Chirognomy is the art of delineating character by means of the hand. One of the arts of the Gypsies of Europe is Palmistry, which is allied to Chirognomy. By means of the lines of the palm they pretend to tell the fate of the individual. Very often they make astonishing statements after having looked at your palm. Whether they do it by reasoning from the lines found therein, or by clairvoyant power, is a question. Being a strange and peculiar people living near to nature, it is very likely that clairvoyance aids them as much as anything else.

But there is no reason why from the hand the character cannot be determined; and many rules exist, easily verifiable, by which it is claimed the course of life of the man can be told.

In the West two Frenchmen, D’Arpentigny and Desbarroles, the latter still living, did much to give a certain respectability to this study. 1 In England, there are laws on the statute book, prohibiting under penalty any use of palmistry.

In that old Egyptian remnant, the Book of Job, which the Christians have purloined and put in their collection of sacred writing, it is said, in the Chaldean Version, Ch. 37, verse 7, “In the hands of all the sons of men God places marks that all men may know their own works.” And as early as B. C. 428, the philosopher Anaxagoras taught the same views as the later Frenchmen.

If the anatomist can tell from a scale, or a single tooth or bone, just what the fish or animal looked like, the class to which it belongs, why should there be any doubt that, from the hand, the man’s character can be known. Agassiz said that upon looking at a single scale he could at once see the whole fish.

In India palmistry is well known, and the memorandum is, it must be confessed, written in complete ignorance of the Hindu system. My only object is to incite inquiry, discussion, and comparison of results.

A natural division is into two parts, (a) the fingers, and (b) the palm.

The fingers are regarded as relating to intellectual life, and the palm to animal life. In the palm the blood accumulates more than in the fingers.

Smooth, pointed fingers indicate impressibility, spontaneity, love of pleasure, inspiration, want of practicability.

Knotty fingers show philosophical tendencies and practical abilities.

D’Arpentigny observed this by accident. He was a visitor at a house, where the husband delighting in science and mechanics, but whose wife did not, had a separate day for his own receptions. The wife liked art and music. D’Arpentiny went to the soirees of each and discovered that the visitors of the husband had knotty hands, while the hands of nearly all the wife’s friends were smooth and pointed.

If the palm is thick and hard, animal instincts prevail; if thick and supple, egotism and sensuality are indicated. If it be hollow and firmly elastic, there is mental vigor. Of course different combinations of these peculiarities in the hand will denote differences of mixed character.

In the fingers, if the first, or end, joint is well pronounced, there is self-confidence, independence, and aptitude for the sciences; but this, in an otherwise feeble hand, shows pettiness, discontent and fault finding.

The tips of the fingers are divided into four classes, viz.: 1. spatulous or spread out; 2. square; 3. oval; 4. pointed.

In the same hand the fingers may present all these differences. One may be of one class and the others of another. If they are uniform, then the character will be an uniform one. No. 1 means activity, labor; No. 2, love of precedent and routine; Nos. 3 and 4, artistic ability, inspiration and laziness.

The thumb is a valuable index of the character. If small, then the man is irresolute and vacillating; if large, then the will is strong and the heart is governed by the reason. The palm, however, will modify this. Voltaire, whose will and reason were powerful, had enormous thumbs.

The first, or end, joint represents will; and the second, joining to the palm, reason or logic. The length or development of these are almost exactly proportional to the power of the qualities which they represent.

The root of the thumb, which constitutes a large part of the palm, indicates the presence or absence of sensual desires. If large and the joints of logic and will are also large, then the will and reason control the passions; but if those joints are small and the root large, the passions must rule. It is said that in the hands of debauchees and all lewd women, it will be found that the root is full and active, while the joints referred to are short, small and feeble.

Of course in making a judgment, one must keep in view the proportions of the whole hand and body, for a small man may have joints in his thumb absolutely small but relatively large.

The 2nd finger is in general square, but if it be round, then vanity is indicated, and if the thumb be weak, frivolity. The root joint of this fingers if large, shows selfishness.

The 3rd relates to art. If it be round there is garrulity; if square, love of defined art and truth, while, if it be spatulous, there is love of action and of portrayals of art either in speech or gesture.

The little or 4th finger is related to abstract science and mathematics. This finger will be raised and disconnected from the others by those who are prone to exercise much artifice or address. In the days when great attention was paid to “deportment,” it became the fashion to so raise and disconnect this finger; and it will be found in India that this secularity is widespread.

The length of the fingers must be also taken into consideration. If they are short, the person is hasty, and one who comes to general conclusions. If they are long, then the owner is careful and attentive to detail. Des Barrolles says: “Be on your guard against one who to long fingers joins the philosophical knot (or well defined first joint). He commences by a detailed investigation of your character, a knowledge of which he quickly obtains, more particularly if he possesses a thumb with a long, second phalange (logic).”

Hard hands give action and strength; soft ones show love of ease. Both may be alike intellectually and yet differ essentially in habits.

Curiously enough small handed races with spatulous fingers seem to be those who produced works of colossal size. The mighty Egyptian civilization and buildings have been attributed to a small-handed people. In India this can also be seen.

The open hand shows joy, confidence and magnanimity, as well as want of secretiveness. The closed palm shows vexation, or doubt, or deceit and nearly always secretiveness. One who habitually walks with closed fingers over the thumb, will certainly be able to keep a secret and his own affairs to himself, as well as perhaps being a deceiver. It is certain that a deceitful or treacherous person will not show his palms.

As these notes are not intended to be exhaustive, and as the present publications in English are not wholly reliable in regard to the lines in the hand, by which it is said the destiny of the man may be told, I do not intend to go fully into this branch of the subject. A few references will suffice.

There are three principal lines in the palm. One runs completely around the thumb root and is called the “line of life.” When strong, or double or unbroken, it indicates in general a good constitution and length of life. If there be also three lines running around the wrist, called the Magic Bracelet, then it is said the person will live to be nearly 100. If the line of life is broken, it indicates disease, if it occurs in one hand only; but if in both, it is said to mean early death.

The line of the heart begins at the root of the little finger, running across the palm part of the way. In Indian hands it very often runs completely into the space between the 1st and 2nd fingers, thus cutting off the 1st finger entirely.

The line of the head begins at the root of the 1st finger, joining generally the line of life with which it should form an acute angle. Its course is across the palm, seldom running farther than about 3 inches from the edge of the palm.

In many idiots there is but one line for these last two.

General rules may be laid down in the same way as regards reading the character. If the lines are strong, deep, broken, colored, lighter or interrupted, then a judgment in accordance with the modification can be given.

It is certain that there is a great deal of knowledge on this subject in India, and it is hoped it may be brought out by these suggestions, for as an index of character and consequently of fate in part, the hand of man is unequalled.


1. Proceedings of the Anthropological Society, Paris, 1863.