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GALTON, Francis (1822–1911)

Finger Prints. Supplementary Chapter to ”Finger Prints”: Decipherment of Blurred Finger Prints. Fingerprint Directories.
London, Macmillan and Co., 1892, 1893, & 1895.

First edition of Galton’s trilogy on finger prints, very seldom found complete with all the three volumes. This set was once in the library of the Scottish Police College with its marks of ownership. The title has a reproduction of Galton’s own fingerprints, and is one of the most unusual of all title pages. The use of fingerprints as identification marks was known to the Chinese, but Galton was among the first to explain their possibilities in the identification of criminals. "Galton’s delta” is a triangular area of papillary ridges on the distal pads of the digits. Here a small anatomical detail is put to practical use. "Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin and the originator of eugenic studies, was greatly interested by Herschel’s letter as indicating a possible form of anthropometric classification. On 27 November 1890 he read a paper to the Royal Society, which was printed in its Transactions, on ‘The Patterns of Thumb and Finger Marks’. He borrowed and exhibited for the occassion one of Herschel’s contracts. In May 1891 Galton contributed to the Proceedings of the Royal Society ‘A Method of indexing Finger-Marks’ and in August of the same year he wrote for The Nineteenth Century a popular account of the subject under the title ‘Identification by Finger-Tips’. In 1892, in his book Finger Prints, Galton gathered together all these earlier studies and recorded other experiments, illustrated from photographs and drawings. The outcome of this was the appointment in 1899 of a Royal Commission which came out in favour of the adoption of the system by the British police forces.” (Printing and the Mind of Man).

Collation: Finger Prints: pp xvi, 216. With 16 plates, one of which is a double-page colour-plate. The title-page has a reproduction of Galton’s own fingerprints. Decipherment: pp (2), 18. With 16 plates, some in two colours. Fingerprint Directories: pp (8), 127, (1). With 9 plates.

Binding: Three volumes. Publisher’s maroon cloth, gilt lettered spines.

Provenance: Stamped: "Scottish Police College Library". From the earlier library of Professor John Glaister, Professor of Forensic Medicine, University of Egypt, Cairo. Signature: "S. P. Cathcart".

References: Garrison-Morton 186; Printing and the Mind of Man 376; Norman Library 867 & 868; Heirs of Hippocrates 1905; Osler 1598; Forrest, D. W. Francis Galton: The Life and Work of a Victorian Genius (1974), chapter 15; Nemec, Jaroslav, Highlights in Medicolegal Relations. Revised ed. (1976), 463. Waller 19650 (Finger Prints only).

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