense of things: Scouts in Bondage, and Other Violations of Literary Propriety.

This amusing little survey presents a variety of books that one English bookseller named Michael Bell collected during his years in the business.  The titles range from how-to manuals to kids’ books. All of his specimens were published before World War II, and that’s the source of much of the mirth to be found here: most of these books suffer from the drift of slang, unintended double entendres, and the more prurient eye with which we read such once-innocent titles. Witness The Captain’s Bunk: A Story for Boys written by M. B. Manwell and published by the Religious Tract Society, or The Danger of Cruising, a book of poems by Charles Sutton published in 1937.

But there are also tiles which are simply, unaccountably odd, like How to Recognise Leprosy, A Popular Guide.

How to Recognise Leprosy (from Scouts in Bondage)

Anyone in bookselling for long enough will come across such odd titles. The introduction to Bell’s selection explains that he put these titles in the window of his shop to attract amused attention, and thus, I would imagine, foot traffic. We use our windows for more thematic displays, but since Bell’s shop window isn’t too far off from our Curios selection, I thought I would make a contribution of our own.

And without further ado, this is How To Change Your Face, by Edward Laidrich. It contains “a course divided into 14 lessons for the scientific study of character and emotional habits represented by each separate facial feature.” It seems to be a guide to a sort of phrenology of the face. The back page’s quick-reference diagram of the whole face explains that the upper lip is expressive of “sexual vitality,” for instance.

How to Change Your FaceSince these are the type of books better seen than described, I’ll let you come by and explore for yourself.  Stop by and ferret out some amusing curios of your own in our antiquarian sections.


Curios is a periodic series about an interesting used book; rare or common, expensive or cheap, we hope it’s a book you didn’t know you were looking for.

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