The Clown Egg Register: photos of the painstakingly painted eggs that English clowns stake their faces on

Since 1946, the Clown Egg Register has collected blown eggshells that clowns hand-paint with their distinctive makeup, in order to claim that particular makeup as belonging to them; by custom, clowns do not copy each others' faces.

If this sounds familiar, it might be because a clown egg register plays a key role in a murder mystery in Making Money, one of my all-time favorite Terry Pratchett novels.

Today, the Clown Egg Register lives in the Wookey Hole Clowns Gallery-Museum in Somerset, and most of the eggs are ceramic, to avoid the inevitable damage and loss of history.

Photographers Luke Stephenson and Helen Champion have documented the egg-faces in a new book called The Clown Egg Register (natch). It sounds gorgeous and incredibly weird, and makes me want to swing by Somerset the next time I'm in London!

This mesmerizing volume collects more than 150 of these portraits, from 1946 to the modern day, accompanied by short personal histories of many of the clowns. Here are Tricky Nicky, Taffy, Bobo, Sammy Sunshine, the legendary Emmett Kelly, and Jolly Jack, clowning since 1977 and still performing today with a penguin puppet named Biscuit. A treasure just like the eggs it enshrines, The Clown Egg Register is an extraordinary archive of images and lives of the men and women behind the make-up.

The Clown Egg Register [Luke Stephenson and Helen Champion/Chronicle Books]

How whimsical/horrifying! Here’s a book of clown faces painted onto eggs. [Constance Grady/Vox]

(via JWZ)