The Finger: A Handbook

Angus Trumble, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $25 (300p) ISBN 978-0-374-15498-1

Trumble (A Brief History of the Smile ), curator of paintings and sculpture at the Yale Center for British Art, blends art history, anatomy, and etymology in this analysis of finger lore that originated as a lecture to Australian orthopedic surgeons. Contrary to the OED, Trumble contends that the thumb is a finger. In the fraught world of human relationships, he says, the handshake is indispensable, and a proper one must include “the enclosing clasp of the thumb.” Queen Elizabeth I owned hundreds of pairs of gloves and gave gloves as gifts in a sophisticated diplomatic game; in portraying his right hand expensively gloved in a self-portrait, Rubens was affirming his rank; and Eleanor Roosevelt was the first first lady to wear colored nail polish. Trumble enumerates the necessities of fingers: they are indispensable in playing the violin and in sex; ancient Romans could count to one million using their 10 digits; babies' discovery of pointing with the index finger as a means of getting attention seems partly innate. This prodigiously researched work offers many gold nuggets of wisdom to a rarefied audience, though it's verbose and esoteric in the extreme. 22 b&w illus. (May)

Reviewed on: 03/01/2010
Release date: 05/01/2010
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-4299-4561-5
Hardcover - 256 pages - 978-0-300-16666-8
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-374-53282-6
Paperback - 300 pages - 978-0-300-17907-1
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