After D'Arpentigny, it is Adrien Adolphe Desbarolles (1801-1886) who was to prove to be the other major influence on the study of the hand during the nineteenth century.  Whilst D'Arpentigny concentrated his efforts on a sober evaluation of the form and structure of the hand, Desbarolles places more emphasis on the symbolic study of the hand and, as is evidenced from his written work, he is more similar in temperament to the Renaissance mystic than to the earnest Victorian scientist.  As D'Arpentigny was developing the new chirognomy, so Desbarolles revived and rejuvenated the old forms of chiromancy. 

Frontispiece from Desbarolles' 'Mysteres de la Main' "L'auteur, sollicite par une foule de personnes qui desirent fire une etude plus speciale de son systeme de chiromancie et dessignatures astrales, et recevant d'ailleurs de nombreuses lettres dans le meme sens, a cru devoir se rndre aux desirs du public.

Il donnera a l'avenir des consultations a son domicile, a ce sujet, Boulevard Saint-Michel 95 (ancienne rue d'Enfer), de 2-5 heures du soir en ete, et de 1-4 herues du soir en hiver. 

Le prix de chaque consultation est de 20 francs"

Desbarolles advertises his practice within Les Mysteres de la Main

In his first book, Les Mysteres de la Main (1859), Desbarolles begins by trying to convince the reader that his work is based upon the scientific discoveries of people like Gall and Lavater.  He attempts to demonstrate the 'scientific basis' of hand reading by regaling an unlikely tale of a soldier whose lines evaporated  completely from his hands after he was shot in the shoulder, causing damage to to the nerves in his arm.  This apocryphal story is offered as all the proof we need to be assured that the lines of the hand reflect the personaality of the man whose hands they are!  However, attempt at being serious and scientific soon passes and his predilection for the mystical soon comes through. 

Desbarolles approached his study of the hand primarily from the perspective of the cabalistic teachings he had studied under Eliphas Levi. This is particularly reflected in his use of the idea of the 'Three Worlds' of the elemental, the celestial and the intellectual, in his analysis of both the finger phalanges and the palm of the hand itself.  Indeed, he sees the Three Worlds everywhere in the hand, commenting that  "La lettre M que nous avons dans la main indique aussi les trois mondes"  We find his work replete with sections on the kabbalah and the influence of the stars, along with whole chapters on numerology, phrenology and physiognomy. With his repeated discussions of the astral planes and 'le fluide universal', he clearly  adopts a more 'spiritual' stance than the authors he claims precedence from,

He is evidently indebted to D'Arpentigny for many of his observations on the chirognomy of the hand and the first section covers the thumb, the fingertips, the knots of the fingers in much the same manner as D'Arpentigny did before him.   Desbarolles is at pains to point out to us that D'Arpentigny's book was not clearly written "parceque l'auteur a les doigts longs" so it is his duty to represent what he has written for us.  Desbarolles tells us he is 'clarifying and simplifying' D'Arpentigny's system by applying the teachings of the kabbalah for, after all, D'Arpentigny's long fingers caused him to "pedre de vue l'idee principale"  !!  It is unclear whether D'Arpentigny himself would have agreed with this view. Symbolic illustration of the hand showing the influence of the 'lumiere astrale'

After some discussion of the mounts, he goes through each of the seven main lines of the hand in turn and discusses the quadrangle, the triangle and the rascettes, before finishing off with a consideration of the 'signs' and 'marks' that may be found within the palm.  All in all, Desbarolles' writing is very reminiscent of the Renaissance chiromancers who we saw were also influenced by this hotch-potch collection of Hermetic philosophies.  he has merely represented these ideas in a more modern idiom.

In Desbarolles' second book, the monumental work entitled 'Revelations Completes' (1874), whilst he again  discusses the chirognomy of the fingers and the thumb, in contrast to D'Arpentigny, the bulk of this work concentrates on the significance of the lines of the hand.  Over a thousand pages are given over to the illustrated discussion of the significance of various lineal formations.  He writes some novel sections here on the choosing of professions from the hand and discusses the lineal marks of illness and disease, insisting that everything that he writes about has been 'proven' and has been shown to be reliable over twenty years of study.  We reserve the right to be fully sceptical of this claim. As before, also included in this work are sections on phrenology and  astrology and, this time, graphology and pendulum dowsing as well. 

Other Nineteenth Century Palmists

The importance of these two men cannot really be underestimated, for their influence on all subsequent nineteenth century works on hand reading is almost total. Virtually every other author of this period cites their authority and often draws heavily on their discoveries. Many of these later works are really little more than a refinement or simplification of their original ideas. Between them, D'Arpentigny and Desbarolles had laid the foundations for the study of the hand as it was to develop both within Europe and elsewhere throughout the whole of the early modern period.  Towards the end of the nineteenth century, there was a tremendous upsurge of interest in all things occult and esoteric and the growth of interest in handreading at this time was phenomenal.

D'Arpentigny's 'Chirognomie' had been translated into English by the Victorian scholar EH Allen under the title 'The Science of the Hand' in 1885 and by the end of the century nearly one hundred new books on hand reading had been published! Many of these were straightforward duplications of the combined works of D'Arpentigny and Desbarolles, with a few original anecdotal or experimental observations thrown in by the authors themselves. A few examples of these include 'The Psychonomy of the Hand' by R Beamish from 1865, 'Your Luck's in Your Hand' by AR Craig from 1884,'Practical Palmistry' by Henry Frith from 1895 and Eugene Lawrence's 'The Science of Palmistry' from 1905. The Victorian scholar Edward heron-Allen who translated D'Arpentigny's work into English and was the first author of a history of handreading

The one work that seems to have ignored most of these developments completely is that of Adele Moreau, who was a student of Marie-Anne Le Normand. Her work 'L'Avenir Devoile, Chiromancie Nouvelle' ('The future foreseen, the new chiromancy') neither adds anything new to the development of chirology nor does it look to the future!


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