Anais Nin Mystery: What are the symbols in House of Incest?

They appear at the beginning of each section of Anais Nin’s first published work of fiction, beginning with the Siana edition in 1936. They appear to be woodcut prints, and they have appeared in every edition since, including Gemor Press, Dutton, Anais Nin Press and Swallow. But what do they mean? I posed this question to the foremost Nin scholars in the world, and no one seems to know.

Can you help us solve this mystery? If you know anything about these strange symbols, please leave a comment and perhaps we’ll get to the bottom of it.


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  1. My 1958 Swallow edition has 7 of these symbols. They appear to be alchemical symbols, but the only one I can identify is the 4th (pg 43) which is the symbol for copper. It appears inverted on pg. 62. I think the rest are probably inventions designed by someone who was generally familiar with such glyphs.

  2. I have found that the symbol on the first section (shown in this post) is aluminum. So apparently there is a trend here–the elements? In the text of House of Incest, Nin interestingly mentions several different minerals, or to be more specific, chemical compounds, so perhaps this is the inspiration for the alchemy symbols. It doesn’t answer the question about who, exactly, produced them for the book, but perhaps anyone could have copied them from the alchemy charts. Any further information is welcome.

  3. If they’re symbols, it seems likely that they’re intended as titles of a sort. If that’s the case, then maybe the ones we can’t find are actually combinations of more than one symbol. I’m not seeing the symbol for copper among them, but am finding the first symbol listed as aluminum and various other things as well.

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