2

There are countless titles of the form "the many faces of ...". A quick Google search finds nearly 500 million hits, starting with "The Many Faces of the Public Domain", "The Many Faces of the Freshman Seminar", "The Many Faces of Go" and "The Many Faces of Influence Infographic". What is the origin of the phrase "the many faces of ...", in particular when used in a title?

The closest I came to finding an answer was a search using Google Ngram Viewer. This seems to show that use of "the many faces of ..." really took off around 1955. Thus, probably the origin of the phrase is neither the Bible nor Shakespeare.

1

The earliest example I found in Google Books is from 1820, and refers to the faces of a church, in Rome, in the nineteenth century, Volume 2 by Charlotte Anne Waldie Eaton (written in 1817 or 1818):

A still more hideous statue of Henry IV. of France, graces one of the many faces of this church, and conveys no favourable impression of the advancement of the arts at that period.

Or, without the definite article, in 1620's Works, both Moral and Natural by Lucius Annaeus Seneca (Philosophus), Thomas Lodge:

So then, these infinite drops of water, carried by the raine that falleth, are as many mirrors, and haue as many faces of the Sunne.

The oldest title in the British Library catalogue is The Many Faces of Love / translated from the French by P. Mairet. by Hubert Benoit, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1955 (and another).

  • I do not think your first two suggestions are relevant to the question. The question relates to "The many faces of XXX" but not literally as your examples – mplungjan Dec 16 '13 at 9:51
  • @mplungjan: I've added the first title I found which is a more figurative use. – Hugo Dec 16 '13 at 9:54
  • @Hugo, Yes, I found "the many faces of love", too, but I don't think that this is the origin of the phrase: here is a book from 1957 which cites "the many faces of aerospace" (date unknown to me), and it seems hard to believe that the phrase went from "love" to "aerospace" within such a short period of time. Also, I didn't find any signs of "the many faces of love" having been hugely popular. – jochen Dec 16 '13 at 21:03
  • @jochen: I don't think The Many Faces of Love is the first ever such use, but it's more likely this sort of phrase was becoming common in the 1950s. This books was simply the first I found using it in the title (as requested in the question) and I bet there are other uses beforehand, especially in newspapers. – Hugo Dec 17 '13 at 6:32
  • Following the logic that the only choice is automatically also the best choice, I have accepted this answer. – jochen Jan 10 '14 at 13:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.