Chirology in America

In the United States, the first American Chirological Society was set up in 1897 by Comte de St Germain (b.1846) in Chicago and it is known that there was at least some correspondence between St Germain and Ina Oxenford of the London Chirological Society.  However, it would seem that the American society never managed to establish itself as well as the English group.  This may have had something to do with the unoriginality and decided dishonesty of the group's founder.

The self-styled 'Count' St Germain was not a count at all but, it would seem, a journalist for the Chicago Times, whose real name was Edgar de Valcourt-Vermont.   He maintained a palmistry column in this newspaper for some years and between 1884 and 1897, published three (some say four) books on handreading.  These are generally recognised as being some of the worst - and most inaccurate - books on palmistry ever written. 

For instance, he presents an introduction to his 'Practice of Palmistry for Professional Purposes' of 1897 claiming that this piece had been written by Adrien Desbarolles, despite the fact that Desbarolles had in fact died some eleven years earlier!  In the text, the author actually admits that the introduction was not by Desbarolles at all - though he is at great pains to explain that he is greatly indebted to Desbarolles.  Indeed, he could not say otherwise, as long sections of the book are merely re-presentations of Desbarolles' 'Revelations Completes'.  However, whilst he acknowledges that although the chirology of Desbarolles was inspired by cabalistic teachings, he has gone out of his way to avoid any such esotericism in his approach to the study of the hand and has deliberately excised that aspect of Desbarolles' teaching from his work.  In other words, he copies Desbarolles but omits the only distinctive contributions that Desbarolles has made to the study of the hand!  Like many fraudulent palmists before and since, it is clear that poor old Edgar was merely trying to attract a prestige and status to himself which he did not deserve.

In trying to present the works of others as his own, he also plagiarised the works of D'Arpentigny and the written works of both Ina Oxenford and Katherine St Hill, the apparent cause for the communications from the London Chirological Society.  Much of the rest of his books owe a lot to the writers of the Renaissance in terms of style and content, especially regarding the 'special marks' and 'signs', in which his books bear a close resemblance to the writings of Taisnier.  The small drawings and heavy underlining within the book do not, however, add any joy to the task of studying the text itself.  In the end it becomes tiresome to discover that he is referring to small little lineal marks on the hand which have not ever been seen by any handreader since the fifteenth century, except in their most intoxicated hallucinations.

Unfortunately, his book 'The Practice of Palmistry' is still being reprinted.  Whilst it does provide a one volume compendium of some of the palmistry of D'Arpentigny and Desbarolles, in reading it we should not allow ourselves to be deceived into thinking we are considering anything profoundly original here. The work is a lasting reminder of how bad handreading can be.


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