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Title: Dactylography - Or The Study of Finger-prints
Author: Faulds, Henry
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  pecularities —> peculiarities
  indentification —> identification
  classfication —> classification.

Inconsistent hyphenation (e.g. fingerprint, finger-print, finger
print) remains as in the original text, as does the inconsistent
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and their page references adjusted appropriately in the list of

[Illustration: Cover]


                   _Or, THE STUDY OF FINGER-PRINTS_

  [Illustration:      [Illustration:       [Illustration:
  (Vivified by        (encircled for       furrows and pores black,
  white powder).]     presentation).]      ridges white.]

  Dactylography, frontispiece

                     _THE STUDY OF FINGER-PRINTS_

                             HENRY FAULDS

               L.R.F.P. & S.       F.R. Anthrop. Inst.,
               M.R. Archæol. Inst.      M. Sociol. Soc.



                           MILNER & COMPANY
                             RAGLAN WORKS


  CHAPTER                                                       PAGE

     I. Introduction: Early Hints and Recent Progress              9

    II. Sweat-Pores, Ridges, and Furrows                          29

   III. Finger-Print Patterns                                     39

    IV. Some Biological Questions in Dactylography                49

     V. Technique of Printing and Scrutinizing Finger-Patterns    61

    VI. Persistence of Finger-Print Patterns                      76

   VII. Syllabic Classification of Finger-Prints                  83

  VIII. Practical Results and Future Prospects                   101

  GLOSSARY                                                       120

  BIBLIOGRAPHY                                                   123

  INDEX                                                          125

                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


  Greasy Smudge, Accidental Smudge, and a Negative
    Thumb-print                                           _frontis._

  Footprints in Ancient Mexican Remains                           10

  Single Finger-Print                                             19

  Facsimile of Original Outline Forms for both hands              19

  Section of Skin showing Sweat-Glands, Ducts and Pores           29

  Ripple Marks in Sand                                            32

  Grevy’s Zebra, showing lineations like Finger-print
    Patterns                                                      39

  Section of Pine-wood Stem and a Human Thumb-print               43

  Design-like Patterns in Finger-prints                           46

  Anthropoid Lineations                                           51

  Reduced Copy of Police Register Form                            68

  Flexible Curves and Curve Rules                                 70

  Diagrammatic Analysis of Lineations in a Restricted Section     71

  Kew Micrometer                                                  72

  Glass Disc centred                                              73

  Vowels and Consonants in Syllabic Classification               100


                    _OR THE STUDY OF FINGER-PRINTS_



Dactylography deals with what is of scientific interest and practical
value in regard to the lineations in the skin on the fingers and toes,
or rather on the hands and feet of men, monkeys, and allied tribes,
which lineations form patterns of great variety and persistence. The
Greeks used the term δάκτυλος του̑ ποδός (_daktylos tou podos_, finger
of the foot) for a toe; and the toes are of almost as much interest to
the dactylographer as the fingers, and present similar patterns for

In primitive times the savage hunter had to use all his wits sharply in
the examination of foot and toe marks, whether of the game he pursued
or the human foe he guarded against, and he learned to deduce many
a curious lesson with Sherlock Holmes-like acuteness and precision.
The recency, the rate of motion, the length of stride, the degree of
fatigue, the number, and kinds and conditions of men or beasts that
had impressed their traces on the soil, all could be read by him with
ease and promptness. Such imprints have been preserved in early Mexican
picture writings.


Inset: Threshold with Foot-Marks (also Mexican).]

In a similar way the palæontologist strives to interpret the impress
made by organisms on primeval mud flats or sandy shores æons ago.
There are numbers, whole species indeed, of extinct jelly fishes the
existence of which has never been known directly, but that there once
were such beings in the world has been confidently deduced from the
permanent impressions their soft and perishable bodies have left in the
fine texture of certain rocks. The Chinese tell us that one of their
sages first learned to write and to teach the use of written characters
by observing the marks made by a bird’s claws.

When we approach the limits of written history we begin to hear faint
inarticulate murmurs of a time when the lines on human fingers began to
arrest notice and interest. Thus we sometimes find in later neolithic
pottery, nail and finger marks, used to adorn the sun-dried pots in
common use. The Babylonians used their finger nails as seal-marks on
commercial tablets, and the Chinese have occasionally done the same.
Not many years ago, as I myself have often witnessed, when sealing-wax
or wafers were used more than they are now, servant girls were wont to
impress their thumb-mark on the soft wafer or wax. There are several
characters in the Chinese alphabet (of some 30,000 letters) which
suggest such a use of finger-marks as seals, but after many years’
enquiry, I have not yet seen any direct evidence of their use for
such a purpose.[A] The term _Sho-seki_ is used in Japanese to denote
foot-prints, and also the tracking of anyone. I have not met any
passage or expression in which finger-prints are mentioned in Japanese
works, except in regard to fantastical images of footprints of Buddha
and the like. It is claimed, however, that prisoners on conviction were
required to adhibit their mark as a seal of confession.[B] There has
been no evidence adduced that either in China or Japan was there ever
a system of identification by that means, although it is conceivable
that the form of making a sign-manual may have originated from some dim
perception of their value for identification.

[A] In Professor Giles’s _Chinese-English Dictionary_ (1909) on page
223 some characters are given for “to make a finger-print,” etc.

[B] See _Nature_ (January 17th, 1895), “Finger-Print Method,” Kumagusa

In a similar way finger-marks were used, as I have been informed, in
India, even before the mutiny, and were supposed to be used like the
cross made by illiterate people in this country. The numerals up to
five seem to have been obtained by marking off fingers. A dactylic
origin of =V= as an open hand, complete with outstretched thumb, has been
favoured. =X= (ten) might easily then be obtained by placing two =V=’s apex
to apex.

There are certain folds or creases in palms and soles, which are formed
very much as the creases in gloves or boots are formed, and with those
the dactylographer is not much concerned. Such lines were supposed by
many to mark the fateful influence of stars on the destiny of their
owner, and are the basis of palmistry. Similar lines are found in apes.
There are general patterns of lineations all over the palmar surface
of the hands and the plantar surface of the feet which are of some
interest, but the chief practical concern of most students in this new
field is with certain points where patterns run into forms of great
complexity, especially in the palmar skin covering the last joint of
each finger. It is not common to find either in pots or pictures those
patterns printed clearly, but the creases dear to the palmister are
frequently enough shown.

In Mr. C. Ainsworth Mitchell’s _Science and the Criminal_, published in
1911, a case is mentioned of a very early finger-print, if the evidence
has not been fallacious:--

    “In the prehistoric flint-holes at Brandon, in Suffolk, there was
    found some years ago a pick made from the horn of an extinct elk.
    This had been used by some flint-digger of the Stone Age to hew out
    of the chalk the rough flints which were subsequently made into
    scrapers and arrow-heads. Upon the dark handle of this instrument
    were the finger-prints in chalk of the workman, who, thousands of
    years ago, flung it down for the last time.”

It is now in the British Museum. A foot-print also has been found of
very early date.

Such white marks on a dark ground are often very clear, showing the
detail of lineations well, and presuming, as is natural, that the
ordinary precautions were taken to secure that they were not recent
accidental additions to the remains, such a record is highly valuable.

It was apparently a common practice in ancient India to adorn buildings
with crude finger-marks made with white or red sandal-wood. The red
hand common on door-posts and the like in Arabia does not usually show
any lineations, but in some few ancient and primitive carvings and in
sun-baked pot-work, patterns occur which appear to me to have probably
had finger-print lineations as a _motif_. Professor Sollas, in writing
of Palæolithic Races in _Science Progress_ (April, 1909)--a subject
of which he is a master--says: “Impressions of the human hand are met
with painted in red in Altamira, but in other caves also in black,
and sometimes uncoloured on a coloured ground. These seem to be older
than any of the other markings.” Some cases are stencilled, as with
Australians to-day.

The same writer, in a foot-note, also states, in describing caves and
paintings of modern Bushmen: “Impressions of the human hand are also
met with on the walls of these caves.”

A traveller, Mr. John Bradbury, who witnessed the return of a war-party
of the Aricara Indians, says:--

    “Many of them had the mark which indicates that they had drank the
    blood of an enemy. This mark is made by rubbing the hand all over
    with vermilion, and by laying it on the mouth it leaves a complete
    impression on the face, which is designed to resemble and indicate
    a bloody hand.”--[_Travels in the Interior of America_ (1817).]

The ancient bloody hand of Ulster is well known, and other examples
occur which might be quoted.

Some “prehistoric pottery” was found last autumn at Avebury, North
Wilts, of which I have not seen full particulars. In a press paragraph,
however, it is stated that its chief interest “centres in the fact
that it is ornamented on both faces--the impressions of twisted grass
(or cord) and finger-nails being clearly defined.” It is temporarily
classified as a type of pottery associated with long barrows and
neolithic pits.

My own attention was first directed to the patterns in finger-prints,
as they occurred impressed on sun-baked pottery which I found in the
numerous shell-heaps dotted around the great Bay of Yedo. The subject
was quite unknown to me till then, in the seventies. No pottery has yet
been found which belongs to the early stone stage of man’s culture. But
with evidence of the use of fire, and of the manufacture of polished
stone weapons, fragments of rude hand-moulded pottery--sun-baked or
fire-burned--begin to be associated. Sometimes these are quite clearly
seen to be moulded with the aid of human fingers, the nails only making
a clear mark, but in other cases the finger furrows are prominently
indented in regular patterns, which cannot, I think, be distinguished
from those made by men of our own race and time. In the formal Japanese
ceremony of social tea-drinking, or _Cha-no-yu_, pottery of this
Archaic kind, with finger patterns indented in the clay, is highly
esteemed. In an article on this kind of pottery by Mr. Charles Holme,
in _The Studio_ (February, 1909), one example is described thus: “It
is modelled in a brown clay entirely by hand, without the aid of a
potter’s wheel. The impressions of the fingers made in shaping the bowl
are carefully retained,” etc. Not till Celtic times in Europe is there
evidence of the use of the potter’s wheel.

I am surprised to find how very little attention has yet been given to
finger imprints on early pottery. My own opportunities for observation
have in late years been severely limited, but I have seldom had a peep
at ancient potsherds without discovering some few traces of the kind of
impressions, accidental or designed, which I have described. I have not
had early Teutonic pottery specially under observation, but Professor
G. Baldwin Brown, who is an accomplished authority in that department,
wrote me thus:--

    “In the early Teutonic pottery, so far as I have examined it, the
    ornamental patterns are produced by drawing lines and furrows with
    some hard tool, such as a shaped point of wood or bone. It is very
    rarely that the furrows or circular depressions have the soft edges
    which would suggest the use of the finger, and I have never noticed
    the texture of the finger-tip impressed on the clay, though I have
    not looked specially for this with a glass. Ornaments are also
    commonly impressed with a wooden stamp on which some simple pattern
    has been cut. The only ornamental motive which seems to spring
    directly out of manipulation by the fingers is the projecting boss,
    characteristic of a certain class of Teutonic ware. The clay is
    forced out from within in the form of a knob or a flute, and the
    idea of such an ornamental treatment has probably arisen from the
    accidental projections produced in the exterior surface of the vase
    by the pressure of the fingers when the vase is being shaped from
    within. There is nothing in early Teutonic pottery like the coiled
    Pueblo pots, or other products where the pressure of the fingers on
    the exterior has generated the whole ornamental scheme.”

Antique references to finger-print patterns are not numerous. In the
anatomical text-books of my student days, I cannot recall a single
example of their having been noticed or figured, and no figure was
printed in the usual plates of anatomy of my time. Malpighi, writing
in 1686, tersely alludes to the ridges which, he says, form different
patterns (_diversas figuras describunt_).

Both Sir William Herschel and myself have publicly called for evidence
of the alleged use in the Far East of finger-prints being used for
identification. During my residence in Japan I was intimate with the
leading antiquarians, and was repeatedly assured that nothing was known
by them of any such legal process. Mr. T. W. Rhys Davids, Secretary of
the Royal Asiatic Society, of which I was formerly a member, wrote me
in answer to an inquiry as to this point, on the 17th May, 1905:--

    “Dear Sir,--I have heard of thumb marks being used in the East as
    sign-manuals, but I know no single case of thumb or finger marks
    being used for identification, and, pending further information, I
    do not believe they ever were so used in ancient times in any part
    of the East.”

Every now and again I receive letters telling me of some one who thinks
he remembers some one saying that he saw, etc., etc. Now, surely, it
would not be difficult if anyone were to find such evidence, to send a
copy or photograph duly authenticated, and a date attested subsequent
to the date of publication by _Nature_, in 1880, of the correspondence
on this subject. A good deal has been written about Professor
J. E. Purkenje (or Purkinje) in this connection. One enthusiastic
fellow-countryman has mentioned with eulogy a purely imaginary course
of lectures on Identification by Finger-Prints. Purkinje does not
seem ever to have dreamed of putting them to such a use. In _The
Daily News_ of January 23rd, 1911, an interview is reported with
Sir Edward Henry, who is made to state that Purkinje “wrote about
the value of finger-prints for purposes of identification”; but on
enquiry Sir Edward assured me he had not said anything beyond what
was stated in his work on Finger-Prints, and in that work, of course,
no such statement is hinted at as that Purkinje proposed to secure
identification by finger-prints.

As a student I was fairly well acquainted with much of what that keen
observer had written, and when I was lecturing to medical students in
Japan on the Testimony of the Senses, I could not help noticing that
while Purkinje had been busy with the fingers and with the special
development in their sensitive tips of the organs of touch, no records
had been preserved which mentioned his notice of the finger-furrows or
the patterns made by them. I took much trouble in the matter, writing
to eminent authorities and to librarians, and found no trace of any
such work. Sir F. Galton, in his published writings, is quite in
accord with me so far, but he has not explained how he came to think
of Purkinje’s work. Writing in 1892 on _Finger-Prints_, (p. 85) he
says of the subsequent discovery of a thesis of 58 pages: “No copy of
the pamphlet existed in any public medical library in England, nor in
any private one, so far as I could learn; neither could I get a sight
of it at some important Continental libraries. One copy was known of
it in America.” The American copy was not known generally till I had
made vigorous enquiries there. Sir F. Galton adds, “The very zealous
librarian of the Royal College of Surgeons was so good as to take
much pains at my instance to procure one: his zeal was happily and
unexpectedly rewarded by success, and the copy is now securely lodged
in the library of the college.”

As Sir Francis began to give attention to this subject in 1888 (p. 2
of work just quoted) it is only justice to myself in the matter to
state that in June, 1886, I called on the then librarian of the
Royal College and impressed upon him my conviction that as nothing
had then been known of any printed work by Purkinje on this topic, a
search among his remaining papers should be made, as to me it seemed
improbable that, working so closely in that field, Purkinje could fail
to observe the patterns of the finger-furrows. It seemed as certain a
deduction to me as was that of the existence of Neptune before that
planet had been actually discovered. The pamphlet is in Latin, a work
of 58 pages, printed at Vratislav, (i.e., Breslau) in 1823. In the
article on “Finger-Prints,” in the _Encyclopædia Britannica_ (1911) it
is stated that “the permanent character of the finger-print was put
forward scientifically in 1823 by J. E. Purkinje, an eminent professor
of physiology, who read a paper before the university of Breslau,” etc.
But he was surely not a professor when graduating, and what passage
in that thesis, may I ask, deals scientifically with the _permanent
character_ of the finger-print? Purkinje had studied the lineations of
monkeys as well as those of men.

In _Tristram Shandy_ (1765) we read of “the marks of a snuffy finger
and thumb.”

_Jack Shepherd_, a novel of Ainsworth’s, was published in 1839. One Van
Galgebrook, a Dutch conjuror, therein foretells Jack’s bad end: “From a
black mole under the child’s right ear, shaped like a coffin ... and a
deep line just above the middle of the left thumb, meeting round about
in the form of a noose.” It would be interesting to know how Ainsworth
happened upon the suggestion.


Bewick sometimes jestingly left his sign-mark on his fine
wood-engravings, and those thus attested by his thumb-print are now
specially valued.

Many references occur in modern literature to fingerprints, and in
_David Copperfield_, published in complete form in 1850, Charles
Dickens tells how Dan’l Peggotty, in the old boat-house at Yarmouth,
“printed off fishy impressions of his thumb on all the cards he found.”

Pater, in 1871, writing of the Poetry of Michelangelo, mentions “the
little seal of red wax which the stranger entering Bologna must carry
on the thumb of his right hand.”

Later references are very common after the eighties. Alix in 1867-8
wrote on the papillary lines of hand and foot in _Zoologie_, vols.
viii. and ix., contributions which were first brought to my notice
after the publication of my _Guide_.


Done in copperplate for the author in Japan at close of 1879 or in
January, 1880. The lineations were filled in with pencil at the same

In 1879 I engaged a Japanese engraver in Tokyo to make for me
copperplate forms in which to receive impressions of the fingers of
both hands in their consecutive or serial order. There were spaces for
information to be recorded which might be useful in anthropology, and
a place to which a lock of hair of the subject was to be attached. The
original proof sheet, marked by me in red pencil where special points
in the rugæ were to be carefully printed, is now in the library of
The Royal Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons in Glasgow, along with a
letter to me from Charles Darwin on the subject of finger-prints. The
figures are from reduced photographs of those two original copperplate
forms, which have never before been published except as accompanying
the circular mentioned below. Many of those forms were sent to
travellers and residents in foreign countries, with a written circular,
as follows:--

    “January, 1880.

    “Dear Sir,

    “I am at present engaged in a comparative study of the _rugæ_, or
    skin-furrows, of the hands of different races, and would esteem it
    as a great favour if you should obtain for me nature-prints from
    the palmar surface of the fingers of any of the..................
    race in your vicinity, in accordance with the enclosed forms. The
    points of special interest are marked [with red crosses] and no
    others need specially be attended to. Each point must be printed
    by itself separately. Printer’s ink put on very thinly and evenly,
    so as not to obliterate the furrows of the skin, is best. It can
    easily be removed by benzine or turpentine. In place of that, burnt
    cork mixed with _very little_ oil will do very well. One or two
    trials had better be made before printing on the forms. If printing
    should be found too difficult, sketches of leading lines--at the
    points indicated--would still be of very great value, taking care
    that the directions corresponded with the furrows, and not in
    _reverse_, as when a simple impression is taken. If any one finger,
    and so on, comes out badly, a piece of paper can be printed and
    pasted on at the proper place. I enclose as a specimen a filled-up
    form. [The fingers printed in the proper spaces and the important
    ‘points’ each marked with a cross in red pencil.]

    “As novel and valuable ethnological results are expected from this
    enquiry, I trust this may form a sufficient excuse for asking you
    to take so much trouble. Please return any forms which may be
    filled up to the above address.

    “I am, etc.,

Many of these circulars were posted with great care to recent
addresses, but the response was quite disappointing. No useful prints
were obtained, and most recipients took no notice whatever of the
request. I have since thought the question may have been confused with
palmistry. It was not easy to get impressions from the paws of monkeys,
apes, and lemuroids in Japan. Some few that were obtained at once
betrayed a very strong similarity to those of man, and it seemed that a
wider study would yield some hints, perchance, as to the path of man’s

On the 15th February of the same year (1880), I wrote to the great
pioneer in this field, Charles Darwin, sending specimens of prints and
some outline of my first tentative results, and requesting him to aid
me in obtaining access to imprints from lemurs, lemuroids, monkeys and
anthropoid apes, as I had found them to show lineation patterns which I
hoped might be serviceable to elucidate in some degree the lineage of
man. I had failed to find any trace of references to these phenomena in
any anatomical or biological work within reach. The few Oriental works
I had seen were full of absurd phantasies and were allied to palmistry,
but contained Buddhist and Taouist figures nowhere to be found in

The great naturalist’s reply, in his own handwriting, sent to me two
years before his death, was as follows:--

    “_Via_ Brindisi.
    _April 7th_, 1880.

    Beckenham, Kent,
    Railway Station,
    Orpington, S.E.R.

    “Dear Sir,

    “The subject to which you refer in your letter of February 15th
    seems to me a curious one, which may turn out interesting; but I
    am sorry to say that I am most unfortunately situated for offering
    you any assistance. I live in the country, and from weak health
    seldom see anyone. I will, however, forward your letter to Mr. F.
    Galton, who is the most likely man that I can think of to take up
    the subject to make further enquiries.

    “Wishing you success,
    “I remain, dear Sir,
    “Yours faithfully,
    “(_Signed_) CHARLES DARWIN.”

This letter, with the envelope addressed by Mr. Darwin himself, and
showing its postmarks, is in the library of the Royal Faculty of
Physicians and Surgeons. Mr. F. Galton, afterwards Sir Francis Galton,
a cousin of Charles Darwin, wrote in _Finger-Prints_, which was
published by him in 1892, that his “attention was first drawn to the
ridges in 1888 when preparing a lecture on Personal Identification for
the Royal Institution, which had for its principal object an account of
the anthropometric method of Bertillon, then newly introduced into the
prison administration of France.” [p. 2.]

In _Nature_, October 28th, 1880, appeared my article which was indexed
shortly afterwards as the first contribution on the subject, in the
_Index Medicus_ of the United States, thus: “Faulds, H.--On the
skin-furrows of the hand, _Nature_, London, xxii, 605.”

Professor Otto Schlaginhaufen, while my _Guide_ was going through
the press in England, published in the August number of _Gegenbaur’s
Jahrbüch_ for 1905 a copiously illustrated and well-informed article
on the lineations in human beings, lemuroids, apes and anthropoids.
The writer does me the honour of stating (p. 584) that with my
contribution to _Nature_ in 1880, there begins a new period in the
investigation of the lineations of the skin, that, namely, in which
they were brought into the service of criminal anthropology and
medical jurisprudence. This publication, he says, is the forerunner
of a copious literature which flowed over into the popular magazines
and daily press, and promises to keep no bounds. He thinks that I
pointed the right way to attain a knowledge of man’s genetic descent
by a study of the corresponding lineations of certain lower animals,
such as lemuroids, and that I had suggested other directions in which
medical jurisprudence might profitably engage in the study of this
subject. A claim was shortly afterwards made in _Nature_, by Sir
William Herschel, that he had, prior to my efforts, taken finger-prints
for identification in India. I have entered into this personal matter
elsewhere. Sir William has more than once publicly conceded priority
of publication to me, and that is not at all disputable. We quite
independently reached similar conclusions. Schlaginhaufen sums up the
matter at least impartially, thus:--

    “Zeitlich erschien die Publikation FAULDS’ früher; aber HERSCHEL
    wies durch die Veröffentlichung eines halboffiziellen Briefes nach
    dass er sich schon 1877 mit dem Gegendstand beschäftigt habe.
    Jedenfalls sind beide Beobachter unabhängig voneinander auf die
    gleiche Idee gekommen, und wenn auch die Materialien, die HERSCHEL
    lieferte, für die kriminelle Anthropologie speziell von grösserer
    Bedeutung waren, so hat FAULDS’ doch in seiner ersten Mitteilung
    die Erforschung der Hautleisten von einem höheren Gesichtspunkt aus
    erfasst und ihr in einem umfassenderen Plan den Weg vorgezeichnet.”

That is to say:--

    “Faulds’s publication was earlier in time, but Herschel showed by
    the publication of a half-official letter that he had been engaged
    with the method from 1877 onwards. In any case both observers had
    independently come to the same idea, and while the material which
    Herschel supplied was of greater service for criminal anthropology,
    Faulds had in his first communication grasped the investigation of
    the skin lineations from a higher standpoint, and had indicated the
    way to it through a more comprehensive plan.”

My own plan laid stress on the serial imprint of five or ten fingers
according to the size of the registers anticipated. Sir William
Herschel used one, two, or three fingers only, and chiefly as
sign-manuals. Sir William has since published a hand imprint used as a
sign-manual and printed in 1858. On seeing the announcement I wrote to
the publishers, who regretted they could not supply me with a copy as
it was printed for private circulation only. Sir William Herschel has
nowhere claimed to have had any methodic way of storing or indexing the
records, and indeed, from his indications, they cannot have been at all

    |                                     |
    |                                     |
    |       _J. B. TUNBRIDGE_,            |
    |                       _Inspector_   |
    |                                     |
    | C.I. DEPARTMENT,                    |
    |    GREAT SCOTLAND YARD              |

In 1887 and 1888, after my final return to England, I brought the
method under the notice of the Home Authorities, who merely dealt with
it in the usual red-tape methods. Finally, I asked to have one of their
most intelligent officers appointed to meet me, so that I might enter
fully into practical details. In reply there came to me a gentleman
who sent in his official card, which I have in my possession now.
This was the able officer so well known by his dramatic capture of
Mr. Jabez Balfour. I showed him how printing was done, the method of
classification adopted by me, and offered to form a model bureau from
the hands of the London police. A few years ago Mr. Tunbridge wrote

    “I have a most distinct and pleasant recollection of our interview,
    and since the ‘F. P.’ system has been adopted as a means of
    identification of criminals with such marked success, have often
    wondered how it was that you have not been more actively connected
    with the carrying out of the system. When the Home Authorities
    recognized the value of the system, I was Commissioner of Police
    in New Zealand, and it was owing mainly to my recommendation that
    the system was introduced into the New Zealand prisons, although
    the Prison Authorities were somewhat opposed to it.... Some of the
    Australian States also adopted the system, with the result that
    an interchange of prints took place, which soon manifested its
    value. The system is now in full working order in Australia, and
    is carried on by the police, of course, with the assistance of the
    Prison Authorities.”

No report has been published of Mr. Tunbridge’s impressions. At the
close of our long interview he told me he was disposed to think the
method would be rather delicate for practical application by the
police, and that fresh legislation would be required before any
beginning could be made.

In 1897, the finger-print system associated with Monsieur Bertillon’s
anthropometric system was adopted in India; but soon the bodily
measurements were abandoned, and the finger-print method alone was
officially employed; and in 1901 it was tentatively used in England
and Wales, but did not come into much public use till a year or two
afterwards. The ten-finger method in serial order, as I had from the
first recommended for a large register, and prepared forms to receive
imprints (as shown in _facsimile_), was adopted and is that now in
official use. The methods of Sir William Herschel, followed by that of
Sir F. Galton, were much more restricted, and could never have been
worked practically in anything but a very small and limited register.

The finger-print system of identification is all but universally
applied now throughout the civilized world for criminal cases, and bids
fairly well to be soon adopted for other methods of identification than
that of professional criminals or recidivists. After great earthquakes,
floods, or battles, multitudes of people have to be hastily buried
who have never been fully identified. In such cases the existence
of a civil or military Finger-print Register would be a very great
means of security, and this it is my great wish to see recognized and

I wish to make it clear that in 1880 no printed proposal existed to
use finger-prints for identification. Sir F. Galton has referred to a
United States expedition in which the method was used, but the date
was 1882, and the example printed could not identify. He also refers
to Mr. Tabor, of San Francisco, who had proposed the registration of
Chinamen by this method, as their identity was difficult to establish.
I believe this also was in 1882. In a criticism of Dr. Schlaginhaufen’s
Bibliography (“F.G.” is the signature) in _Nature_, the omission of
Mr. Tabor’s name is regretted, but why? Did he write on the subject
anything which has been preserved? Why, before this period, Dr.
Billings, of the United States Army, said at the International Medical
Congress: “Just as each individual is in some respects peculiar
and unique, so that even the minute ridges and furrows at the end
of his forefingers differ from that of all other forefingers, and
is sufficient to identify,” etc. So that in America the matter was
widely known, and Dr. Billings’ own work on the “Index” attributed its
initiation to me.

Again, in 1883, “Mark Twain” published his charming _Life on
the Mississippi_, a very valuable human document. It contains a
well-thought-out story of an identification by means of a thumb-print
on a system supposed by him to have been invented by a French prison
doctor. His _Pudd’nhead Wilson_, in which a still better study
of the subject occurs, did not come out till 1894, the year in
which the sitting of Mr. Asquith’s Committee on Identification of
Habitual Criminals had set journalists agoing again on the theme of
“thumb-prints.” Prior to that year a great deal had been written on
the subject, the facts being chiefly taken from the correspondence in
_Nature_, to which reference has been made.




    _a_. pore open.
    _b_. pore closed.
    _d_. sweat duct.
    _e_. sweat gland.]

The front or palmar surface of human hands, and the corresponding
solar or plantar surface of the feet, are marked with alternate ridges
and furrows, lying for the most in nearly parallel rows, but often
again at certain points on palm or sole, curving, splitting, twisting,
or joining to form patterns of much intricacy. The ridges, called
technically _rugæ_ (sing. _ruga_), are punctuated at very frequent
intervals with small openings, which are the mouths or pores of the
sweat ducts connected with certain glands which lie deep in the lower
strata of the skin. The furrows or _sulci_ (sing. _sulcus_) are almost
devoid of any such apertures. There are probably some two or three
millions of those tiny sweat pores in a human body, which afford an
evaporating surface, according to the anatomist Krause, of about
eight square inches. The sweat is a watery, slightly saline fluid,
with slight--very slight--traces of grease, some small cell-like
particles, and some carbonic acid and other gaseous matters, which
exhale from the skin. The more oily secretion of the skin comes
from a different set of openings with their associated glands, the
sebaceous glands, which are associated with the hairy surfaces of
the body. In Ludwig Hopf’s work, _The Human Species_, the subject is
discussed fully. When the palmar surface leaves a distinctly greasy
impression, this greasiness must have been acquired from outside or
from transmitted exudation from the back or dorsal surfaces, or other
parts of the body.

Those skin ridges, apart from any relation they may have either to the
sweat-pores or to the special nerves of touch and temperature which lie
near them, serve a useful purpose in helping the horny hands of toil
to grasp its tools firmly. They occur in a few other parts of animals
somewhat near to us in the scale of being. A striking example is that
on the palmar surface of the prehensile or grasping tail of the Spider
Monkey (_Ateles ater_), which it uses in climbing almost like a hand.

When the ridges in human fingers are well softened with water, and
are then rubbed along the surface of a tumbler or wine-glass, musical
sounds may be elicited, which are caused by the alternate resistance
and yielding of the softened ridges. This was the principle of the
“musical glasses” of Goldsmith’s time. The navvy often begins his
labours by moistening his loof. After his efforts make him perspire,
he has no further need in this way for his salivary resources. Hence
Nature, too, has placed the openings of the sweat-pores on the crests
of his ridges, and not, as Herbert Spencer on one occasion is said
to have supposed she had done, in the troughs of the furrows, where
they are very seldom to be found, and would not be nearly so useful.
Curiously enough, our modern makers of indiarubber tyres work a
trademark pattern or title in ridges on their wares, so as to secure a
good grip on the road--and on the market. In a similar way the carriers
of Manchuria adorn their clumsy wheels with studs to prevent their

There are, as has been mentioned, two kinds of minute glands in the
skin: one, to secrete that complex excretion, the sweat; the other, to
provide a certain greasiness to hair. The latter are found chiefly in
other parts than the palms, and serve to secure that slight oiliness of
the surface of our bodies which is very well seen in taking one’s bath.
However thoroughly that thin film of surface greasiness is removed with
the use of soap and vigorous scrubbing, in a moment or two water is
seen to act on the cutaneous surface as it would on a slightly greasy
platter or a duck’s back. The importance of this point will become
apparent when we come to deal with some practical applications of
dactylography in searching for invisible greasy finger-marks, which may
be made visible.

Looking carefully at the visible texture of the fingers and palms, we
see, then, that the cutaneous ridges lie, for the most part, closely
and evenly, like furrows in a well-ploughed field. But just as in some
fields the ploughman has perforce had to swerve and veer round some
fast embedded boulder or old tree stump, varying his intended pattern,
so, too, in our fingers curious divergent lineations are found to
occur, and we cannot very well tell the reason why. Coloured patches
may be designed like so many pretty wall-paper designs, to enclose
these patterns in books on finger-prints, but I, for one, cannot see
that they throw any light on their genuine nature and origin. We find,
under purely mechanical conditions, similar patterns produced in the
ripples of a sub-aerial sand-drift and on a tidal shore. While writing
this chapter, I saw to-day similar deltas, junctions, forks, and the
like, on a lake whose frozen surface was thinly sprinkled with fine dry
snow. The lines were mostly parallel, but where certain gusts or eddies
had occurred they had been broken up into patterns not unlike those of

[Illustration: RIPPLE MARKS IN SAND (_After Lyell_).]

In human skin, and in the anthropoid apes, those scroll-like patterns
present almost infinite varieties of detail, and they often resemble
a condensed railway plan, showing junctions, blind sidings, loops,
triangles, and curves. There is one important distinction to be
observed. The lineations of skin ridges are not always quite uniform
in breadth, but broaden out sometimes or dwindle away. Again, they are
dotted with sweat-pores and do not always, when printed from, show
those pores in the same degree of patency or openness. Hence a little
variation is inevitable when the same finger is several times impressed
under varying conditions. It is not to be forgotten that, to a limited
extent, this is true of a rigid box-wood engraving or steel plate, or
lithographic stone, which give somewhat divergent results with varying
degrees of pressure in printing, moisture of atmosphere or paper, and
other conditions.

In this country the feet do not afford a favourable field of study
to the dactylographer. So far as identification is concerned, little
use could be made of them practically. In the East, however, it is
different, and many years’ residence there gave me opportunities to
observe that the toes, unrestrained by the use of stiff leather boots,
are mobile and powerful, grasping as fingers do. The carpenter in
Japan, for example, uses his toes to grip and steady the board he is
sawing or hewing, while many of my readers must be familiar with the
extraordinary agility of Japanese acrobats in the use of their feet
and toes. In those cases the ridges are often varied in grouping, and
well defined in development. A European baby generally begins life
with similar simian-like powers. But so far as my own observations go,
the patterns in the hands usually show a somewhat higher degree of
evolution, a more complex and intricate network of lines, than those
exhibited by the feet of the same person. Hence, apart from the greater
convenience of inspecting them, the finger-prints have greater value
for the purpose of identification. Cases, however, of crime, might
readily occur even in this country, where the imprints of naked feet
might yield important and irrefutable evidence of one’s presence at a
scene of evil-doing.

But there are other important points of scientific interest besides
their evidential value for identification. An important problem in
evolutionary development, on which a considerable amount of literature
begins to accumulate, is the serial relation of the limbs. Professor
Bowditch, the distinguished biologist, of Harvard University, U.S.,
wrote me, of date November 18th, 1880, thus:--

    “Dear Sir,--I have just read in _Nature_ of October 28th, your
    article on the skin-furrows of the hand. The subject interested me
    because it so happened that fourteen years ago, at the suggestion
    of the late Professor Jeffries Wyman, I made some prints of the
    finger and toe tips with the hope of throwing some light on the
    question of the antero-posterior symmetry of the body. Since
    reading your article I have made some new impressions from the same
    individual, and it is interesting to notice the unchanged character
    of the cutaneous furrows.”

Some additional particulars are added in the letter, and a fine finger
imprint was enclosed.

It is well to remember that the comparison of the ridges to those of a
ploughed field does not always, and in every way, hold good. As I have
elsewhere said:[C]

    “The lines are not of uniform width. Ofttimes they may be likened
    rather to the mountains and valleys in a good survey. The ridges
    sometimes split or send little spurs down into the neighbouring
    valleys; at other times a ridge seems to cleave, giving rise to
    a form like a tarn or lake in a limestone range: here and there
    solitary islands rise in the valleys, and sometimes quite an
    archipelago takes the place of some of the commoner patterns.
    Indeed, the ordinary nomenclature of an ordinary physical geography
    map may be found quite helpful in laying a case clearly before a
    magistrate or a jury. And just as we find in the case of mountains
    and valleys in a map, every variety of shape may occur in a

    [C] _Guide to Finger-Print Identification_ (p. 11).

Here it may be as well to state, as we shall see more precisely further
on, that an English jury is well enabled to judge of the conformity of
two patterns, one of which is suspect only, and the other officially
printed from the fingers of some one in custody--by great photographic
enlargement of the exhibits in the case, used as evidence.

The ridges, as may be seen by an enlarged photograph (as on
frontispiece), do not always continue to be of quite uniform width
throughout. Sometimes they taper away sharply like a railway point, or
trickle off in diminishing dots; or again, especially where something
like triangles occur, called deltas (after the Greek letter, Δ
_delta_), they flatten out in breadth considerably. In old age they are
found usually to have partaken of the general drying up and shrivelling
of the tissues.

In the cold or shivering stage of ague and fevers, and in the affection
called Reynaud’s disease, in which the fingers may tend to become pale
and bloodless, some slight shrinking of the ridges also takes place,
a point which might be of importance in the measurement of enlarged
exhibits in the trial, for example, of an old Indian soldier or
traveller who had been subject to fits of ague.

I have heard Sir A. Moseley Channel, who has informed himself well
about finger-print matters, in a charge to a jury in a murder case,
refer to the doubtful and unsatisfactory nature of evidence from a
print done by a sweaty finger.

The fact that sweaty finger-marks have been adduced in evidence of
crime makes it important for lawyers, police officials, judges and
jurymen, to understand what is meant by such natural records. A mark
from pure sweat would necessarily be excessively transient, as it
consists chiefly of water and salines, and should properly contain no
greasy matter whatever. Dr. Reginald Alcock, of the North Stafford
Infirmary, in a recent paper read at Stoke-on-Trent, and since
republished in _The British Medical Journal_, described his researches
into the relation of the sweat-pores to practical surgery, and to the
recognized difficulty in sterilising the skin for subsequent operation.
Dr. Alcock shows that there may often be found remaining, after the
best efforts to cleanse the surface, a stubborn residue of live and
obnoxious matter in those tiny invisible ducts, matter which had
insidiously gained entrance from without. Now such decaying or dead
particles of foreign protoplasm would, I think, readily enough account
for the very faint traces of oily matter sometimes observed, which
oiliness makes sweat from a skin, fair and clean in the ordinary sense,
leave slight but somewhat persistent traces on such substances as glass
and the like.

In a case reported some time ago, in _The Birmingham Post_,
Detective-Sergeant Charles Munro, on cross-examination as to a sweaty
smudge left on glass, said: “The impressions on the window-pane were
sweat-marks. They had conducted experiments in Scotland Yard, and
ascertained that sweat-marks lasted on glass for a week if not exposed
to the wind.” Here, I suppose, the distinction between a sweat-mark
proper and a somewhat greasy sweat-mark was not discerned. Even a
deliberately designed greasy mark is volatile to a certain extent just
as the oil of new paint dries in a day or two according to the weather.

In the _Guide_ (p. 65) I have alluded to the fact of coloured sweat or
_Chromidrosis_, thus:--

    “A blackish ooze takes place in some hysterical cases. More
    striking is the class of cases in which the colouring matter is
    derived, like the bright colours in the plumage of parrots, from
    copper, and in some cases from iron. Workers in copper have been
    found subject to it. The sweat is generally of a bluish colour in
    those cases. Red sweat has been observed in lockjaw. A kind of
    saffron colour I have found to be not very uncommon in some classes
    of malarious cases. One lady I attended had an extraordinary
    temperature during some of the attacks, the thermometer recording
    110° Fahrenheit. With a temperature of about 104° Fahr. she did not
    seem to be really unwell. I took good impressions at one of those
    times, with the yellow-coloured sweat. Ordinarily, however, sweat
    does not help, but hinder, impressions from being made. A case of
    blue sweat came under my treatment quite recently. There was no
    history of copper poisoning.”

Since writing the above, I have met with other cases of coloured
sweat. My teacher, the late Sir Thomas McCall Anderson, in his work,
_Contributions to Clinical Medicine_, mentions some very interesting
facts in this connection in the chapter on “Hemidrosis.”

Herbert Spencer, in the May number of the _Nineteenth Century_ (1886),
discussing the Factors of Organic Evolution, explains the origin of the
ridges in a passage which I must quote in full:--

    “Continuous pressure on any portion of the surface causes
    absorption, while intermittent pressure causes growth: the one
    impeding circulation and the passage of plasma from the capillaries
    into the tissues, and the other aiding both. There are yet further
    mechanically produced effects. That the general character of the
    ribbed skin on the under-surfaces of the feet and inside of the
    hands, is directly due to friction and intermitten pressure, we
    have the proofs: first, that the tracks most exposed to rough usage
    are the most ribbed; second, that the insides of hands subject to
    unusual amounts of rough usage, as those of sailors, are strongly
    ribbed all over; and third, that in hands which are very little
    used, the parts commonly ribbed become quite smooth.”



Before reading this chapter, let the reader carefully examine the clear
lineations shown so well in the photographic picture of the Zebra’s
stripes, opposite. They will be found to resemble very closely the
lineations on the skin of human fingers, as printed when enlarged by
photography, forming very similar patterns. Similar linings occur in
the hide of the tiger.

[Illustration: GREVY’S ZEBRA.--Showing Lineations like Finger-Print

            [Photo. Pictorial Agency]

Where two lines, beginning as parallels, curve to divide, a fresh line
begins to appear between. Sometimes a single line forks into two or
three. Again, triangular arrangements of lineations are seen on the
zebra, and one can trace some of these back into lines running as a
parallel series. Surely the causes which produce the ridges on a human
or anthropoid finger cannot be quite the same biologically as lead
to the formation of similar patterns in the skin of the zebra. There
are mechanical or physical conditions, however, which condition the
formation of ridges in a sandy shore, of powdery snow blown by the
wind and tossed on a smooth frozen lake, as has already been noticed,
and these conditions are being carefully elucidated by scientific
observers. But why living tissues should produce patterns like those,
just in those positions, and then reproduce them in living descendants
with slight but important variations, is a totally different question,
the answer to which must be reached in a different way.

While the ridges and furrows lie in parallels or curve in the same
direction over some considerable surface of the sole and palm, they
also gather up into more or less intricate, scroll-like patterns
at various points besides those of the last joints of the fingers,
which have chiefly engrossed popular attention hitherto. In man, the
lemurs, lemuroids, and apes, these pattern points are numerous. In my
own hands, there are on the left hand, besides the five finger-tip
patterns, other five like them, and the right hand contains six.
There are thus twenty-one _complex_ patterns which might be used for

On the other hand, when one reads of a mathematical attempt to compute
the probabilities of two finger-prints being alike, it is not a
question simply of comparing an unknown finger smudge with collections
containing ten finger-prints each, for the unknown smudge may have
been made, not from one of a possible set of ten finger-tip prints,
but from one of those other local patterns not on the finger-tips at
all. There is a saying often attributed to Huxley, who certainly used
it wisely, that the value of grist from the mathematical mill depends
on the quality of the corn put into the hopper. But official amateur
mathematicians have made many much worse mistakes than the above in
regard to probabilities in the realm of finger-print evidence.

In a few cases, especially in the feet patterns, often a very plain
character, parallel or slightly wavy lines of no precise design, so to
speak, may be found. A short time ago, when applying mustard to the
feet of a lady in some kind of fit, I observed this almost featureless
pattern in her toes. If such cases were as common in the hands as
they are rare, the finger-print method would hardly be of any avail
for identification. A teleologist of the old school of Paley might
argue with some plausibility that the possible usefulness of those
intricate patterns was the true meaning of their existence, otherwise
not yet explainable. That the old Paleyan conception of nature having
an end or purpose in view, the teleological explanation of things as
useful to the being possessing them, had its own usefulness in giving
a broader view of natural history facts in their interrelations, is
borne out even by so great an authority as Charles Darwin himself.
Are the markings in a bird’s eggs recognized by the sitting bird in
those cases where the markings are peculiar--and some are like written
characters--or are they purely accidental and useless? A correspondent
in _The Country-Side_ wrote a short time ago, describing a test case he
observed of a thrush in his possession. This bird built a nest and laid
therein five eggs, “varying in size from a good-sized pea to the normal
size. The smaller ones I took away and substituted one from a wild
bird’s nest; this the following day I found laid at the bottom of the
aviary smashed. I again repeated the addition with the same result. I
had carefully marked the eggs, so that there could be no mistake.” The
writer signed himself “W. A., Wimbledon.”

Dr. Wallace’s view, as I understand it, is that variations in wild
animals were due chiefly to immunity from enemies, allowing free
play to the natural tendency to variation, kept only in check by its
dangers, such as leading to betrayal by conspicuous colouring, and so
on. Professor Poulton in _The Colours of Animals_, 2nd ed. p. 212,

    “It is very probable that the great variation in the colours and
    markings of birds’ eggs, which are laid close together in immense
    numbers, may possess this significance, enabling each bird to know
    its own eggs. I owe this suggestive interpretation to my friend,
    Mr. Francis Gotch: it is greatly to be hoped that experimental
    confirmation may be forthcoming. The suggestion could be easily
    tested by altering the position of the eggs and modifying their
    appearance by painting. Mr. Gotch’s hypothesis was formed after
    seeing a large number of eggs of the guillemot in their natural

Australian ewes know the bleat of their own lambs, however immense the
flock, and all through nature we find this useful note of recognition.
One of the most philosophic interpreters of living phenomena, viewing
things from a very recent standpoint--Professor J. Arthur Thomson,
in his fascinating _Biology of the Seasons_ (p. 174), writing of the
colour and texture of birds’ eggs, says:--

    “In some cases, it is said, the shell registers hybridism--a very
    remarkable fact. It is another illustration of the great, though
    still vague, truth that the living creature is a unity through and
    through, specific even in the structure of the egg-shell within
    which it is developed. For although the shell is secreted by the
    walls of the oviduct, it seems to be in some measure controlled by
    the life of the giant-cell--the ovum--within.”

Such pattern-forming qualities are found in many fields of nature, very
beautifully, for example, as we have seen, in the skin of the zebra;
on the back of a mackerel; in the grain of various kinds of wood; in
the veining of leaves and petals; and in the covering or substance of
seeds such as the nutmeg and scarlet runner bean. Sir Charles Lyell, in
his _Elements of Geology_, figures the ribbing of sand on the sea-shore
in a wood-cut which might be an enlarged diagram of human skin. (See
fig. on page 32). In his _Principles of Geology_ (5th ed., vol. i.,
p. 323) there is, again, a figure described as a section of “spheroidal
concretionary Travertine,” which contains many linings strikingly like
those with which we have to deal in this little work.

[Illustration: _a_. section of pine-wood stem.

_b_. a human thumb-print.]

It follows from these analogies that a method of analysing and
classifying such patterns might have very wide utilities beyond its
relation to finger-prints. It is easy, for example, to recognize the
same zebra in quite different pictures. Another point of practical
importance is this, that a smudgy or blotchy impression, supposed to
be that of a criminal present at some seat of crime, might be the
impressed copy merely of some object or texture other than human
skin, but containing lineations of similar arrangement. An outworn
transversely cut branch of a tree might readily produce a print like
that of a human finger. An expert would probably notice that in the
lineations there were no real junctions, each woody ring remaining
apart from the others; but, again, there are some human fingers of such
patterns. I think the bloody smear officially reproduced as impressed
on a post-card in facsimile, and purporting to have come from “Jack
the Ripper,” at the time of the Whitechapel horrors in the eighties,
may have been produced by the sleeve of a twilled coat smeared with
blood. It contained no characters specially characteristic of skin
lineations, which it was presumed to be an example of, as impressed.

Apart from all that, lemurs, lemuroids, apes, anthropoids, and
monkeys, all show on hands and feet, skin lineations in patterns
similar to those of man. In the anthropoid apes it would not be easy
to discriminate them from those of human beings. Some of these were
figured in my _Guide_, and Dr. Otto Schlaginhaufen has supplied
numerous good prints.

If Edgar A. Poe, in his famous mystery of evil deeds done by a
gigantic ape, had been acquainted with finger-print methods, he might
have pictured the police as still more mystified by the imprints of
seemingly human hands.

There are two methods of observing systematically the lineation

1.--_The Direct Mode._--This might be done simply by many people by
looking at the lineations with the unaided vision. Till quite recently
the author found no difficulty in doing this, with myopic eyes that
could see something of the texture of a house-fly’s eyes in a good
light. My earliest observations of the finger-patterns were made in
this way, while the patterns were reproduced in pencilled outlines. The
condition of the actual ridges and furrows themselves, with their open
and acting or closed and dormant sweat-pores, ought to be familiar to
the student of dactylography, who is apt to narrow his vision by the
contemplation only of dead impressions made in ink or otherwise. A
lens such as botanists use for field work is very useful, and a high
power is neither necessary nor very helpful. Drawings of the patterns
ought to be made from time to time with coloured or “lead” pencils, and
those drawings should be accurately adjusted by the use of rubber and

2.--_The Indirect Method._--This is done by the medium of casts and
printed impressions. Casts may be made of clay, putty, sealing-wax,
beeswax, gutta-percha, hard paraffin, varnish, half-dry paint, and the
like. Printed impressions or dactylographs may be obtained from greasy
or sweaty fingers, blood, printer’s ink, or various substitutes for it.

Within this method, again, two very distinct and complementary kinds of
results may be obtained, which I have elsewhere described as Positive
and Negative. The first or Positive is that, for example, which is
used officially for the record of convicted prisoners by printing with
ordinary printer’s ink, just as a veined leaf or fern, or a box-wood
engraving is printed from. Here the ridges or raised lines appear
black on a white ground, while the intervening furrows appear white,
as do also the minute pores dotted along the crest of each ridge. (See

In the other method, as when the fingers are impressed on a carefully
smoked surface of glass, the projecting ridges lift up the carbon
of the soot, leaving a white pattern behind, with the sweat-pores
forming black punctuations, while the receding furrows leave the black
surface untouched. When such impressions have to be used again, as for
evidence, they should be carefully varnished, as they are exceedingly
liable to be destroyed by the slightest contact.

In a case under judicial investigation where an official imprint had
to be compared with one done by accident negatively on smoked glass or
the like, the black lineations would not closely correspond--would, in
fact, considerably diverge in pattern. This might tend to confuse judge
and jury if the distinction of negative and positive dactylograph were
not made clear by the expert witness. Then the apparent divergences
could easily be demonstrated to be very significant coincidences.

Five years of my early life were spent in learning a trade in
Glasgow--that of the soon-to-be-obsolete Paisley shawl manufacture. It
seemed to me to have been an utter waste of time, but part of my duty
was to deal with the arrangement, classifying, and numbering immense
varieties of patterns, printed with every conceivable variation of
combined colours. It was impossible to carry these on memory, and one
had to resort to mnemonic means of classification.

Now, the immense significance of the variety in human finger-patterns
dawned upon me very early, when I had once begun to interest myself in


[Illustration: DESIGN-LIKE PATTERNS NO. 2.]

There are many patterns, which, when analysed into their composing
elements, present analogies to artistic designs, a view which is no
mere personal fad, but has been affirmed with enthusiasm by many
artists in designs to whom I have pointed out those figures. Here
are a few, by way of illustrating this point (space will not permit
of more). Those figures are from real human finger-prints rendered
diagrammatically. This is the first step, then, to catch with the eye
the pattern or design; give it a class name, and you have at once
established some practical basis of classification in finger-prints.
Then it is possible to frame some kind of catalogue for reference
arranged like a dictionary with its sub-alphabetic order, in an almost
infinite series. The initial difficulty is generally that which
arises from want of skill in printing, which technical points will be
considered subsequently. A soft and flexible substance like the ridges
in human fingers does not always yield an exactly similar impression
in two successive moments, under varying conditions of temperature,
fatigue, and the like. Nor does the analogy of mathematical diagrams
always fitly apply in such a case. Even in steel engravings and fine
etchings, as the connoisseur well knows, the degree of intensity of
the pressure and other conditions will modify to some slight extent
the resulting imprint, but what I wish to emphasize is, that if the
original pattern had any value at all resulting from its complexity
as a pattern, the variation in printing as now done officially by
experienced police officials will not impair much its value as evidence
of personal identity in a court of law. Even the amateur will soon,
after a little practice with good materials, attain a very fair amount
of clearness and uniformity in his imprints.



In this chapter I propose to bring together a few important points of
a biological character, which are so vital that even in so curtailed
a discussion they cannot be ignored. We shall also glance--it must
literally be the merest glance--at the problem of man’s genetic
descent, in so far as it begins now to be illumined, however faintly,
by a comparative study of finger-prints. Comparatively little of a
final character has as yet been achieved, but there are now not a few
active and intelligent observers in many lands, and the scientific
results often attained under the greatest difficulties are so far
greatly encouraging. Fortunately the day has long passed away when it
can be considered irreverent to enquire modestly as to who were one’s
ancestors. In a very true biological sense every human individual
is known to have run through a scale of existence, beginning from
the lowest mono-cellular organism, through something like a tadpole
or salamander, into a vertebrate and mammal type, not easily to be
discriminated from the undeveloped young of rat, or pig, or monkey.
Now, if he is not in any way individually degraded by this actually
demonstrable course of development, why should he be thought racially
degraded by an honest scientific effort to trace the origin of his
species from lowly animal ancestry? The process may be slower, but
is no less determined by divinely established law. Our grandfathers
believed that the Creator breathed into the organized and shapely form
of Adam (= “a man”) a portion of the divine spirit, by which he became
a living soul, and forthwith took his dignified place in nature. To
me the old story, when retold in more modern and exact phrase, leads
us to an entirely hopeful and inspiring conception of the origin and
evolutionary destiny of our race.

When we approach the threshold of man’s first appearance on the
globe, we have reached a geologic epoch when our sober earth seems
to have sown most of its wild oats. Its “crust” is pretty stable,
and at least in its broad distribution of sea and land, it does not
seem to differ very greatly from what its appearance presents on a
modern physiographical map. Minor differences there must have been,
as even our modern English coast-line shows, and there may have been
other conditions than now exist to account for many of man’s early
migrations, but those differences are still matters of discussion.
There were, possibly, enough certain bridge-like links between lands
now apart and separated by wide stretches of sea, but, as a rule, such
conclusions have been deductively reached, and are not definitely
established on scientific evidence.

After rising above one-celled to more complicated organisms, we reach
a class of creatures in which a radiate or wheel-like form obtains,
that is, radial symmetry, as in jelly-fish, star-fish, urchins, and

Fishes occupy, perhaps, about the lowest level among the back-boned
or vertebrate animals, and we may readily notice that some of their
fins occur in symmetrically arranged pairs, while others, again,
occur singly. Now with this arrangement of such appendages in pairs
symmetrically arranged there begins the appearance of something
definitely like what we mean by limbs. Some present-day fishes use
some of their fins as legs to clamber and crawl on rocks or ashore. I
remember seeing, in a Japanese tea-house by the solitary sea-shore, not
far from where the great arsenal of Yokoska now hums busily, a very
beautiful gurnard, blue as to its outspread wings like the sapphire
gurnard. Those fins were painted like the wings of a butterfly, and it
crawled about in the limited sea-water, on rocks, under cliffs, and
among sea-weed, with butterfly-like legs or processes from the roots
of those wing-like fins. With such a special adaptation of their fins,
fishes began to conquer the land. Seals and whales, as is well known,
are mammals which have been driven back again to the sea.

Thesing, in his suggestive _Lectures on Biology_ (English translation,
p. 13), says:--

    “All extremities of the higher vertebrates, however widely they
    may differ in construction, may be traced back biogenetically
    to the so-called Ichthyopterygium, as we see it in the lower
    shark-like fishes. Unequal growth of the single skeleton parts
    and a considerable reduction in their numbers transformed the
    Ichthyopterygium into the five-fingered extremity characteristic of
    all vertebrates from the amphibians upwards.”


    _a_, from hand of orang, left index;
    _b_, from foot of chimpanzee, left index;
    _c_, from foot of orang, left index.]

Of course the great end of an animal is at first to fill its own
belly, and in order to do this, if fixed as some molluscs are, it must
contrive to bring nutriment within its reach, and if mobile limbs come
to be developed to achieve locomotion, by fin in water, limb on land,
and wing in air. After the vertebrate and mammal stage was achieved,
the five-fingered limb takes various forms, as the paddle of the
whale or wing of the bat. There are three great periods in geological
development of animals--the Primary, which is, roughly speaking, the
typical period of fishes; the Secondary, when reptiles prevail; and the
Tertiary, the great age of mammals. Many geologists recognize a fourth
period, the Post-Tertiary, Quaternary, or Diluvian, when existing
species have been established. It is not till this latest period has
arrived that we can detect unmistakable evidences of man. There are,
however, many reasons which lead to the conclusion that his racial
roots go still further back in time. Did he arise as a “mutation,” one
of those rare sudden changes observed to take place even at the present
time, by which a species suddenly departs from its ancestral type and
is transformed? Let us briefly look at the main facts of mammalian
ascent. The great herbivorous reptiles--some do not seem to have
been strictly herbivorous--do not seem to lead us far on our path.
Widely spread throughout the world, the Theriomorphs or beast-shaped
reptiles seem to approach the mammal type, but they were too helpless
and unwieldy, and had little brain-power wherewith to direct their
energies. The earliest genuine mammals were small, not only relatively
to those great creatures, but really little, rat-like rodents. Then we
find arboreal creatures, driven to the trees for refuge and for food,
squirrel-like animals, agile to escape from their monstrous but clumsy
and stupid foes on the ground, and using their paws nimbly as hands to
grasp and tear, or to break nuts and other food.

Lemur-like animals (lemuroids) then come on the stage, and among
them--among the earliest of them--we begin to detect traces, on
feet and hands, of those patterned ridges, the beginnings of which
we have been seeking. Hand and brain and voice are the trinity of
social construction. The spider and the mantis (or praying insect)
have nimble, hand-like organs--very striking and conspicuous in the
mantis; the chameleon among reptiles, the parrot among birds, the
squirrel among lower mammals, all have somewhat hand-like organs used
in hand-like ways; but when we reach the higher mammals, the sense of
touch is finely intertwined with the power of varied and discriminative
grasping, pressing, or rubbing. The elephant, which appears at first
in the strata as about the size of a dog, grows in size and brain
power as the ages roll along. But his path seems now to be closing.
With his sagacious brain, and prehensile, sensitive trunk, he can do
wonders, but, like the horse, he is likely to be passed by; the great
tool-maker finding it easy now to make bearers swifter or more powerful
than they are.

It is in man and the anthropoid apes that we first find the
correspondence between hand and brain that promises mastery. The ugly,
painted mandrill, even, has beautiful lady-like hands and takes care of
them like a lady. All the higher apes show complicated finger-patterns
like those of man.

The rugæ in apes and men seem clearly to have served a most useful
purpose in aiding the firm grasp of hands or feet, a very vital
point in creatures living an arboreal life, as they and their racial
predecessors are now presumed to have done. In that case, however,
would not one pattern, a simple one, have done as well as any other?
Here, then, the great balancing principles of variation and heredity
come into operation. The variety of patterns is immense, and for aught
we know new ones may be being evolved at the present time. Here again,
heredity comes in, for there is certainly some tendency to repeat in a
quite general way the pattern of sire in the hands and feet of son. I
have as yet found no quite close correspondence of detail in any case
brought under my own notice. The question of identifying a person on
one or two lineations involves so many practical problems of obscurity
in printing and the like, that it is more appropriate for discussion in
another chapter.

In a work published last year on _Science and the Criminal_, by Mr. C.
Ainsworth Mitchell, after quoting a reference I made on one occasion to
the influence of heredity in _sometimes_ dominating finger-patterns,
the author goes on to say: “While there is questionably a general
tendency for a particular type of finger-prints to be inherited just
as any other bodily peculiarities are liable to be passed on from
the parents to the children, there is by no means that definite
relationship that Dr. Faulds hoped to establish.” The full passage in
my paper in _Nature_ referred to, was this:--

    “The dominancy of heredity through these infinite varieties is
    sometimes very striking. I have found unique patterns in a parent
    repeated with marvellous accuracy in his child. Negative results,
    however, might prove nothing in regard to parentage, a caution
    which it is important to make.”

The truth is, I have very frequently emphasized the fact that in such
similar patterns in sire and son there is no real danger of false
identification where several fingers are compared in their proper
serial order. It is not even likely that two such fingers would agree
exactly in lineations, number, curvature, etc., if carefully measured
in the way set forth in this work.

A more remarkable criticism is to be found in p. 63, thus: “The
existence of racial peculiarities in finger-prints, which Dr. Faulds
believed that he had discovered in the case of the Japanese, has not
been borne out by the experience of others.” The author then mentions
some observations on this point by Galton, who thought that “the width
of the ridges appeared to be more uniform and their direction more
parallel in the finger-prints of negroes than in those of other races.”
The word “negroes” here is delightfully vague in an ethnological
discussion. I have written nothing to justify the above remark. My
belief has long been that there is _no_ racial difference of yellow,
white, red, or black, to use the good old Egyptian classification,
but that the human family is one, and that view (right or wrong) was
enunciated often by me in Japan, both by speech and pen. Mr. Mitchell’s
strange misconception must surely be based on my words in the article
by me quoted above, where, after enumerating some elements in patterns
from different races, I go on distinctly to say: “These instances are
not intended to stand for typical patterns of the two peoples, but
simply as illustrations of the kind of facts to be observed.”

I had pleasure in giving my subscription and support to the recent
First Universal Races Congress, which has done much, I believe, to
consolidate scientific opinion as to the essential unity of our kind,
a belief not so old or universal as many think, dating, indeed, not
much more than a century back, if so far, as a scientific opinion, not
biassed by the slave interest.

Of much more importance now is the relation to human beings to the
great anthropoid stocks.

It is usual to separate the lemurs, which have strong affinities to
monkeys and to men, from the anthropoids, or man-like apes, forming two
great orders of

    _Lemuroidea_, and

In 1909, however, a paper was published by the Zoological Society
of London, in which this separation is considered to be no longer
justifiable, so that the lemurs and big man-like apes (orang,
chimpanzee, and gorilla) would no longer be held as separate orders
or sub-orders. There were some who hoped to show that the races of
men corresponded to three primitive anthropoid stocks, linked to the
three kinds of anthropoid apes. Whether the new view be correct or
not, and there is something to be said in its favour, there can be no
reasonable doubt now as to the close affinity which those creatures
have to ourselves and to one another.

When we first encounter remains of man or his close predecessor in the
records of the rocks, he was a dweller in holes and caves of the earth.
He certainly did not make pots of any kind, or at least he has left no
such remains. Probably he had no such companions even as the domestic
dog or cat, no cattle, not at first any kind of grain crop. He lived
on roots and fruits, hunted, and fished. Those early people have often
been called Troglodytes, from the Greek τρώγλη, a cave.

Professor Keith, the learned curator of the museum of the Royal College
of Surgeons, has advanced the theory that about the middle of the
Miocene Age a group of creatures existed, having affinities to man as
he now is, which group the professor names Proto-troglodytes. From
these sprung three classes of Troglodytes, namely:

    The Gorilla;
    The Chimpanzee;

Some eighty-seven anatomical features are said to be possessed by the
gorilla in common with man only, while the chimpanzee has ninety-eight
such features as belong to man. The gorilla has the best and biggest
teeth, and in this respect progressive deterioration went on through
the orang-utan and the chimpanzee to man. According to the estimate of
Professor Keith, there are not in the whole world, at present, more
than 100,000 chimpanzee, and some 10,000 gorillas.

The subject of twins is likely in future to be very interesting in
relation to the resemblance of their finger-patterns. The distinction
is now made of twins proceeding from one zygote or fertilized ovum,
and twins proceeding each from different fertilized ova. In the first
case, it is supposed that the twins are necessarily of the same sex,
while in the other, each twin child may be of the sex determined by the
fertilized ovum from which it sprung. Clearly, in the latter case it
might often happen that both twins might be male, or both female.

Dr. Berry Hart quotes from the records of another observer (Wilder) in
which there was a pair of “identical” twins, in whom the similarity was
complete even to the finger-prints. [_Brit. Med. Jour._, July 29th,
1911, p. 215.] I have found in the same family male and female with
_resembling_ finger-prints, but none which could be called identical,
but opportunities of comparing twins of the same sex do not often
occur. While writing this chapter I examined twins of the same sex
(female). Their finger-prints are very similar, but details diverge in
many directions. The matter merits close attention. But how are we to
determine that twins of the same sex are from one ovum, seeing that
there might be a coincidence of twins of the same sex proceeding from
separate ova? If their finger-prints are “identical,” is that the main
evidence? or do identity of features, colour of hair, voice, manners,
and character, come up independently? If one questions the theory, the
“identity” must be very complete indeed, to give it vraisemblance, for
how often do we not find that children of the same parents, not twins,
but born with many years intervening, show most striking resemblance?
The alleged complete identity of finger-patterns, however, is a most
interesting and novel point, and ought to receive close attention from
parents and physicians. A curious fact about hereditary resemblance
is this, which I have frequently observed. A child resembles, say,
a mother as a rule, but at some emotional, angry, or vexed moment,
lines are marked in the face by muscular movements which bring out
like a mask a striking likeness, say, of the father, or of some other
progenitor. Besides this, a child at different stages may resemble in
succession different near relatives, and in a very striking degree
resemble them. But with regard to finger-patterns there is no such
variability. Even a month or two before a child is born its little
heraldic crest begins to be firmly fixed for each finger, as it is to
be throughout life.

The disease called Acromegaly, or giant growth, involves great
expansion of the ridges and furrows, but no case of actual change
of patterns has been observed as yet. The attention of medical men
should be given to this affection in regard to modification of linear

The likeness or divergence of finger-patterns in neighbouring
supernumerary fingers and toes might yield interesting results if
carefully recorded. Extra fingers are commoner than extra toes. The
webbing of fingers, as in the chimpanzee, might also be noticed, and
any association with retrograde patterns, in the fingers concerned.

The rapid growth of a literature of Criminology is partly the result of
better methods of identification. It is unscientific to reason about
the personal peculiarities of all the Toms, Dicks, and Harrys, when Tom
may be Dick, or Dick Harry under a different alias. The criminologist
can now use his prison statistics as to age, habits, and the like,
with much greater confidence and precision. In an interesting, but
somewhat reckless work on “Criminal Man,” which summarizes the teaching
of the eminent Italian authority on the anatomy and psychology of the
criminal--of the Italian criminal at least--Cesare Lombroso, we are
told (p. 20): “Long fingers are common to swindlers, thieves, sexual
offenders, and pickpockets. The lines on the palmar surfaces of the
finger-tips are often of a simple nature, as in the anthropoids.” But
they are not, necessarily, of a simple nature in the anthropoids, but
often highly ornate and complex in their ramifications. In the lower
monkeys they are much simpler, and Sir F. Galton thought it was so
sometimes in the negro peoples. Indeed, one is not surprised to meet
such simple lineation patterns now and again in cultivated people,
without any criminal taint, or negro blood, or any anti-socialistic
tendencies that can be easily detected. A cautious prison doctor in
Glasgow, Dr. Devon, has written a clever book which gives much food
for sober reflection. He seems to say that the criminal is not a kind
of species by himself: “If those who come to prison for the first time
were made the subject of examination, it would be found that they are
principally remarkable for the absence of what the books call criminal
characteristics.” (p. 11.)



There are important points connected, with the printing of
finger-patterns, especially for legal investigation, which come now to
be considered. A human finger, as we have seen, is not, for printing
purposes, just like a lithographic stone, a box-wood engraving, or
a plate of zinc, steel, or copper. In ordinary printing, especially
of high-class and delicate engravings, the quality and fluency
of ink, the smoothness of surface and hygrometric conditions of
paper--due sometimes to local atmosphere, and sometimes to climate
generally--the skill of workmen, all the conditions co-operate
in producing variations, slight it may be, but noticeable in the
results obtained. In the case of finger-prints we might also have
to consider the willingness or unwillingness of the subject having
his finger-prints officially taken. A finger--even that of a dead
person--is compressible, while retaining on the whole the pattern of
its furrows and ridges, and hence under fairly similar conditions,
the printed products may be somewhat different in appearance. The
same fact would apply, no doubt, also to impressions taken from an
indiarubber stamp, made, we shall suppose, for stamping purposes in
regard to documents, in imitation of a particular finger-print pattern.
Greater compression tends to flatten out the ridges and to narrow
the intervening grooves, while it may also tend, especially when
associated with over-inking, to obliterate some of the characteristic
ramifications of the pattern. But, again, the finger of a living person
is usually in a state of physiological activity. It swells or shrinks,
drying up or exuding moisture from its many pores, which facts, however
minute and insignificant they may appear to the uninstructed, to the
trained dactylographer they leave a most interesting and significant
record behind.

Examine carefully a ridge which has been printed--and, if possible,
photographically enlarged--at various periods not long apart, and the
pores with which it is dotted will be found, while retaining their
relative positions, to vary somewhat in their degree of patency. A
single ridge might be compared to a naval cruiser, the numerous funnels
of which are not all belching forth smoke at the same time, but one
is almost smokeless while its neighbour is quite active. Those pores
which have been copiously emitting sweat are seen, when imprinted,
to be larger than those that were inactive. An imaginary case was
once suggested to me as a final blow to finger-print identification.
A certain Mr. William Sykes is officially known to be recruiting
his valuable health at one of His Majesty’s sanatoriums for people
of his profession. That celebrated artist’s “thumb”-print, however,
has been found liberally spotted all over the scene of some tragic
area of crime. What is to be said? Well, the prodigality of display
of the well-known sign-manual, in circumstances when gloves are
almost invariably now worn by experts, might well arouse suspicion
in itself, but it would easily be found in such a case that the
pattern had been prodigally repeated with too great fidelity in the
matter of sweat-pores, which, in the case of an active burglar, who
is a sober, hard-working fellow in spite of his faults, would vary
with each successive imprint, in a way that no manufacturer of bogus
“thumb”-prints could easily follow.

The fact that a finger--a clean finger--is naturally, to some slight
extent, greasy, partly from sebaceous secretion, enables the expert
dactylographer by various chemical and mechanical means to obtain a
pretty clear vision, even in minute detail, of what before had been
quite invisible. A mere accidental smudge from a slightly oily palm
or finger, if imprinted on glass, japanned tin, varnished or polished
wood, etc., may have its invisible lineations brought out by dusting
gently upon it some light powder of appropriate colour. Dr. René
Forgeot, in 1891, first called attention to this method of bringing out
latent imprints, and my friend, Dr. Garson, of this country, gave it
further developments.

In my _Guide_ I have mentioned some of my own results with
modifications of these methods.

On a pane of glass which a malign finger is suspected to have touched,
a fine black powder gives vivid and beautiful results, the sooty matter
clinging to and revealing the oily surface of the lineations in very
full detail. In my article in _Nature_ of 1880 a sooty imprint is shown
to have helped an innocent man to establish his innocence, but in this
case the imprint was quite direct. The powder should be gently blown
over, or dusted lightly on to the greasy impression, with a soft camel
hair brush which is perfectly clean and dry. Care should be taken not
to breathe on the glass, or a damp, smeary effect may result. I have
not found sable brushes act so well as those made of camel hair, a
fact which their structure under the microscope helps to explain. (See

The best treatment of a greasy smudge on a dark ground, say the surface
of a japanned cash-box, marble slab, school slate, or enamelled door
panel, is carefully to dust over the object with a fine white powder,
such as the ordinary tooth-powder of the chemists, or still better, as
I find, with the light carbonate of magnesia. In one sense this may
be said to yield a _negative_ print, but an important qualification
arises. The patterns now in white are the ridges which before were
black, while the furrows remain dark as at first. In a smoked glass
print the white ridges have not imparted something to the glass,
but have simply removed the carbonaceous deposit previously there.
Practically, however, the whitened ridges have the quality of a
negative imprint, as previously described.[D]

[D] See _Guide to Finger-Print Identification_ (fig. 12)

Greasy finger-marks may also be acted on chemically, so as to bring
out details by the application of osmic acid. If there is any olein or
oleic acid in the mark, as there generally is in human finger-marks,
the acid deepens the tone of the almost invisible lines into a brownish
hue, revealing all their richness of detail. I have succeeded in
etching finger-marks of this kind on glass by means of hydro-fluoric
acid. They remain quite indelible in all their details so long as the
glass itself endures. The patterns thus etched can be very well brought
into view by painting a dark background on the reverse, or pasting
dark paper behind. There is a clear layer of the skin in both palms
and soles, the fat of which is eleidin. That particular kind of fat
does not stain with osmic acid in the usual way. The sweat of palms and
soles is not supposed to contain any fat at all, but there would seem
to be some faint trace of it in sweat. The greasy surface of the skin
as a rule comes from the sebaceous glands, as previously described.
When clean palms leave a greasy smear, as they often do, I think the
greasiness must generally come by transmission from other parts of the
body, or from contact with foreign greasy substances, which are common

For those who wish to study dactylography, the apparatus is neither
complicated nor expensive. A good pair of compasses, a botanical
lens, a school slate or tin plate or porcelain tile, a small pot of
fine printer’s ink, and an ink-roller or photographer’s “squeegee”
will suffice for most purposes. For the expert who must make fine
measurements of enlarged photographs, and perhaps defend them under
keen forensic criticism, one or two instruments are required, presently
to be described.

The ink may be daubed evenly and thinly on the slate, tile or plate,
but it is better to use a small printer’s roller for the purpose. Avoid
all fluff, hairs, or grit, which thoroughly spoil any print. The roller
should always be scrupulously cleaned before laying aside, and it is
well to provide a tin case for its reception. The remaining stock of
ink should be carefully levelled a-top, and covered with a drop or two
of linseed or other oil, which will preserve it in good and workable
condition for a long time. Reeve’s Artists’ Depôts, Ltd., 53 Moorgate
Street, London, supply an excellent quality of ink for this purpose,
in flexible tubes, at sixpence each, and the same firm can generally
provide the rollers or squeegees used by photographers, which serve
very well. In an emergency I have made serviceable ink with burnt cork,
lamp soot, even shoe-blacking, using a good smooth and even cork as a
roller. Wax casts, which should occasionally be made for study, can be
made with the sheets of wax used greatly, at one time, for the making
of artificial flowers. Excellent casts can also be made with putty,
gutta-percha, sealing-wax, or hard paraffin, such as is used to encase
the modern candle. Very excellent imprints of this kind have been left
by burglars on candles they have used.

Some useful practical hints as to how finger-prints may be photographed
and enlarged for police purposes are supplied by Inspectors Stedman and
Collins, in an official work by Sir E. R. Henry, _Classification and
Uses of Finger-Prints_; and others occur in _Daktyloskopie_, published
in Vienna. Finger-marks on plated articles, when placed squarely with
the camera in a strong side light, will appear light on a dark ground.
The instructions in such a case are: “Focus sharply. Should, however,
the mark be too faint to be clearly seen on the focussing screen, a
piece of printed paper can be placed around the mark to focus by, but
this should be removed before exposing the plate, otherwise halation
will set in and obscure some of the lines in the finger-mark.” The
plate done in this way gives a negative result, so that a transparency
must be made and used so as to convert that into a positive print.

The fingers and thumbs may each be printed separately. For
identification the serial order of fingers must be retained on the
record. The official method in England is to print four fingers of each
hand simultaneously, adding the right and left thumb to each respective
section of the register. In addition, each thumb and finger is
imprinted by rolling it slightly, which gives an enlarged area for the
display of the more important linear elements in each finger pattern.

The prisoner signs this sheet, and also adhibits an imprint from his
right forefinger under the signature.

The highly-glazed papers now so much used for half-tone photographic
reproductions are not, in my experience, particularly good for ordinary
impressions. The surface of any paper used should be fairly smooth, the
texture firm, tough (not brittle), durable, and the colour white, as
photographs for enlargement as judicial exhibits may be required.

Great care is now taken officially to secure the correct order of
fingers, as on that the validity of the method depends, and the whole
utility of the classification.

Inspectors Stedman and Collins, in the work just quoted, state that
when finger-prints are required to be produced as evidence in a court
of justice, “they are first enlarged 5 diameters direct with an
enlarging camera. The negatives are afterwards placed in an electric
light enlarging lantern, with which it is possible to obtain a
photographic enlargement of a finger-print 36 inches square, such a
photograph being as large as is ever likely to be required.”

In my _Guide to Finger-Print Identification_ (p. 62) I have advocated
uniform enlargement of all such exhibits on the decimal or metric
system, and hope that international agreement on this point may be
secured. Apart from criminal services its scientific utility would
ultimately be very great. The objection that an English jury would
dislike being confronted with the technicalities of a foreign and
“mathematical” system is very easily met. An English jury--and no jury
in the world is fairer or clearer-headed--would only, in any case, have
to compare two figures _similarly enlarged_, one being that of the
accused person’s fingers, taken while in custody, and the other, either
a similar official record of another date, or a smudgy mark from some
blotting-pad, window-pane, drinking-glass, bottle, or the like. The two
exhibits, paired for comparison, would have been enlarged exactly on
the same scale, whatever that scale might have been. For purposes of
judicial comparison, therefore, English terms and English instruments
might be used throughout, and no inconvenience could be felt by the
most insularly prejudiced jury that could possibly be got together.

When a photographic enlargement has been made, it is necessary to
be able readily to test its conformity with the enlargement to be
compared with it, or if there be not strict agreement, to allow for
and calculate the admitted discrepancy. This may easily be done by an
application of the “rule of three.”


  H.C.R. No._____________
  Name________________________|  Classification No.___________

  Prison Reg. No. ________   RIGHT HAND.
  1.--R. Thumb.|2.--R. Fore|3.--R. Middle|4.--R. Ring |5.--R. Little
               |    Finger.|    Finger.  |     Finger.|     Finger.
               |           |             |            |
               |           |             |            |
               |           |             |            |
               |           |             |            |
   (Fold.)     |           |             |            |      (Fold.)

  Impressions to be so taken that the flexure of the last joint shall
  be immediately above the black line marked (Fold). If the impression
  of any digit be defective a second print may be taken in the vacant
  space above it.

  When a finger is missing or so injured that the impression cannot be
  obtained, or is deformed and yields a bad print, the fact should be
  noted under _Remarks_.

                              LEFT HAND.
  1.--L. Thumb.|2.--L. Fore|3.--L. Middle|4.--L. Ring |5.--L. Little
               |    Finger.|    Finger.  |    Finger. |    Finger.
               |           |             |            |
               |           |             |            |
               |           |             |            |
               |           |             |            |
   (Fold.)     |           |             |            |      (Fold.)
              LEFT HAND.           |            RIGHT HAND.
    Place impressions of the four  |  Place impressions of the four
     fingers taken simultaneously. |   fingers taken simultaneously.
  _Impressions taken by_          _Rank_             _Prison_
  _Governor’s Signature_                       _Date_
  _Classified at H.C. Registry by_             _Date_
  _Tested at H.C. Registry by_                 _Date_


                               _Prisoner’s Signature_________________

                                          | Right forefinger print. |
                                          |    To be impressed      |
                                          |   =immediately= after   |
                                          | signature is written.   |
                                          |                         |
                                          |                         |
                                          |                         |
                                          |                         |

  NAME                                            |    =REMARKS.=
  Year of Birth          Complexion               |
  Hair                   Eyes                     |
  Height       ft.       in.                      |
  L {                                             |
  a { *Sentenced at                               |
  s {---------------------------------------------|
  t {                                             |
    {      "     on                               |
  C {---------------------------------------------|
  o {                                             |
  n {      "     to                               |
  v {---------------------------------------------|
  i {                                             |
  c {      "    *for                              |
  t {---------------------------------------------|
  i {                                             |
  o {* Give offence in full, and if remanded only,|
  n {substitute “Remanded” for “Sentenced.”       |

It may be necessary to test the concurrence of curved lines in two
exhibits similarly enlarged. At one time I used strips of plumber’s
lead, placed edgeways on the curved lines to be compared. They could
be flexed so as to show the various sinuosities, however complex,
but leaden tapes cannot readily be made to retain the form imparted
to them. Copper wire I found to be stiffer, but it readily warps off
the plane. An excellent way is to draw on transparent paper a line
corresponding to the curved line seen underneath. The transparency is
then transferred and adjusted to the other enlargement, the curves of
which should be seen to be congruent. The instrument called “flexible
curves” which is used by engineers and mechanical draughtsmen I at last
tried, and found it to be exceedingly serviceable for such comparisons.
The pattern “=B=,” self-clamping, 12-inch size, is for most cases the
most suitable. Other patterns are made also, in sizes of 9 and 18
inches. The “=B=” pattern has a flexible steel strip, like the lead
tape just mentioned. After the curve or series of sinuosities has
been adjusted correctly, the shape is rigidly retained by means of
a stiff-hinged link-work arrangement attached by tabs. The strip of
steel should not be pressed down between two tabs, and when bending
or straightening out the instrument one should do so bit by bit,
beginning at one end and continuing onwards from there. This useful
self-clamping instrument used to be supplied by Mr. Wm. Brooks,
scientific instrument maker, 33 Fitzroy Street, Tottenham Court Road,
London. Another instrument of this kind, the “Curve Rule” is sold by
Mr. W. Harling, 47 Finsbury Pavement, E.C., and is figured here.

[Illustration: FLEXIBLE CURVES.]

[Illustration: HARLING’S J. R. B. CURVE RULES.]

In dealing with such _approximate_ curves as one finds among the
lineations of finger-prints, one is not supposed to apply strictly
mathematical principles. The lines, for example, have breadth, but not
quite invariable breadth. We must, therefore, avoid treating them, as
a beginner fresh from the schools is apt to do, as ideal concepts.
The simpler terms, however, as used by a teacher of drawing, with
the provisos already hinted at, will serve very well to guide one’s
efforts, or to explain one’s own conceptions before a magistrate or a

Besides the congruity of the curves, one has further to test the single
lineations, their junctions, number, and character. An excellent way to
envisage these is to make alternate linings with blue and red pencil,
to represent them as they seem. To do this effectively one may single
out a special measured square, or circle, or parallelogram, of the
enlarged figure. Proceed then, quite ignoring, if need be, all great
curvatures, to consider the lines as simple curved or straight lines,
and analyse them into composing elements, like twigs of a tree or the
characteristics of a runic alphabet. The result will be, perhaps, like
the figure on the next page.

It will now be quite easy to orient, or place correctly in space,
the corresponding part of the other print--if it really does
correspond--and a similar “rune” should result. One may afterwards
follow out each recognized lineation into further complexities or
joinings, as you might trace out a railway line with its various
junctions in a map.


A photographic enlargement, meant for forensic use, ought not to be
marked or soiled in any way, but dots of coloured chalk or ink might be
placed along the margins to denote where imaginary ruled lines might
begin or end. One might also use glazed tissue paper, ruled in squares,
or with eccentric circles like the mileage lines in a map of London.
By the use of these placed over the figure one might verify particular
coincidences or demonstrate discrepancies.

When the skin-pattern is impressed upon soft sealing-wax, clay, putty,
and so on, the _relievo_ image produced is different in this way from
an ordinary ink-printed pattern. The convex ridges are now concave
furrows, while the hollows are changed into heights.

In both kinds of impressions a reverse or _mirror_ pattern is produced,
a matter of some practical importance. This effect may, or may not
again be reversed in the photographic process. It is not impossible, in
such circumstances, that a suspect’s finger might be confused with a
resembling “mirror” pattern, which was really not his own.

I have thought that the word _verso_, used technically for the reverse
of a coin or medal, might be usefully employed in dactylography for the
reverse or mirror image of a finger-pattern when printed. A technical
word for the indented impression made by a finger on wax and the like
is also wanted. Now geologists use _-lite_ as a terminal to express the
impression or cavity which had been formed in a rock, when soft, by the
impressed body of an organism. Hence the word _dactylolite_ might be
used to denote an indented impression of a finger.

[Illustration: KEW MICROMETER.]

In making measurements of exhibits, the Kew micrometer devised by Sir
Joseph Hooker is of much service. It is figured here, and has the
useful quality of rendering measurements at the same time in both the
English and decimal systems.

For the method of encircling suspect smudges, either before or after
enlargement, and measuring from one fixed centre by the Kew micrometer
or ordinary compasses, I have devised a disc of glass such as is used
in microscope slides, and about the size of half-a-crown. In the centre
is a conical pit into which one leg of the compass rests. Precise
centring is thus obtained without the slightest risk of damaging the
photographic or other exhibit by the sharp point of the compasses,
which have, at the same time, free swing. These were prepared for me by
Mr. Franks, optician, Stoke-on-Trent, and cost very little.

[Illustration: GLASS DISC CENTRED (enlarged).]

In all measurements close to a fork or junction, as in the crook of
the letter =Y=, care must be taken in counting the lines below or
above the fork. Ambiguity readily arises, with a train of resulting
discrepancies. Other ambiguities also occur which require mention in
a word or two. In deciphering an ancient manuscript blurred, mouldy,
mayhap worm-eaten, doubts may arise as to which of two or three
possible words or letters may have been intended. One looks for some
rationality in the author’s writing, but in finger-prints there can
be no such help. In manuscripts the problem may not directly be as
to a word, but only as to a letter, but that single letter, read
differently, may change the tenor of a passage. Is ={deformed G}=
to be read as =C= or as =G= or as =O=? Is ={deformed E}= to be
read as =E= or as =B=? So Fork is liable to be read as Pork.

Now, a very similar difficulty frequently occurs in reading a blurred
finger-print, and such evidence should be scrutinized with the greatest
vigilance, and all really doubtful cases should be discarded as useless
in evidence. While the obscurity is sometimes merely due to defective
printing, there are several patterns of frequent occurrence which
are liable to be read variably. This was discussed at some length in
chapter iii. of the _Guide_. There is a tendency so to view blots or
blurs in such a case, that the cloudy spots become a weasel or even a
whale. In Japan there are artists’ wine-parties, where a common game
is to make an accidental splash of ink or colour, which is passed on
to the next guest, who in turn converts it by one or more strokes of
the brush into a figure of some character. Some years ago, I gave
to a young men’s meeting a lecture on Ghosts, in which I showed a
collection of ink-splashes produced without design, some of which were
quite strikingly artistic in their suggestive impressionism. Hence
the importance of clear printing, vigilant scrutiny of exhibits to be
compared, and the attention of a well-informed judge and intelligent

In certain circumstances, when a suspected person has been arrested
abroad or at a distance, it may be desirable to compare his fresh
finger-prints broadly with that of some well-known criminal whose
register has been long in the hands of the police. This want led me
to suggest, in 1905, that photo-telegraphy, in one of its forms, might
be brought into use. Many improvements have been made since then, and
it is now, I think, quite feasible to secure and transmit to a great
distance outline lineations quite good enough for use at a preliminary
enquiry, previous to a remand or committal.



A human finger, in ordinary circumstances, may preserve, unimpaired,
not only its general pattern of lineations, sometimes very intricate,
during its owner’s lifetime, but the minutest details also may be
discerned after thirty or forty years, quite unchanged as elements
of a pattern, and very likely for a longer period, though scientific
observation has not extended much beyond that limit. Long immersion,
after death, in water, till the skin is quite sodden, does not readily
destroy, does not even greatly obscure, the lineations for the purpose
of comparison with earlier printed records of them, and one can still
read into finger-print type, so to speak, the lineations of an Egyptian

When first I ventured to call the attention of the scientific world to
the patterns of finger-prints in 1879 or 1880, I suggested that the
ancient mummies of Egypt might possibly be found to have retained those
features sufficiently to be studied. I had no opportunity of obtaining
access to such remains in order to test the point, but on returning
to England I found that anticipation to be amply justified, as anyone
may verify by a visit to the British Museum. The skin of a mummy is
contracted, hard, and wrinkled, but one may trace the lineations
through all their loops, joinings, ramifications and whorls, with
great distinctness. So that it follows, did an Egyptian register of
finger-prints exist, we might unearth the names and titles or deeds of
some of those men who lived several thousands of years ago.

There is nothing, so far as has yet been observed, to mark their
race out as essentially different from our own, nor do any ancient
finger-prints look unlike those of present-day people’s.

The ridges on toes and fingers are visible in children born
prematurely, even at a very early period, as I have observed in the
practice of my profession, and as soon as the lineations are at all
discernible they are of human type. So far as has yet been observed,
we do not find that the growing human embryo repeats a history of
finger-patterns, beginning at an earlier and lowlier biological stage,
as is sometimes contended to be the case in regard to some other
organic structures undergoing development.

The efforts I first made to investigate the problem of permanence were
chiefly directed to the earlier periods of life, as presenting the
greatest likelihood of variation in patterns during rapid growth. A
large number of Japanese children, and also some thirty-five or more
children of European parentage, in ages from five to ten, were minutely
examined time after time during a period of two years--some of them
again at longer intervals--without a single variation being detected.
The lines and patterns in the fingers of growing children broaden out
as the infant grows, but the ideal form--so to speak--of the pattern
itself, retains full sway. To grasp this conception clearly is almost
the whole science of finger-print identification.

During that period, some of those children suffered severely from
scarlet fever, which, as a new disease, took a severe form in Japan,
and the desquamation, or skin-peeling, was unusually severe, so that
in those cases the test was a severe one. On several occasions I have
called attention to the possibility of severe desquamation being
followed by some change of patterns, and I still think this subject
merits the attention of medical men, but no actual fact illustrating
the apparent danger has yet been brought under notice. This may,
however, be simply the result of a high degree of inattention to a
subject which medical men do not seem to have interested themselves in
until very recently. In acromegaly, a disease in which the fingers take
on gigantic features, one might expect to find a very notable change
of patterns, perhaps the addition of fresh lineations, but after some
attempts to collect information not one single example of the kind has
yet reached me.

Besides testing growing children in the manner I have stated, many
Japanese medical students between the ages of twenty and thirty were
made use of in this way. The ridges were carefully shaved by razors,
or smoothed away by sand-paper, emery dust, or pumice stone, so that
no distinct patterns could be traced. The same tests were applied to
my own fingers and to those of one or two medical friends who were
quite sceptical as to the continuity of the patterns. Many of the
patients at the hospital, or out-door dispensary, were also induced
to submit, but not a single instance of variation in the patterns was
ever brought to light. My own fingerprints have not varied since that
date, a period of fully thirty years. However smooth the surface had
been made, the old design came up again with perfect fidelity, yielding
exactly the same imprints as before, subject only to those very minor
variations already described in a previous chapter, to which even
engravings are subject. Up to the period of my final return to England
in 1887, a period of nearly nine years, enthusiastic and vigilant
observation of this point gave me complete confidence in the permanence
of finger-print patterns as a basis of personal identification. With
the exception of acromegaly and skin-peeling after acute fevers, I
can conceive of no biological reason why changes might be anticipated
in those patterns, and up to the present no evidence has reached me
that even those conditions do effect pattern changes. In old age the
ridges shrink somewhat, and wrinkles here and there betray the drying
up of tissues, which facts are revealed in printed impressions by fine
white lines, often cutting across the lineations, not unlike those
which occur in box-wood engravings, where hair-like lines betray some
cleavage of the wood. In such a case the value of the pattern is not
affected as a proof of identity. One may go beyond that, and say that,
if after a lapse of forty years or so the old pattern is now crossed
by wrinkles which were not there in youth, the two prints are from the
same individual.

Other observers--Sir Francis Galton, Sir William Herschel, and the
police of this and other countries--have accumulated a vast store of
conclusive evidence on this point.

We are now amply justified in assuming that, for all practical purposes
of identification, the patterns on human fingers are, throughout life,
persistent and unchangeable. Such slight and transient changes--not due
to mere variations of pressure, inking, and the like, as they usually
are--are no more likely to invalidate an identification than a new
freckle or pimple on a man’s face would make him unrecognizable by his
intimate friends.

Dr. J. G. Garson, in an article in the _Daily Express_ of July 20th,
1905, writing on this subject, which he has carefully studied, said:--

    “It is now a well ascertained fact that every person bears on his
    fingers as certain proof of his identity as he does on his face.
    The latter is, however, that part of his anatomy by which he is
    most readily identified by the world at large, though to his
    intimate friends other particulars about him may characterise him
    equally strongly. By means of the eye, the _tout ensemble_ of the
    countenance is registered upon the mind, generally regardless of
    details respecting the actual form of each particular feature--in
    short, a person is recognized and identified by exactly the same
    psychological process as a printed or written word is read without
    first spelling it.”

It must be clear to any student of the subject that _persistence of
patterns_ must become the basis of identification in this way, and
that persistence is now as firmly established as anything can be as to
living creatures.

Sir Edward Henry, in his _Finger-Prints_, says (p. 17, 3rd edition):
“Impressions being required for permanent record, their utility must,
in great measure, be contingent upon the persistence through long
periods of time, of the general form of the pattern and of the details
of the ridges constituting it.” No such stability has yet been shown
to exist in regard to any other part of the body. The bones change
very greatly, not only in size, but in shape, texture, and mechanical
conditions through life. Even the ordinary features and expression of
a human being by no means can be said to remain uniform. One sees
a friend during many short intervals, and is not finely observant
of minute changes that in a decade or two amount collectively to an
almost complete transformation of the man’s whole face and figure. The
photographic system of identification, although serving a purpose now
and then, was found, therefore, to be untrustworthy.

My revered teacher, Lord Lister, noted the slow migrations of the
pigmentary particles that make the web-like patterns on a frog’s foot.
I have observed similar but still slower changes in ordinary freckles
on a human hand. The white spots of leucoderma--a skin-disease that
used to be confused with leprosy, from which it entirely differs--are
often bounded with dark borders, into which the pigment particles have
migrated from the white spots. A negro’s skin sometimes becomes white
where a fly-blister has been applied, as a fair-skinned person is often
marked with a dark patch after a similar application. The pigment
particles move to and fro like living things, though very slowly, and
the marks they collectively make on a living body are not fixed and
stable. Again, we have seen that the police used to record the position
of wens, tumours, tattoo marks and the like. But tumours are now often
removed through the line of natural creases, or wrinkles, leaving very
faint traces, if any, behind.

An official in Japan had a large wen on his forehead, which disfigured
him greatly. He was getting elderly, and told me, when friends brought
him, that he would as soon have the wen as a scar. I got him to consent
to have it removed through the natural wrinkle in the forehead, after
which it left no visible trace at all.

A curious case was that of a man whose back and shoulders were adorned
by a large collection of a certain kind of tumour varying from the size
of a chestnut to that of a hen’s egg. They all disappeared, without the
use of the knife, leaving no scar behind, and only a slight lowering
and thinning of the skin.

Even scars, themselves, sometimes very unsightly ones, tone away to
a large extent, till they cease to be at all conspicuous. The colour
of the hair changes greatly in some people at the various stages of
life. Certain diseases, too, such as malarious affections, the action
of the sun, and certain employments, change the complexion in a very
remarkable way.

What the pole-star used to be in navigation, fingerprint patterns are
now become for all serious purposes of practical identification.



Having secured some technical knowledge of how to print, and how to
read old finger-prints correctly and with confidence when they turn
up again in experience, we are faced now with the problem of how to
classify and arrange them for secure preservation and prompt and easy
reference, whatever may be our object.

In natural history, in biological facts generally, it is not always
easy to define the objects of study strictly, so as to classify them in
a practical way. Dealing, however, with printed finger-patterns which
are no longer living and changing things, we can hope to secure some
of the advantages of a mechanical method. Verworn, in his _General
Physiology_ (p. 71) says, very justly: “The fixing of sharp limits and
definitions must contain, finally, a more or less arbitrary element,
[that], indeed, all limits and definitions are only psychological helps
towards knowledge.” Bearing this principle in mind, then, what is the
end or object we aim at in a system of finger-print classification?

The objects of identifying a person with some one who has had a
name and left a history are of various kinds, as criminal, civil,
military, naval, medical, legal, scientific, and insurance purposes.
Now, in regard to the use of finger-prints for so many ends in
view, a difficulty presents itself. It occurred to me at the outset
of my studies, that if the system were to prove trustworthy and
useful, even in a minor degree, immense numbers of people in civil
life, in army, navy, and mercantile services, or under criminal
conviction, would require to have their prints correctly classified,
indexed, and arranged for easy reference. How could it be possible
in so vast a collection or series of collections to find the one
single record wanted? To ransack--unaided by a scientific method
of classification--the register of an army containing some 500,000
soldiers would involve the search of a much larger number of cards or
sheets than 500,000, according to the duration of regular service,
and other possible conditions. To do this would obviously be quite
as hopeless and futile a task as groping for a lost needle in a huge
hay-field. The problem was to find a system which would facilitate
the search in a _high degree_. Any mere slight assistance would still
leave the essential problem unsolved. Now, we might have found in
finger-prints mere variety without persistence, or mere persistence
without initial variety, and in either case the study could yield
little practical result. Again, mere diversity, however persistent,
without some elements of underlying resemblance, would not have yielded
a basis for such a methodic arrangement as was obviously required.

Much aid came to me from the first, as I have already hinted, from
five years’ daily laborious experience in sorting and comparing
analogous but artificial patterns in the now obsolete Paisley shawl
trade, but in the case now in view colour did not come in as an aid
to arrangement. This problem, moreover, was not one of those the poet
derides as of mere “gold or clay,” but as I saw, it concerned itself
with human lives, and was a task, indeed, that might awaken in the
dullest mind a keen sense of moral responsibility in proposing its
general use as a new and quite trustworthy method of criminal and other
modes of identification. The expert in charge might suddenly be called
upon after a little expansion of the system to prove the identity
of some evil-doer out of many thousands of possible persons, or to
subject a suspected person, on the evidence of a few smudgy streaks
of ink or blood, to life-long servitude, or to the irremediable doom
of a shameful death. In my own case, at this early stage, the mere
possibility of a single serious false identification by a method as yet
untried became really terrible to contemplate. After closer study, a
clear path began to open through the tangled jungle.

Some familiarity with the equipment of a Far-Eastern printing-press
had been afforded me while editing _The Chrysanthemum_, a monthly
magazine published in Tokyo, and devoted to the discussion of Japanese
topics of literary, scientific, or antiquarian interest. There were
some hundreds of thousands of different forms of type, all classified
in so convenient a way that any compositor, by running about a little
more actively than would be quite compatible with the grave dignity
of an English printing establishment, could soon find the character
in whatever form of fount he desired. The idea suggested itself
then, that analogous qualities as a basis for classification of the
finger-patterns might be revealed by a closer study of Chinese. I do
not know Chinese--some years’ close study has convinced me of that.
However, each Chinese ideograph, for dictionary purposes, is supposed
to be built up around an element called by western lexicographers its
_key_ or _radical_, and of these there are two hundred and twelve.
You look for the radical in an unknown character, and then look for
that radical in its serial place in the two hundred and twelve. It
is a question then, as in finger-prints, of counting strokes, and if
the strokes are alike in number in any two instances, of looking then
as to how they are arranged. Two characters with the same number of
pen-strokes under the same radical or key, may bear quite a different

A Chinese character is defined and limited, but a finger-print pattern
often, or usually, trails off into indeterminate lineations of little
value for classification purposes. Hence we seek in the latter to
isolate for study the central part of the pattern, where the intricacy
of the ramifications usually rises to a maximum. The space covered
by the lineations that matter is not usually greater than, often
not so wide as, the space occupied by the head of the Sovereign on
an English postage stamp. Into this brief compass is compressed a
world of significance. A courteous and intelligent young detective in
Scotland Yard asked me (in 1886 or 1887, when I was advocating the
adoption of finger-print identification), did I really propose to
rest identification on features contained within so small a space? I
answered him, in pointing to a railway map of London, to consider a
net-work of junctions which I indicated, if he would not be justified
in saying if that fragment, torn away from its context, were presented
to him, that it was a portion of a map of London? After a little
scrutiny, he admitted that was so. I had no difficulty in showing him
then, that the condensed ramifications of a single finger-print within
the very limited area proposed by me were much greater than that of the
significant portion of the London map I had just pointed out to him.

In tracking a criminal by a single impression made by a finger, the
lineations in so small a space would require to have been clearly
imprinted, and to have what many finger-print patterns have not, some
notable or significant characteristics about it. Then, when enlarged by
photography into a picture of some thirty inches, the measurements from
fixed points in the pattern should correspond with those of the person
in custody, on suspicion, and the curves should be shown to concur
in all their sinuosities. But, in comparing two official imprints of
the ten fingers properly and clearly impressed, there should be no
difficulty, the points of comparison being overwhelming.

In a possible collection of half-a-million or a million complete sets
of finger-prints, can the one before me, of one Thomas Atkins, John
Doe, or Richard Roe--under whatever alias--be promptly found if it is
there, or, if not there, can its absence be conclusively determined?
We have seen, I think, that if two such patterns are confronted,
common-sense, and the use of fine measurements, will soon determine
whether they be of the same original, or different. The problem, then,
is to get this swift and sure confrontation effected.

This problem engaged my attention from the first, or at least not many
months after I first began to attend to finger-patterns, and in 1880,
when I proposed the printing and recording of the ten fingers of old
criminals, I had thought out the same method now outlined in this
chapter. It would be impossible to compress all the details necessary
to work out the matter officially, without producing a work as large,
and perhaps as expensive, as a Chinese dictionary, of which the
probabilities are that one or perhaps two copies might be sold.

I laid this matter in outline before Inspector Tunbridge, in his
official capacity, in 1888, and again before the War Office Committee,
at which an Under-Secretary of the Home Office was present, taking
diligent notes. The system now in official use--an improvement made by
Sir Edward R. Henry upon Sir F. Galton’s very premature attempt (after
a few years’ study in old age) seems to work practically, and therefore
I have no criticism to offer, further than to suggest, that if in our
system of mercantile book-keeping we had retained the use of Roman
numerals, fortunes might continue to be made or lost. I cannot think,
however, that our merchants would now give up the Arabic notation for
the more complex and clumsy one of ancient Italy. Nor is nature likely
to resume her interest in the kangaroo and its future.

Science seeks simplicity, and the _Syllabic system_, now familiar
to every one who uses a telegraphic code, is what I proposed for
finger-print registers. In this I simply followed the method of
transliterating Japanese and Chinese words into syllables of the Roman
alphabet, a condition originally imposed by the old Japanese language
itself, in which consonants do not occur singly, but are followed by
vowels. Purkinje’s first analysis of the finger-print patterns was
not known to me, nor, I believe, to anyone in Europe or America, when
I first wrote, although I often in those years suggested that he
had probably written something on the subject. My first article in
_Nature_, as sent up, contained a kind of analysis of patterns, with
many types, named as whorls, ovals, deltas, loops, junctions, and the
like. Some are referred to in the text, but the editor expressed his
regret that he had not been able to insert the figures, and their
lack made the references in my article obscure. We shall deal with
a few of these elementary or typical figures presently. But, let us
now come to the main aspect of the syllabic system, in contrast with
that devised by Sir F. Galton, who looked upon it as merely ancillary
to the anthropometric system of Mons. A. Bertillon, of the French
police. Galton was supremely anxious to have his natural facts, his
finger-print records, arranged precisely in similar parcels, so
that one would not be excessively rich in records compared with its
neighbour. Now, what does it matter to the keeper of records, or even
to the tax-payer, whether one class of patterns is big or little? The
whole absurd complexity arising now, and increasing from year to year,
grows out of this essential misapprehension from the first of the vital
problems of finger-print classification. Advancing a stage for the
moment, let us suppose that a rich register exists, arranged on the
syllabic system. A type-writer, not necessarily a very intellectual
creature, or a boy-clerk, is in the room, and has the call to find
_A-bra-ca-da-bra_. I use here for convenience only five syllables,
representing one hand. The sheets or cards (sheets have been found best
by experience) are not separated in bundles except as to a convenient
size. It does not take long to look along the shelves till _A-bra-_
etc., is reached, and then the cabalistic word itself. It may prove
that there are some ten sheets on the register under this syllabic
title. These are transmitted, all in a few moments, to the expert
keeper of the records. At a glance an expert eye like his perceives
that, perhaps, seven out of the ten can have no possible relation to
the case now being enquired into. Of the three, one is perhaps now
in prison and cannot be the suspect. Of the two remaining forms, the
details of the first two fingers compared may diverge completely in
many ways, as determined by counting lines, measuring curves, and so
on. I am sure this would be no fancy description, from the many tests I
have applied. The whole strain of the recognition lies on the expert,
as the strain of the primary classification of records had lain upon
him at the time they were being made. Of course, more than one expert
might be needed.

It will be noticed, perhaps, that the syllable _bra_ occurs twice on
the same hand register. It by no means follows that the finger-print
represented by the second _bra_ is very like that of the first one. In
the same way, none of the patterns indicated by _bra_ in the cards of
similar syllabic index may much resemble the others, even broadly. The
pattern simply is of a certain typical form with which _bra_ is to be
linked for registration purposes. The same word, so to speak, might be
divided in a different syllabic way, thus:--

    _Ab-rac-ad-ab-ra_; and so on.

Hence the necessity of separating the syllables by hyphens.

The divergence of cards will be greater, of course, in the case of a
two-hand register, and even in one which comprehended, say, one million
of complete sets there would be very few repetitions of the same
arrangement of syllables.

One great advantage of the syllabic form is the help given to the
memory in transferring the eye from one sheet to others which may be
wanted. In the system now in use the symbols do not rivet themselves in
the same way, and have a monotony that becomes very tiring.

A general view of the precise intention aimed at in the particular
register must determine the extensiveness of the form the register is
to compass. Are the numbers likely to be large? Must the registers
extend over long periods? Are infants to be kept in view over adult
life, if that is reached? Many enquiries of this kind may have to be
met before the exact form of the cards or sheets is determined. For
such civil and social purposes as life insurances, signatures of deeds,
benefit of friendly societies, and the like, a comparatively simple
form of register and limited number of finger imprints might be all
that would be required for an effective service. The number of cards
would not be very great, and the probabilities of personation would
likely be restricted to a few local residents whose finger-prints would
not often be found even to approach coincidence in a slight degree.
To serve such needs, an elementary form of classification would go
a long way to overtake ordinary requirements, and would be easy of
reference. Few of the difficulties involved in graver conditions of
legal identification need be raised as an objection to the general use
in banking and ordinary business of this new mode of identification.
In forming a system, even with a very wide range, the whole amount of
possible complexity in finger-patterns need rarely be called upon, and
could not conceivably be exhausted. I speak confidently on this point.
The central part of the pattern used is generally very limited, and its
area may be widened whenever an enlargement of the primary requirements
may demand more complexity in the factors of identification. The
ramifications will usually provide variety enough to satisfy the most
avaricious register.

Some of the main conditions on which the problem of alphabetic
arrangement of the index depends may now be set forth, before we
proceed to consider how those conventional syllables are to be formed
which indicate patterns.

1.--Distinction is not made between capital and lower-case letters.
Simple letters are too soon exhausted in a register of any considerable
size. It is obvious that syllables give a much greater variety. As far
as possible, commensurate with the dimensions of the register, the
syllables should be kept few, simple, compact, and pronounceable. The
vowels have the Italian sound. No syllables should contain more than
four letters at the utmost.

2.--When a doubt arises as to the proper syllabic reading of a
finger-pattern, the earlier letters of the Roman alphabet have the
precedence, thus _b_ before _d_, _l_ before _x_.

3.--Where the core of a pattern seems to contain two or more clusters
of significant lineations, choose for the index syllable that on the
right side of the pattern, or, if that is difficult to determine,
next that which is highest in position. In such a case, reference to
orientation or position refers to the usual or official pattern. In
dealing with a smudge of unknown origin, the various possibilities may
be tried, assuming relative order of position, as above.

4.--When spaces or figures, such as ovals or circles, are described
as “_large_,” that means wider than the space occupied by two average
lineations in that finger-print.

5.--When a finger-pattern has been permanently defaced or obliterated
by injury or disease, the missing mark may be denoted by an asterisk
(*). If the finger itself is missing, by deformity or mutilation, the
asterisk may be encircled with an =O=. A special compartment of the
register might be kept for the reception of all such cases.

6.--Badly-printed or obscure patterns should be held in reserve under
a special register classified according to probabilities, aided by
cross indexing, and receiving special attention from the higher
experts. Official patterns badly printed should at once be repeated, if
possible, before confusion arises.

7.--Registers for naval or military, and banking, insurance, and
general purposes, should be kept strictly free from any police
supervision or control.

The syllables in my system, viewed as lexicographic elements, consist
of the ordinary Roman vowels and consonants, the vowels being
pronounced, as already said, as in the Italian language. I hold in
reserve for additional official purposes a few additional characters,
such as the Greek letter _delta_ Δ. Those, however, need not be dealt
with in the brief space now available, and would only be required,
I believe, in pretty extensive registers. The functions of the
conventionally fixed vowels may be better understood after we have
sampled a few of the consonants.

As suggested to me by Sir Isaac Pitman’s system of phonography, learned
in student years, I arranged the consonants in co-related pairs,
thus: _p, b_; _t, d_; _s, z_; _h, f_; _l, r_; _k, g_; _v, w_; _ch_
(considered as a consonantal character), _j_; _m, n_.

I have already pointed out, in dealing with problematic smudges, the
need of understanding patterns apart from their actual orientation,
which, in an unknown person’s case, may have to be assumed, an attitude
which may be determined by official bias. This I have entered more
fully upon in the _Guide to Finger-Print Identification_.

Holding this principle in view, then, let us now take some of the
simpler elements of patterns in their very simplest forms, and first
consider those grouped under the paired consonants.

=Ch= and =J=.

Each of these characters is taken to represent a hook with a short
leg. =Ch= is considered as one consonant, and as =C= is not otherwise
wanted, it might have been used alone but for its pronunciation being
indefinite. If in the usual form of official imprint the hook, with
its curve below, has its short leg facing to the left, thus, =J=, it
is duly represented by the Roman letter of that shape. Observe that
if you invert this character, or the type which represents it, thus
={inverted J}=, it will still point the observer to the =J= part of
the index, on getting the curve set right.

If the short leg of the figure points to the right it comes under =Ch=.
If that happens to confront one in its inverted position it cannot
be mistaken for a =J= figure, but must be looked for under =Ch=. In
all cases the degree or direction of slope in the figures, with a
few peculiar exceptions, is of no concern whatever, simplicity and
directness of appeal being aimed at from the first.

=B= and =P=.

These consonants are used to denote a bow. =B= is the form of a simple
bow with one lineation, or if two or more lineations blend into one,
they are found on the _left_ side when the convexity of the curve is
upwards. =P= is such a bow, but strengthened, as it were, by one or
more blended lineations on the _right_ side, with the same position of
the curve. A single line bow is never represented by =P=. If a bow with
a plurality of blended lineations is inverted the reading is not at all

=T= and =D=

represent pear-shaped, or battledore-like figures. =T= denotes such a
figure free from attachment to environing lineations, while =D= stands
for a similar figure fixed by its stem. Reverse the position of the
figure or turn it upside down and its index quality is not affected.

=K= and =G=

represent spindle-like forms, like the above but with _two_ (opposite)
stems instead of one. When the figure is moored by one stem it is
denoted by =K=; when fixed at both ends or free at both, by =G=.
Position does not affect these figures.

=V= and =W=.

These letters stand for whorls or spirals, a kind of figure that often
presents much difficulty in finger-print classification. =W= is a
whorl in which, tracing its course from the centre outwards, the pen
goes round as a clock-hand turns, or as one looking towards the south
perceives the sun to cross the sky. =V=, on the other hand, is one
which, traced in the same way (from within outwards), the pen goes like
the clock-hand backwards, or _widdershins_. Alteration in position
makes no practical difference whatever in the reading of those figures
into their proper syllables for an index.

=O= and =Q=

Although =O= is a vowel and will be met with again under that class, it
is paired in a kind of way with =Q=.

=O= denotes a _small_ circle or oval, or opaque, round, or ovoid dot,
_contained in the core of a pattern_.

=Q= denotes a _large_ circle or oval, containing, usually within
itself, other pattern elements of small dimensions.

A circle or ovoid is called _large_ when it occupies a space wider than
two average lineations of that finger-pattern in which it occurs. If
any doubt exists, by the principle previously mentioned, the figure is
referred to =O= as prior to =Q= in alphabetical sequence.

=M= and =N=

denote figures somewhat resembling mountain peaks, =M= signifying
an outline like that of a typical volcanic peak, while =N=, though
similar, ends in a rod-like form, as of a flag-staff on a mountain top.
Invert either of those typical forms and they can be read as before.

A curved cliff-like form, like a wave with a curling crest, may be
indicated by the Spanish ñ.

=L= and =R=

denote loops in which curvatures are apt to occur. =L= is a loop, the
axis of which is straight, while =R= is one the axis of which is curved
or crooked.

Note that if the legs of a loop widen out beyond the parallels, it
is no longer a loop, but a bow or a mountain. They may narrow again
and yet remain loops till at last they coalesce, when the figure is
transformed into a spindle or a battledore (=T, D=; _or_ =K, G=). If
the bend is more than that of a right angle, it comes under a new
definition, and has some qualities of the whorl or spiral, but is more
complex. This need not be entered upon here.

=S= and =Z=

I have used these two consonants to indicate certain patterns of a
sinuous, undulating, or zig-zag type, the sinuous or purely undulating
figures coming under =S=, but under =Z= if there is at least one
distinct angularity in the pattern.


This letter, long familiar to the student of algebra as the symbol
of the undetermined, I have reserved for the inclusion of various
nondescript and anomalous patterns. Those might become fairly numerous
in an extensive register, and in such case there would, no doubt, be
found a good basis for fresh sub-classification.

=F= and =H=

These two aspirates are made to do useful service, not unlike that of
vowels, but not of sufficient interest to be noted in a work like this.

We have thus, with the use of consonants alone, built up a kind of
osseous or skeletal system, and we have now but to add the vowels to
make those dry bones speak. Let us now consider this element in the
syllabic method.


This vowel indicates that the interior of a given loop, whorl, circle,
or containing pattern of any kind, is empty or vacant. Dealing here
only with the simpler conditions in which combinations of vowels and
consonants are found, such a figure will be indexed as _Ra, La, Ta,
Da_, as the dominant consonant may require. Such combinations as _ar,
al, at, ad_, etc., may occur, but this would lead us into too many
intricate ramifications for a work like the present.

If a pattern is very simple--consisting, for example, of almost
parallel lines--it may be denoted by the letter =A= alone. There are
such patterns, and they seem to be somewhat commoner among certain of
the negro tribes. I have mentioned in a previous chapter such a pattern
on the toe of a lady, and they are typical almost in some monkeys.


When we find in the interior of some loop, bow, or other pattern, a
group of not less than three short detached lines, or dots, this is to
be indicated by the use of =E= with the ruling consonant, as _te, re,
me_, and so on.


stands for a simple detached line, or not more than two parallel lines,
in the heart of an encircling pattern.


stands for a little oval or circle, or for a round or oval-shaped dot
in a core. If the circle, oval, etc. is _large_, extending over a width
occupied by two lineations, then it is treated as a consonantal form.
[See also =Q=.]


indicates a fork with two or more prongs within a core, forking towards
the bend of bow, loop, mountain, etc. A single prong or spur standing
out like a twig is to be distinguished from a fork.


is for a similar fork as described above, but turning its two or more
prongs away from the concavity of its enclosing loop, bow, etc.

Besides the direct combination of simple vowels and consonants, which
arrangement by itself gives great variety to the index registers, an
immense number of syllables are formed by combinations of two or more
consonants, while some few of the vowels are treated as long or short
where the pattern needs further discrimination; as, for example:--

_bra_, _spo_, _art_, _prīd_, _prĭd_, _nut_, _nūt_.

By this method the most extensive register is gripped _and needs no
other index than its own essential structure_. If the sheets or cards
are kept in their proper sequence, and it would require to be the duty
of some one--not necessarily an expert--to see that the alphabetic
syllables were kept in serial order, there should be no difficulty in
finding the document sought for, if it is there at all.

In translating fresh finger-prints into syllabic form, one has to
catch the ideal design, so to speak, in the pattern. The consonantal
skeleton, in one of its duplicate forms, is then examined for its
containing vowel, and the syllable is complete. The work can be done
with amazing rapidity after one is familiar with the patterns, which
soon appeal direct to the eye as the type does in a printed book.

Let us now look at a few examples tabulated to show how the system
works in detail.

with typical specimens of figure elements.]



Till quite recently the method of identifying prisoners was that
of personal recognition, often very admirably carried out. One may
readily conceive that a criminal officer, a Bow Street runner of the
old school, or a modern detective, might acquire great acuteness in
perceiving points of individual character in face, form, gait, speech,
and manner; and during the period of arrest, trial, and imprisonment
there were many opportunities of observing notable offenders. Nor
is such a power to be despised at the present time. How helpful a
little point might even be under skilful disguise occurred to my own
mind in this way. When I saw the great Henry Irving in the part of
Mephistopheles in “Faust,” a certain slight stiffness in the calves
was assumed, by me, to be a very clever and subtle suggestion of the
cloven hoofs which were supposed to aid the movements of that mediaeval
personage. But the great actor walked other totally different parts in
the same way, so that on the street, in any disguise, the notice of an
acute detective might have been arrested. I am shortsighted, but can
often recognize people at a distance too great to distinguish features,
by some peculiarity of gait or gesture. In Taylor’s _Manual of Medical
Jurisprudence_ [ed. of 1891, pp. 317, 318], there is a curious and
interesting example of how recognition sometimes failed. The story is
thus told:--

    “A trial took place at the Old Bailey in 1834, in which a man was
    wrongly charged with being a convict, and with having unlawfully
    returned from transportation. The chief clerk of Bow Street
    produced a certificate, dated in 1817, of the conviction of a
    person, alleged to be the prisoner, under the name of Stuart. The
    governor of the gaol in which Stuart was confined believed the
    prisoner to be the person who was then in his custody. The guard of
    the hulks to which Stuart was consigned from the gaol swore most
    positively that the prisoner was the man. On the cross-examination
    of this witness, he admitted that the prisoner Stuart, who was in
    his custody in 1817, had a wen on his left hand; and so well-marked
    was this that it formed part of his description in the books of
    the convict-hulk. The prisoner said his name was _Stipler_: he
    denied that he was the person named Stuart, but from the lapse of
    years he was unable to bring forward any evidence. The Recorder was
    proceeding to charge the jury, when the counsel for the defence
    requested to be permitted to put a question to an eminent surgeon,
    Carpue, who happened, accidentally, to be present in court. He
    deposed that it was impossible to _remove such a wen as had been
    described, without leaving a mark or cicatrix_. Both hands of the
    prisoner were examined, but no wen, nor any mark of a wen having
    been removed, was found. Upon this the jury acquitted the prisoner.”

Charles Dickens, aided by the pencil of “Phiz,” in _The Pickwick
Papers_, gives us the power of seeing the process of “portrait taking,”
which was simply done by a group of runners and warders staring hard at
the prisoner and noting his points.

In a Blue Book, _Identification of Habitual Criminals_, published
in 1892, which contains the report of a Committee appointed by Mr.
Asquith, who was then Home Secretary, we read that:--

    “The practice of the English police, though the details differ
    widely in different forces, is always dependent on personal
    recognition by police or prison officers. This is the means by
    which identity is _proved_ in criminal courts; and, though its
    scope is extended by photography, and it is in some cases aided
    by such devices as the registers of distinctive marks, it also
    remains universally the basis of the methods by which identity is

_The Register of Distinctive Marks_, such as the wen in the case just
mentioned, contained under nine divisions of the body those permanent
scars from wounds, operations or burns, tattoo marks, moles, wens,
warts, mother marks, etc., which might be expected to prove helpful
in identification. Those registers were published annually, and
distributed to all the different forces throughout the country. The
system does not seem to have been very successful. For example, out of
sixty-one enquiries, in twenty cases no information was obtained. As to
the remaining forty-one cases, eight were incorrect, while of ten cases
no ultimate intelligence reached the Registrar. The conclusion of the
Committee is thus stated (p. 8):--

    “It appears to us, therefore, that the comparative failure of
    these registers is due, not to any want of care in the way in
    which the work has been done, nor to the mode of classification,
    but rather to the inherent difficulty of devising any exhaustive
    classification of criminals on the basis of bodily marks alone, and
    also to the difficulty of using a register of criminals that is
    published at intervals and in a printed form.”

Four years before this, as I have stated, I submitted to Inspector
Tunbridge, deputed from Scotland Yard to meet me, an “exhaustive
classification of criminals on the basis of bodily marks alone,” but
the chairman of that Committee, now Sir Charles E. Troup, told me
himself, at the Home Office, that he had never heard anything of it. It
is now, however, in use pretty well throughout the civilized world.

Some progress, nevertheless, was made. A card index was recommended,
and greater definiteness in the description of the bodily marks was to
be observed. A very notable change was also foreshadowed in the whole
conception of the subject.

It is interesting now to read that “it was strongly represented to us
by Chief-Inspector Neame and his officers, that there should be greater
precision in the taking of descriptive marks, and that their distance
from fixed points in the body should be measured and recorded.” Science
is measurement, and it is highly creditable to the English police that
this demand was now to come from them.

Here is a specimen of the Register Form as applying to the Right
Arm--one of the nine divisions of the body for this purpose.

    |Name.|No.|   Limb   |       TATTOO MARKS.         |Moles |Other |
    |     |   |deficient,+------+-----+----+-----+-----+  or  |Marks.|
    |     |   |malformed,|Anchor| Man |Ship|Heart|Other|Warts.|      |
    |     |   | injured, |  or  | or  | or | or  |Marks|      |      |
    |     |   |    or    |Cross |Woman|Flag|Star |     |      |      |
    |     |   |diseased. |      |     |    |     |     |      |      |
    |     |   |          |      |     |    |     |     |      |      |
    |     |   |          |      |     |    |     |     |      |      |
    |     |   |          |      |     |    |     |     |      |      |
    |     |   |          |      |     |    |     |     |      |      |

A “scar on the forehead” was so common a mark of the criminal class,
that, unlike the brand of Cain, it had no distinguishing value. One
curious point, which has surely escaped the notice of writers of
detective stories, was that in Liverpool “special registers are kept
of the maiden names of the wives and mothers of criminals, as it is
found that in a large proportion of cases an offender, when he changes
his name, takes either his wife’s or his mother’s.” It is curious
that, in France, a criminal more readily gives his own name correctly
than in this country, but the trustworthiness of the finger-print
records is now slowly working to a similar frame of mind among English
recidivists. Photographs had been taken, as they are now to some
extent, and they are, indeed, often most useful. Certain “routes” were
arranged, and the forms and photographs were sent round the circuit of
police stations, so as to be returned within the usual week of remand.
Remarks on these forms were not used as evidence, but were used for
official guidance only. The word “photograph” seems now (1912) to
comprehend the taking of finger-prints in the official method with
ordinary printer’s ink.

With all the precautions then available, it was found that mistakes
in identification involved unjust suffering. A man named Coyle was
sentenced for larceny in 1889, a Millbank warder swearing to his
previous conviction, ten years before, as one Hart. The jury having
examined Hart’s photograph gave a hostile verdict, the distinctive
marks of the two men were found to be different, and Coyle moreover
showed that he had been doing a short term when Hart was in prison.
As is wisely stated in p. 23 of the Report: “The true test of the
efficiency of a system of identification is not the number of
identifications made, but the number of mis-identifications, or of
failure to identify.”

A woman lacking her left breast was identified with another who had
suffered in the same way, and who had been previously convicted. It
became clear that the women were different, and poor Eliza ---- had her
punishment accordingly reduced from seven years’ penal servitude to six
months’ imprisonment.

A case in 1908 was that of two men charged with burglary, both of whom
were short of a fore-finger, and were about the same age and of similar

A man named Blake was found under circumstances that suggested an
attempt at burglary, and was identified by a constable and several
others, including a prison warder, as a convict called Steed, under
supervision. It was found, however, that Blake had clearly been at
liberty when Steed was in prison, and the former was promptly acquitted.

One Callan was convicted as an incorrigible rogue, but had been
identified wrongly with another man, he himself at the time of the
alleged offence certainly having been in St. George’s Workhouse. He
was, however, afterwards rightly convicted for a similar offence.
It would appear from these and numerous other cases not referred to
in this Report, that those mistakes affect only the criminal class.
Probably there is a little too much readiness to identify a known
rogue with the offender wanted, and those unfortunate victims often
of disease and early training deserve fair and just dealing. Alas,
however, the really innocent have sometimes suffered dreadfully from
judicial blunders. The famous Beck case is too recent and tragic to
require recall.

But, besides occasional false identifications of innocent persons, the
old system, now happily superseded, was admittedly very ineffective
in detecting old offenders passing under different disguises and with
false names. The time spent on each identification of old offenders
was very great, an average of eight hours being required for one
identification. A few minutes is now found to be sufficient.

Tattoo marks are not always so small or so restricted in character as
they are found to be by the English police. In _Knowledge_ of April,
1911, I had printed in colours a wonderful reproduction of a painting
made for me in Japan, of a servant of mine, whose body was finely
tattooed over its whole surface, barring face, hands, and feet, in
different colours. It had cost him many years’ suffering and a small
fortune in money to achieve, but he was rather proud of it. I have seen
many such examples, though few so fine as a work of art. Extensive
tattooing is also common among Italian criminals, the whole body being

Simple tattoo marks cannot be entirely effaced, but may be defaced;
a simple design being made more complicated or altered so as to
mislead entirely. A Leeds warder said in evidence before Mr. Asquith’s
Committee, that: “Tattoo marks are sometimes defaced. I know one case
where a person had a letter =D= on left breast; it is now made into
‘Mermaid.’ This is sometimes done to prevent recognition in prison.
Sometimes the tattoo is removed, but a flesh mark of same shape left.”

Our Home Office was indisposed to move hastily in such a matter as
finger-print evidence of identity suggested by Englishmen. Another
system, very excellent in its way, had the immense advantage of
being of foreign origin. As the result, however, of several years’
experience, some inherent defects in Mons. Bertillon’s anthropometric
system--adopted in a modified form by our authorities in 1894--were
brought into notice. It was found to be rather delicate for every-day
practice, and the fine measurements taken officially often varied.
In 1901 therefore, a fresh Committee, with Lord Belper as chairman,
was appointed, but no report seems ever to have been published. Soon
afterwards, in July, 1902, the Home Secretary directed the introduction
of a system of identification based upon finger-prints only, in
supersession of the French method of identifying by bodily measurements
in a certain order. The results soon showed that the tardy decision
had been immediately justified. There was greater certainty assured
of valid identifications, the labour was much less, the expense was
diminished, and a great danger of false identification was effectively

That the system had taken root was soon evidenced by many newspaper
paragraphs of subsequent date. Here is a bit of every-day evidence
from a criminal case which resulted in conviction. It appeared in the
columns of the _Daily Chronicle_, as far back as December 2nd, 1903.
Many such cases were never reported at all. The witness, we are told,
had “not the slightest shadow of a doubt that the finger-prints of
Elliott were identical with those in the records of Scotland Yard.
He might be considered an expert in the matter of finger-prints.
Altogether he had dealt with about 500,000 cases of finger-prints.” To
this report may be added a sentence from that of _The Times_, of the
same date: “He had never known the finger-prints of different persons
to agree.” The witness is significantly described as Detective-Sergeant
Collins, of the Finger-Print Office, Scotland Yard. At a later date
the same witness (now Inspector Collins), bearing evidence as to
the Houndsditch murders, stated that they had now 170,000 different
sets of prints recorded. He added that, “During the last ten years,
since the introduction of the system in 1901, they had made upwards
of 62,000 identifications and recognitions, and, so far as he knew,
without error. They dealt, therefore, with pretty large numbers, and
he was justified in saying that he had never found two impressions of
different fingers to agree.” [_The Daily Mail_, February 25th, 1911.]

In _The Daily Mail_ of August 10th, 1910, Inspector Munro, of the
Finger-print Department of Scotland Yard, in giving evidence that an
imprint on a broken window was that of the accused’s right middle
finger, added: “There had never been any mistake yet in finger-print

One Cris Keegan, who received five years’ penal servitude at Dublin
in June, 1910, had left a finger-print on a broken church window at
Rathmichael. His counsel, pleading guilty for him, said: [_The Daily
Mail_, June 10th, 1910] “That when, before the magistrates the accused
supplied the best testimony to the finger-print system which it had yet
received, by saying ‘The taking of these finger-prints is the greatest
invention for the detection of criminals. I throw myself on the
mercy of the court. I did visit the church.’” This poor man had been
convicted forty times before.

Mr. William Henry, a witness in the case, who was in charge of the
register for criminals in Dublin castle, said, “he had put through
his hands about 150,000 finger-prints, and no two had ever been found
alike. This system of identification had now superseded all other
methods, and he regarded it as infallible.” Witness, having examined
the prisoner’s fingers in the dock, then said, “the finger-print on the
glass had been made by the prisoner’s right fore-finger.”

Criminals, dreading this kind of evidence, have of late taken sometimes
to destroying their ridge-patterns on the fingers. They sometimes also
remove and clean a window-pane which they have touched. In the early
part of the fourteenth century, clerks in holy orders claimed what
was called “benefit of clergy,” that is, the privilege of being tried
for certain crimes by ecclesiastical courts only, a privilege which
was afterwards extended to all persons who could read--for reading
was a somewhat rare accomplishment in those merry old times. In 1487
this benefit was restricted, so that a mere layman who was able to
read could secure it only once, and then he was to be _branded on the
thumb_, to show that he had already enjoyed his one opportunity, thus
carefully obliterating by legal methods the best means of proving the

A Leeds man, charged with burglary, was stated in _The Daily Mail_ of
April 14th, 1908, to have destroyed every one of his finger-ends so
that his prints could not be taken. He had been convicted several times
before, and had been sentenced to three months’ imprisonment.

The complete burglar’s outfit now includes well-fitting gloves as an
essential element, quite as important as skeleton keys and regulation
jemmies. This fact is curiously applied by the late John Davidson, who
says, in _Mammon and His Message_: “The gloves of party, of culture,
of creed, wherewith men hide their finger-prints lest they should be
caught in the act of being themselves, I decline to wear.”

Early in 1904, an office in Bradford was broken into by smashing a
glass panel in the door. Some cash and postage stamps were secured
by the robber. On one piece of glass a single finger-mark had been
imprinted accidentally, which was found by the police to be that of
a suspected person whose impressions had been officially secured
some time before. The offender was duly charged with the crime and
convicted. The photographs in this case were reproduced in _The
Strand Magazine_ of May, 1905, one being the enlarged impression
found on the piece of glass, and the other that of the supposed
corresponding impression, which was that of the prisoner’s left
thumb. Those finger-prints resemble, but their mutual likeness is by
no means quite conclusive and convincing. Mr. Mallet, the author of
the “Finger-Prints which have Convicted Criminals,” however, says:
“The reader will see how precisely similar are the impressions, and
he will be interested, with the aid of a microscope, in seeing how
exactly the almost countless ridges and characteristics of the thumb
are faithful doubles.” The patterns are both enlarged so greatly that
not even a lens is required for their discernment, and the “countless
ridges” do not run above forty. The two figures are not equalized in
their enlargement and comparison is made unnecessarily difficult, but
when made, the curves for some reason cannot be got to agree. The
officially registered impression affords clear lineations, but that on
the bit of glass panel is muddled and smudgy. On the whole I should not
call it a good example of this kind of identification.

A second case given is that of an imprint on a small box which had been
used for containing homœopathic remedies. Some cash had been stolen on
a certain Saturday night, and on Friday the delinquent was captured and
convicted by means of his finger-prints.

The reproduced photographs show the pattern to be somewhat simple,
and, allowing for a certain inevitable faintness due to indirect
reproduction, the evidence is good of its kind. A pattern of somewhat
greater complexity would have afforded much stronger evidence. The
chances of a single finger-print of very simple design, so to say,
being repeated in the case of another person, is not to be ignored, and
if the suspected smudge is obscure the evidence ceases to be of much

Of the third case mentioned, we are assured that “without the
finger-print it would have been impossible to convict.” Now, the
enlarged imprint of the suspect’s right middle finger has been
printed quite clearly, and has good, unique characteristics, but just
where these would be most useful for identification the lines in the
suspected smudge are fatally blurred and useless for comparison.

A better case is that of a print on a drinking-glass, which was
brought out in the way dealt with in a previous chapter of this work.
The pattern was rather striking, and the resemblance convincing. The
prisoner afterwards confessed his guilt and assisted the police to
arrest another man and to recover some stolen property.

In an old French reading book I learned from in earlier days, there was
a story of a country doctor who in visiting an upland farmer’s wife
could find no paper or ink for his prescription. So he wrote his orders
in chalk on the farm door and told them to take that to the chemist.
They took the door. It seems that a chief detective of Bradford found
a bath-room door imprinted in circumstances that aroused suspicion.
Protected carefully by paper the door was conveyed on a cart to the
Town Hall, as evidence in the case.

Identification does not merely ensure the conviction of the guilty.
A very pleasing example was sent to me by an eminent American author
and journalist, which shows how the legal use of finger-print evidence
established the innocence of an accused negro. Briefly, the story was
this. A murder had been committed in Kansas by a coloured man named
William West. While looking for him it turned out that the police had
just placed under arrest for some minor offence, a young negro named
William West, who, however, stoutly maintained his innocence of the
murder. The French method of bodily measurements was applied, and the
person under arrest was found to correspond exactly in his dimensions
in trunk and limbs with those of the sought-for murderer. It remained
now only to take the imprints of his finger-tips, a method not long
before introduced in that State. It was then clearly seen that, by
their decided divergences in pattern, the man in custody could not be
the guilty person, although name, colour, and measurements all agreed
in the two men. A few days later the real murderer was arrested.
The report sent by my friend concludes thus: “The coincidences of
name and figure might have been fatal to the innocent man, if the
impression of the finger-tips had not also been employed as a means
of identification. The police say that this test is infallible. The
impression of one man’s finger-tips never corresponds exactly with
those of any other man.”

The system is now largely used in many of the States. Mr. W. A.
Pinkerton, the well-known Sherlock Holmes of America, has a high
opinion of the validity of the method, and wrote me on his recent visit
to this country that he intended to study the subject more closely.

A curious incident happened many years ago to a doctor in the district
where I live. Returning from a visit at a late hour, by a lonely
road, he was suddenly assailed by a powerful ruffian who tried to
garrot him. The doctor, a notably athletic man, objecting to the
treatment, finally got one of his assailant’s fingers into his mouth
and amputated it neatly with his teeth. Early in the morning the rogue
came to the same doctor’s surgery unwittingly, seeking for surgical
help, was seized, and ultimately convicted, getting heavy punishment.
Now, on telling this true story (the finger is still kept in spirit)
to Mr.--now Sir Charles E.--Troup, at the Home Office, that gentleman
smilingly said such a case would never by any chance occur again.
Well, in October, 1909, a constable patrolling St. John’s Street,
Clerkenwell, found, sticking on a spike at the top of a gate, a bloody
finger with a ring on it. This was promptly submitted to the police
experts at Scotland Yard, who were convinced that it had belonged to
a man known as “William Mitchell.” A man called “May,” with his hand
bleeding and bandaged up had just been arrested. It was then found that
he had just lost a finger, which he admitted had been done when he was
hurriedly getting over the gate. He got twelve months’ hard labour, as

Many years ago I endeavoured to show the value of this method in the
recognition of the dead, where records existed. The importance it might
acquire is illustrated by the case of a man killed on the Great Western
Railway at Slough. His body had been badly shattered and mutilated,
and nothing was found in the poor man’s pockets but a match-box and
a tobacco pipe. Superintendent Pearman sent the finger-prints of the
dead man to Scotland Yard, where it was established beyond any doubt
that the deceased was one Walter James Downes, a farrier, of Deal. How
he came to be known at Scotland Yard is not stated in the newspaper
report. The record of a blameless life would have permitted him to rest
in a nameless grave.

In some parts of the Continent means are used systematically to
identify, by their finger-prints, all vagrants and tramps. It would
seem to be clear that in this country a large proportion of those poor
waifs are not really criminals in disposition, being often merely
failures from physical or mental incapacity, persons hopelessly
inefficient in performing the simplest tasks of an industrial life.
Among those there is ever a floating population of professional
criminals, and others again who are not chronic evildoers, but have,
perhaps, once been guilty of some grave offence which has separated
them from home and friends.

The Chief Constable of Halifax, in his annual report (1909) deplores
the absence of any means of discriminating between the “honest
hard-up” and the habitual tramps, who are often rogues and vagabonds.
He advocates a central registry for the United Kingdom, based on the
finger-print method. This, he thought, would reduce the number of
beggars, and would give the genuine but unfortunate worker indisputable
evidence as to the purity of his record, and entitle him to more
generous treatment in his search of work.

Amongst other evidences that the English method has come to stay, one
might quote the prospectus of the Birmingham University Medical Course
(1911). There we are informed that the course of Forensic Medicine
(Professor Morrison) now includes “Finger-prints and Foot-marks.”

In Stoke-on-Trent, the method of finger-prints is reported to have
saved the borough both time and money, as compared with the old
photographic method. The Chief Constable reported that in Hanley, in
1908 (now incorporated with Stoke): “The finger impressions of seven
prisoners, whose antecedents were unknown, were taken by the police,
and forwarded to the Registrar of Habitual Criminals, and in six of the
cases the impressions were identified as those of persons previously
convicted of crime.” As had been done in a previous report, it is also
stated, that “a considerable amount is annually saved to the department
by the discontinuance of the photographing of prisoners, excepting
where special circumstances make it desirable or necessary.”

According to the _Evening Post_, the leading financial journal of
New York, the new system of finger-prints is rapidly growing in
favour with bankers who have been recently victimised by swindlers
and forgers. The Williamsburg Savings Bank was the first institution
to adopt the system. Other banks, finding it entailed much delay,
appointed a special clerk, whose duty it is to persuade ladies to
remove their gloves and submit to the inking operation.

A New York lawyer, Mr. F. R. Fast, advocated some years ago a
finger-print method of attesting legal documents, as by the
old-fashioned seal now disused, except in a few high official cases.
His suggestion was that a man should choose one of his ten fingers,
the one which happens to have most individuality about it, perhaps,
as his “Ego” finger, with which to adhibit his impression after his
usual written signature, in law papers, cheques, and the like. He
also advocated storing past (in regard to wills, etc.) impressions
of all the ten fingers. This has always been my contention, that the
ten fingers should be used in cases requiring great security. One or
more should also be adhibited in the case of illiterate persons who
now sign with a cross. With passports, this is now actually done in
several countries on the European continent. It ought at once, I think,
to be adopted by bankers, for circular notes--a great convenience to
travellers having to use different currencies, but who may sometimes
find it difficult to get a friend to identify them. The case of
pensioners, old age and others, would seem to be urgent now, and, as a
medical man, I cannot help thinking that present official methods are
rather loose and may lead to frequent abuses. A general practitioner is
asked to sign a certificate of identity in circumstances where it is
not easy to be certain. A good-natured, busy doctor may aid roguery by
simply echoing what an applicant, or his friends, may have suggested.

In criminal trials, an English jury ought to be afforded some safeguard
as to identity. A supposed old convict who had become a constable fell
again into evil ways, but was soon found out by a comparison of fresh
finger-prints, with records which he had not at first been suspected
of having left behind. He had had a good character in the army. The
jury in this case very properly insisted on being thoroughly satisfied
by their own examination of the finger-print evidence submitted to
the court. Not all juries are quite complaisant on this point. I was
present at a case in which very pertinent and intelligent questions
were asked by one or two sceptical jurymen, and a demonstration of the
printing process done before them was insisted upon.

In one Old Bailey case the jury finally rejected evidence of this kind.
The comment of a London newspaper was this:--

    “In finger-print cases the police expert is generally trusted
    implicitly, and the jury is apt to be forgetful of the fact that,
    although the theory of finger-prints has been reduced almost to
    an exact science, mistakes may be made in applying it, and the
    policeman has frequently an over-anxiety to prove his case that may
    distort his view.”

The true cure for this evil, which has often been pointed out, would
seem to be the systematic instruction of the police force--or some
select numbers of them--in all such matters as come within their
official duties. With eight years’ experience as a police surgeon,
I must say that a great deal of the valuable kind of evidence that
recent fiction has made popular is spoiled by the methods of the
average constable. Professor Glaister, the eminent medical jurist
of Glasgow, was, I think, the first to give a place to finger-print
evidence in a work on Forensic Medicine. The second edition of his
work is fully illustrated with specimens. We have seen that the study
of finger-and foot-prints now forms a regular subject in the medical
course of Birmingham University. It would be easy to arrange, at local
centres, such instruction in this method as is now frequently given
to constables in ambulance work. To some extent this, I believe,
has already been done, but the teachers themselves evidently need
to be taught some elemental principles to instruct effectively.
The huge records left in Scotland Yard and other police centres of
administration have not as yet done any service to the biological
aspects of Dactylography. They are silent and still as the rocks were
before Hutton and Lyell struck them with the rod of science and made
living springs gush out in great abundance.


  ACCIDENTALS. Nondescript patterns in the class composites.

  ANTHROPOID. Of the great man-like apes (gorilla, orangutan, and

  ANTHROPOMETRIC. Bodily measurements.

  ANTHROPOMETRY. Science of accurate bodily measurements.

  ARCH. A curved set of lineations, without backward turn; a bow.

  BERTILLONAGE. Alphonse Bertillon’s anthropometric methods.

  BIFURCATION. Fork-like splitting into two branches.

  BLUR. A dull, smudgy imprint.

  BOW. A curved lineation like a bow.

  BULB. The pad of a finger-tip.

  CHARACTERISTIC. Any striking feature in a pattern which gives

  CHIRALITY. The principle involved in “Mirror Patterns.”

  COMPOSITE. Patterns composed of various elements, such as arch, loop,
    or whorl.

  CORE. The heart or central portion of a finger-print.

  CREASE (_palmar_). The lines which indicate folding of the hand

  DACTYLOGRAPH. A finger-impression taken by any process.

  DACTYLOLITE. An indented finger-print as on wax.

  DACTYLOSCOPY (_Daktyloskopie_). The practical study of Finger-prints.

  DELTA. A somewhat triangular figure formed by skin lineations.

  DERMA, DERMAL. The deep true skin, the “quick.”

  DIGIT, DIGITAL. A finger, of fingers.

  EPIDERMIS. The upper skin which readily peels off.

  EPITHELIUM. The scaly surface of skin.

  EXHIBIT. An article to be shown in court as evidence.

  “FLEXIBLE CURVES.” An instrument for measuring enlarged curving

  FORK. A =Y=-like figure.

  FORMULA (pl. FORMULÆ). The arrangement of syllables or signs to
    denote a set of finger-prints.

  FURROW. The hollow line between ridges, a _sulcus_.

  HOOK. A =J=-like figure in any position.

  INDEX FINGER. The finger used in pointing.

  JUNCTION. Where two lineations meet or break off.

  LINEATION. A line as printed, whether ridge or furrow.

  LOOP. A curved line which returns on itself.

  MICROMETER. An instrument like a pair of compasses, used for fine

  MIRROR PATTERN. The reverse (exact) image of a given figure.

  NEGATIVE. A print in which the ridges are white and furrows black, as
    when smoked glass is used.

  PALMAR. Of front surface of the hand.

  PAPILLA (pl. PAPILLÆ). Elements in a ridge where touch organs are.

  “PHOTOGRAPH.” Used sometimes legally for finger-prints.

  POCKET LOOP. A variety of imperfect loop.

  POSITIVE. A finger-print where ridges appear black (or other colour
    of pigment used) and furrows are white.

  PRIMATES. An order of animals, including lemurs, monkeys, apes, and

  RADIAL. The thumb side of the hand (opposed to _Ulnar_.)

  RECOGNITION. An identification.

  RECIDIVIST. A relapsing or incorrigible criminal.

  RIDGE. A line of skin tissue, elevated, with sweat-pores.

  ROD. A figure like a rod.

  ROLLED PRINT. A finger-print not taken by direct or plain impress,
    but by a revolution of the inked surface on flat paper.

  RUGA (pl. RUGÆ). A ridge.

  SEARCHER. One who seeks for a former registration.

  SEBACEOUS. Of the greasy excretion of the skin.

  SMUDGE. A blurred or dull imprint.

  STAPLE. A figure like a =U= inverted; thus, [U].

  SUDOR. Sweat.

  SUDORIPAROUS. Of sweat, sweat-yielding.

  SULCUS (pl. SULCI). A skin groove or furrow.

  TWINNED LOOP. Two adjoining loops in a core, complementary in

  TENTED ARCH. An arch shaped like a tent or volcanic mountain.

  TERMINUS. A term used for distinctive points within and without a

  ULNAR. The little finger side of the hand. (Opposed to _Radial_).

  VERSO. May be used for an imprint as the converse of the fleshy

  WHORL. A flat spiral figure.

  WIDDERSHINS. The reverse of a clock-hand’s movement.


  ASQUITH’S COMMITTEE.--[Blue Book.] “Identification of Habitual
    Criminals,” 1894.

  CLEMENS, S. L. (Mark Twain.).--“Pudd’nhead Wilson” A story
    illustrating the principles of Finger-Print Identification.

  DARWIN, CHARLES.--“Origin of Species,” 1859; “Descent of Man,” 1871.

  DEVON, JAMES.--“The Criminal and the Community,” 1912.

  “ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA.”--“Finger Prints,” etc., 1911.

  FAULDS, HENRY.--“On the Skin-furrows of the hands,” (_Nature_,
    chap. xxii., p. 605), 1880; “Dactyloscopy” (St. Thomas’s Hospital
    _Gazette_), January, 1904; “Guide to Finger-Print Identification,”
    1905; “Finger Prints: a chapter in the History of their use for
    Personal Identification,” (_Knowledge_), April, 1911.

  FERRERO, G. L.--“Criminal Man” (Lombroso’s), 1911.

  FORGEOT, RENÉ.--“Les empreintes latentes” (Thesis), 1891.

  GALTON, FRANCIS.--“Identification by Finger-Tips” (_The Nineteenth
    Century_), August, 1891; “Finger Prints,” 1892; “Finger-Print
    Directories,” 1895.

  GARSON, J. G.--“Finger-Prints Classification” (_Jour. Anthrop,
    Inst._, chap. xxx. p. 101), 1900.

  GLAISTER, J.--“Textbook of Medical Jurisprudence,” 1902 (and 2nd

  GRAY, H.--“Anatomy, Descriptive and Surgical,” (16th ed.) 1905.

  HADDON, A. C.--“Races of Man, and their Distribution,” 1909; “History
    of Anthropology,” 1910.

  HENRY, E. R.--“Classification and Uses of Finger-Prints,” 1905.

  HEPBURN, D.-“The Papillary ridges on monkeys’ hands and feet,”
    (_Nature_, vol. liii., 36), 1895.

  HERSCHEL, W. J.--“Skin Furrows of the Hand,” (_Nature_, vol. xxii.,
    76), 1880.

  HOPF, LUDWIG. “The Human Species,” (Eng. trans.) 1909.

  LINDSAY, B.--“Animal Life.”

  MARETT, R.--“Anthropology.”

  MITCHELL. “Science and the Criminal,” 1911.

  PURKINJE, J. E. “Commentatio de examine physiologico organi visus et
    systematis cutanei,” 1823.

  SCHLAGINHAUFEN, OTTO. “Der Hautleistensystem der Primatenplanta”
    (with a valuable bibliography), _Gegenbaur’s Jahrbüch_, 1905.

  SCHOFIELD, A. T. “Elementary Physiology for Students,” 1892.

  STEWART, G. N. “Manual of Physiology,” 1910.

  THOMSON, J. A., and P. GEDDES. “Evolution,” 1911.

  TYLOR. “Primitive Culture,” 1903.

  WALKER, N. “Introduction to Dermatology,” 1904.

  WALLACE, A. R. “The World of Life,” 1910.

  WINDT and KODIČEK. “Daktyloskopie,” 1904.


  Accidental Splashes, 74

  Acromegaly, ridges in, 59, 78

  Ainsworth’s _Jack Shepherd_, 18

  Alcock, Dr. Reginald, 36

  Alix, _Recherches, etc._, 19

  Ambiguous prints, 74

  Analysis of lineations, 71

  Anderson, Sir Thos. M’Call, 37

  Anthropoid lineations, 52

  Asquith’s Committee, Mr., 102

  Avebury, finger-marked pottery at, 13

  Babylonian nail-marks, 10

  Baldwin, Prof. G., 15

  Belper’s Committee, Lord, 108

  Bertillon, Alphonse, 26, 89

  Bewick’s sign mark, 19

  Billing’s Dr. (U.S.), 27

  _Birmingham Post_, 36

  Bowditch, Prof. (U.S.), 34

  Bradbury, John (American traveller), 13

  _British Medical Journal_, 36, 58

  Casts of Ridges, 45

  _Cha-no-yu_ pottery, finger-marked, 14

  Channel, Sir A. M., 35

  Chinese Ideographs, 86

  Chinese Characters, Origin of, 10

  Chromidrosis, 37

  Classification of finger-prints, 83

  Collins, Inspector, 66, 109

  Coloured Sweat, 37

  Comparing Prints, 68

  _Copperfield, David_, 19

  Consonantal patterns, 94

  Criminology aided, 59

  Curve Rules, 69

  Curves, Flexible, 69

  Dactylic origin of numerals, 11

  Dactylograph, 45

  Dactylography, its nature, 9

  Dactylolite, 72

  Darwin, Charles, 22, 41

  _David Copperfield_, fishy thumb-marks, 19

  Davids, T. W. Rhys, 16

  Davidson, John (_Mammon and his Message_), 111

  “Designs” in finger-print patterns, 46

  Devon, Dr., 60

  Dickens, Charles, 19, 102

  Direct Observation of Finger-patterns, 44

  Eggs, markings on birds’, 42

  Enlarged Photographs, 66

  Evaporation of Sweat-marks, 37

  Evolutionary development, 50

  Feet, ridges & furrows on, 33

  Finger-and Foot-prints studied in Birmingham University, 116

  Finger-print of Stone Age, 12

  Finger-print System, applied to Banking, 117

  Forgeot, Dr. René, on latent imprints, 63

  Galton, Sir Francis, 17, 23, 27, 55, 79, 89

  Garson, Dr. J. G., 63, 80

  Gegenbaur’s Jahrbüch (1905), 23

  Giles, Prof., 11

  Glaister, Prof., 119

  Glass Disc, centred, 73

  Greasy Marks, visible and latent, 63

  Gotch, Francis, 42

  Halation in Photographs, 66

  Halifax, Chief Constable of, 116

  Hart, Dr. Berry, 58

  Henry, Sir Ed. R., 16, 80, 88

  Herschel, Sir William J., 16, 24, 27, 79

  Hooker, Sir Joseph, 72

  Holme, Chas. (_The Studio_), 14

  Hopf, Ludwig, 30

  Huxley, Prof., 40

  Identification of Habitual Criminals, 102

  _Index Medicus_ of U.S., 23

  India, early use of finger-prints in, 11

  Indirect Observation of patterns, 45

  Ink used in printing, 65

  Innocence established by finger-print evidence, 113

  Irving, Henry, 101

  Japan, use of finger-prints in, 11

  Japanese hand-like use of feet, 33

  Keith, Prof., 57

  Kew Micrometer, 72

  _Knowledge_, 107

  Lineations like finger-patterns, 43

  Lister, Lord, 81

  Lombroso, Prof. Cesare, 60

  Lyell, Sir Chas., 43

  Mallet, Mr. (_The Strand_), 111

  Malpighi, on ridges, 16

  “Mark Twain”, 28

  Mexican foot-prints, 9, 10

  Minakata Kumagusa (_Nature_), 11

  Mirror-patterns, 71

  Mitchell, C. Ainsworth, 12, 54

  Monkey, Tail of Spider, 30

  Morrison, Prof., 116

  Mummy Patterns preserved, 76

  Munro, Detective-Sergeant Charles, 36

  Munro, Inspector, 109

  Musical glasses, 30

  _Nature_, 11, 16, 23

  Neame, Chief-Inspector, 104

  “Negative” Prints, 45

  _Nineteenth Century_, 37

  Official Register Form, 69

  Osmic acid for greasy marks, 65

  Paleyan conception, The, 41

  Palmar Creases, 11

  Pater, Walter, 19

  Patterns, viewed teleologically, 54

  Pearman, Supt., 115

  Persistence of patterns, 76, 79

  “Photographs” in official usage, 105

  Photo-telegraphy, 75

  Physiographical analogies, 35

  Poe, Edgar A., 44

  Pore Marks, variability of, 62

  “Positive” prints, 45

  Poulton, Prof., 42

  Proto-troglodytes, 57

  Printing, technique of, 61

  Purkinje, Prof. J. E., 16, 18

  Racial peculiarities, 55

  Reeve’s requisites for printing, 65

  Register of Distinctive Marks, 103

  Register of Habitual Criminals, 116

  Registers, different purposes of, 91

  Ridges of skin, 31

  Ripple Marks in sand, 32

  Rules for Classification, 92

  Schlaginhaufen, Prof. O., 23, 44

  Search, problems of, 84

  Sollas, Prof. (_Science Progress_), 13

  Spencer, Herbert, 30, 37

  Stedman, Inspector, 66

  Stoke-on-Trent, Chief Constable of, 116

  _Studio, The_, finger-marked pottery, 14

  Sweat, coloured, 37

    "   glands, ducts, and pores, 29

  Syllabic system of classification, 88

  Tabor, Mr. (U.S.), 27

  Tattoo marks, 107

  Taylor’s _Manual of Med. Juris._, 101

  Thesing’s _Lectures on Biology_, 51

  Thomson, Prof. Arthur, 42

  _Tristram Shandy_, mention of thumb-prints, 18

  Troglodytes, 57

  Troup, Sir Chas. Ed., 105, 114

  Tunbridge, Inspector, 25, 103

  Twins, finger-patterns of, 58

  Ulster, “Bloody Hand of”, 13

  Variableness in printed results, 48

  “Verso”, 72

  Verworn’s General Physiology, 83

  “Vowel” elements in patterns, 98

  Wallace, Dr. Alfred Russell, 41

  Wrong Identifications, 105

  Wyman, Prof. Jeffries (U.S.), 34

  Yedo, Bay of, ancient finger-marked pottery, 14

  Zebra, Grevy’s, patterns in stripes of, 39


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