Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Early modern physiognomy

The text below uses the facial features to determine character and life prospects.


The High Dutch Fortune-Teller Wherein All Those Questions Relating to the Several States, Conditions and Occasions of Humane Life, Are Fully Resolv’d and Answer’d, According to the Rules of Art Used by the Ancient and Famous Egyptian Magi, or Wise Men and Philosophers (London, 1700), pp. 20-3


A Judicial Account of Phisognomy: or, Good and Bad Fortune discover'd by Lines and Marks in the Face and parts thereof, &c.

A Circle in the Line that passes crooked in the Fore-head, or a half Circle on any part of it, denotes Loss and Disgrace, tho’ undiscerned: Three straight Lines, without any crossing or dividing by Sections, promise Prosperity, and a fortunate undertaking of Business: A Cross in the middle of the Fore-head, with scattering Lines near it, denotes much trouble, and perhaps a violent or uneasie Death: A crooked Line between two straight ones, promise good Fortune and success in Affairs: Four half Lines, or Lines that meet not in the middle of the Fore-head, with a full Line over them crossed or dissected, denote the Party to meet with many Crosses in worldly Affairs, but by Patience and Industry they shall be over come.

Two Lines bending arch wise over the Eye-brows, the one having a Cross on it, over which there are three short Lines in length on the extreamity of the Fore-head, signifies the Party of great Ingenuity and Courage, Eloquent, Wise and Politick, indefatigable in Industry, and slow to Anger: A short straight Line over the Eye brow, and over that three crooked Lines, like a Brace, to cover them, denote the Party of an uneasy and restless Mind, very covetous and laborious, and craving after things not attainable, which Attemps render him or her Unfortunate: Large Eyes denote the Party bold, but sloathful, and subject to many Misfortunes: Eyes party colour’d, denote a Man or Women rash, hasty, passionate, and of little Stability: Eyes deep, and naturally sinking, especially of a greenish colour, promise much Industry, and the Party happy in most Undertakings; but not altogether free from vicious Practices: A sharp and piercing Eye, with a declining Eye-brow, denotes a deceitful and fraudulent Person, and unconstant and unsettled in his Love: A small Eye, deep set, denotes the Party of great Understanding, sound Judgment, and of a clear Sight, which will last to extream old Age: Squint-Eyes denotes the Party cunning timerous, deceitful, fraudulent and ungrateful; and therefore not to be trusted: A yellowish Eye foreshews a Dissembler, and one false hearted, especially in matters of Love: An Eye of a mean bigness, clear and shining, denotes an honest plain Heart, free from Fraud or Dissimulation.

A high Nose denotes Courage, and the Party much inclinable to Martial Exploits; if a Woman, it denotes her very pregnant, and much desirious of Copulation: A large full Nose, long and hanging down, signifies the Party covetous, desirous of Honour, yet wise in mannaging great Affairs: A Nose crooked and awry, denotes the Party timerous, luxurious, proud, vain glorious, treacherous, ungrateful, fraudulent and unjust, and also a great Lyar: A Nose round and of a middle-size, denotes in Men Good nature and true Friendship; and in Women Prudence and Chastity.

A Mouth standing unseemly wide, denotes the Party bold and couragious, a great Talker, and a Reporter of false Stories: A Mouth little and well proportioned, denotes the Party peaceable, courteous, eloquent, and desirous to learn all things.

Thick Lips denote Foolishness, and one of an easie Belief, likewise given to Excess: Thin Lips denote Eloquence and accure Understanding: Lips well proportion’d and well colour’d, denote the Party faithful, an Admirer of Vertue, and a Detester of Vice.

Big and broad Ears, denote Weakness of Memory, Sloathfulness and little Success: Long Ears denote Boldness, Arrogance, Folly, Contention and Gluttony; little Ears, and well proportion’d the contrary, as, Mildness, Temperance, &c. Simi-circl’d Ears, lying flat, denote the Party wise, constant, and a true Friend.


The Signification of Moles on the Face and other Parts of the Body, as to Good and Bad Fortune, &c.

A Mole on the left side of the Fore-head, under the Line of Saturn, in a Woman, denotes she has another on the right-side of her Breast, answerable in colour and proportion, denoting good Success and Riches, by Projecting, and Industry. A Mole on the right-side of the Fore-head, denotes another on the right Arm, promising good Fortune, and many prosperous days: A Mole on the middle of the Fore-head, denotes the Party subject to Sickness, and other Infirmities; also that there is another of the like colour and proportion between the Breasts: A Mole on the upper-side of the left Temple, denotes another in the extreamity of the Belly, signifying to a Man a steady Fortune, and continuation of Riches; to a Woman happy Marriages, and many Children: A Mole near the Eyebrow, on the right Temple, denotes another on the right Lyon, promising to either Sex much Esteem, Favour, Love and Advantage: A Mole on the right-side behind the Eye, as it were against the middle of it, signifies another on the right-side of the Buttock, promising much Honour and Preferment to a Man; and to a Woman much Praise for her Virtues, with a continuation of Prosperity: A Mole on the left-side, towards the upper-part of the corner of the Eye, denotes another under the left Loyn or Thigh, foreshewing to either Sex, Trouble, Peril, and dangerous Diseases, Discontent, and sometimes a violent Death: A Mole on the left-side the Face, near the corner of the Eye, denotes another on the left Buttock, and betokens much Sickness, Thwartings, and unexpected Crosses: A Mole on the left Cheek, inclining towards the lower part of the Ear, denote another on the left Thigh, signifying to a Man much Perplexity, Crosses by Children, and Losses in Goods and Estate, threating a Woman with Death in Child-bed, or very hard Labour: A Mole on the upper-part of the right Ear, denote-another on the right-side of the Belly, signifies a Man will bring himself into great Danger by evil Practices; and that a Woman will prove Light and Inconstant: A Mole on the outward lower part, near to the middle of the right Ear, denotes another on the right-side, signifying a Man will fall under the Power of his Enemies, and for sometimes be oppressed, though in the end he will prevail against them; to a Woman loss of Honour and Reputation: A Mole on the lower-part of the Eye-lid, between the hollow of the Eye, and the beginning of the Nose, in either Sex, denotes another on the Privy-parts, denoting a Man to be much beloved by Women, and fortunate in Marriage; to a Woman, that she will be Ingenious, Chast and Faithful: A Mole under the hollow of the right Eye, by the inward part of the Nose, denotes another near the Navel, signifying a Man to be Proud and Haughty, Furious and Contentious; and a Woman to be Self-conceited and Vain-glorious, of a weak Understanding, though pretending to much Knowledge: A Mole near the right Nostril, in a Man or Woman, signifies another on the right Shoulder, denoting to a Man good Fortune in all his Undertakings; and to a Woman Riches, Love and Chastity: A Mole on the Extreamity of the Nose, denotes another on the right Hip, signifying a Man to be lustful, and much given to Venus, weakning himself by it, and much impairing his Health; that a Woman shall be much Beloved, yet of a loose Behaviour: A Mole on the top of the Bridge of the Nose, in Man or Woman, denotes another on the Privy-parts, promising Success by Marriage, and many Children: A Mole on the left-side the Mouth, near touching it, denotes another on the left Arm, signifying the Party averse to Wedlock, and rather inclining to unlawful Copulation: A Mole on the middle of the Upper-lip, signifies another on the Privy-member of Man or Woman, denoting the Party to meet with many Disappointments, Crosses and Afflictions: A Mole in the middle of the Chin, denotes another on the Foot, signifying the Party much given to Love, but meeting with many Disappointments. A Mole on the Throat signifies another on the Navel, denoting much Danger by Violence, &c.

Faces woodcut


This material was circulated in relatively inexpensive pamphlets. Physiognomy could also be performed by skilled practitioners, and was associated especially with 'gypsy' fortune-tellers. Body parts besides the face might be considered as well, and there was a complex set of theories around moles. Note the influence of contemporary (racist) European beauty standards: there is a disdain of crooked noses and thick lips.