• PUBLISHER : Reaktion Books
  • DATE : 2021

Human twins have many meanings and different histories. They have been seen as gods and monsters, signs of danger, death, and sexual deviance. They are taken as objects of wonder and violent repression, the subjects of scientific experiment. Now millions are born through fertility technologies. Their history is often buried in philosophies and medical theories, religious and scientific practices, and countless stories of devotion and tragedy. In this history of superstitions and marvels, fantasies and experiments, William Viney—himself a twin—shows how the use and abuse of twins has helped to shape the world in which we live. This book has been written not just for twins, but for anyone interested in their historical, global, and political impact.

When Viney writes about twins, he knows whereof he speaks. The author is himself a twin and his meticulously researched narrative of superstitions, fantasies, and experiments reveals the way in which twins have long fascinated us and played a part in shaping our world.


The 'metamorphic potential' of twins tells us as much about the values of a culture as it does about the mechanics of biology. Viney explores these complexities with style, achieving that rare balance of scholarly rigor and immense readability.

Fortean Times

An intelligent and brilliant history, from ancient times to the present—a cultural history of twins which is also a collective history of their representations.

La Repubblica

This is a book of probing intelligence, curiosity, and wit, of quickened fascination, and sometimes fear. Viney takes us on an ever-expanding and ever-more intimate journey through our ways of thinking about and with twins, the poetry, science, and theater of twin-ship. He explores what these help us to know of the human, and what they can make us blind to. Twins shifts the ways you see familiar things, and the ways we name the stranger ones.

Kenneth Gross, author of Puppet: An Essay on Uncanny Life

Viney unfolds what he calls the secret history of wonder attaching to twins, in a book that, in its intelligence and sinuous, intent inquisitiveness, is itself a thing of wonder. Ranging from ancient mythology to contemporary biotechnology, Viney explores the dualities that themselves define twins, as figures both of miracle and of menace. Mirroring with its polymorphous subject, Twins is a positive feat of superfetation.

Steven Connor, University of Cambridge