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The singular significance of twins

William Viney, George Viney


The first illustrated global exploration of the cultural significance of twins

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Are twins heroes or monsters? Do they have special powers? Key to ancient myths and world religions, twins are also stars of the freak show, theatres and social media. Abundant in the visual arts and challenging to criminologists, they inspire wonder and horror in equal measure. Identical or different, separate or conjoined, natural or conceived in vitro, twins exist in multiple pairs but share a singular history.

Join expert author and identical twin, William Viney, in his exploration of twindom in all its facets – from artistic experiments to the living laboratories of modern science.


'This clever “thematic collage” celebrates twindom in all its dyadic incarnations: from myth to medicine, from Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors to the Kray twins … Beautiful'
The Times

'A global guide to the myths, legends and science of twins ... spans sacred west African sculptures, mythology and 1920s flappers to present a community defined by both similarity and uniqueness'
Financial Times

'Beautiful and definitive'
Chris van Tulleken

'A handsomely produced anthology of twin representations'
New Yorker

'[An] impeccably researched visual treat'

'A visual feast'
Wall Street Journal

'The secret life of doubles is rich fodder for storytelling, as Viney’s compendium thoroughly demonstrates'

'A visually fascinating study featuring dazzling photographs and artwork'
Kirkus Reviews

'Viney draws on a dizzying array of articles, anecdotes, and myths (including plenty of non-Western examples), and enriches the narrative with striking photos. It’s a meticulous inquiry into a subject of perennial fascination'
Publishers Weekly

'Viney explores the representation of twins in art, photography, and film – from the works of Roger Ballen to the cinema of Stanley Kubrick – and delves into the darker meanings ascribed to twins across the millennia'
Arab News

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Quarterbound (no jacket)

Size: 24.0 x 17.0 cm

Extent: 224 pp

Illustrations: 399

Publication date: 12 October 2023

ISBN: 9780500026267

Contents List

1. Gods and Heroes
2. Evil Twins
3. Twin Spirits
4. Nature and Nurture
5. Crime and Forensics
6. Born and Made
7. Born Entertainers
8. Twins and the Paranormal
9. Twin Communities

About the Author

William Viney is a twin and a researcher in the Department of Anthropology, Goldsmiths, University of London. His writing has appeared in Cabinet, Critical Quarterly, Frieze and the Times Literary Supplement. He is the author of Waste: A Philosophy of Things (2014) and Twins: Superstitions and Marvels, Fantasies and Experiments (2021). In 2017 he directed a documentary short, Twins on Twins.