174 Life and Letters.-of Francis Galton
Another point dealt with by Galton in this memoir is the relative advantage gained in indexing by the first two fingers of the left hand, the first three fingers of the left hand, the first three fingers of both hands or by all ten digits; he finds the numbers of different patterns occurring are respectively 16, 27, 65' and 83. The ten-digit indexing is now in general use, and of course provides a greater field for identification, if the indexing be somewhat more cumbersome.
B. Finger Prints, 1893.
We now reach Galton's fundamental book on finger-prints, namely Finger Prints* (Macmillan, 1893). Chapter I (pp. 1-21), entitled Introduction, gives a brief account of the subject referring to Purkenje and the pioneer work of Sir William Herschel; it further provides a synopsis of the contents of the entire book f.
Chapter II (pp. 22-29) deals with Previous Use of Finger-Prints. It recounts the use of nail-marks or finger-marks among barbarous or semicivilised people rather as a superstitious sign of personal touch than of personal
Chinese Coin, Tang Dynast', about 618 s.n., with nail mark of the $mpress Wen-teh,
figured in relief.
identity. It notes also the frequent appearance of finger-impressions upon ancient pottery. Here, as in the case of a Greek impression found by Sir Charles Walston on a steatite seal at the Argive Heraeumt, it is somewhat
* It is an interesting example of the futility of some reviewers, that the critic who wrote the notice of Galton's Finger Prints in the Athenaeum of Dec. 24, 1892, expressed the wish that he might devote his brilliant powers to "subjects of greater promise of practical utility"; and again : "Whether the practical results to be derived from his researches will repay the pains he has bestowed upon them we must take leave to doubt. It will be long before a British jury will consent to convict a man upon the evidence of his finger-prints ; and however perfect in theory the identification may be, it will not be easy to submit it in a form that will amount to legal evidence."
T At the end of this chapter Galton thanks Mr Howard Collins for his very material aid. The correspondence between Galton and Collins during. the progress of the work was considerable, and of some scientific value. In 1911 I issued a request in the Times and other journals for letters or copies of letters written by Galton. The response was very disappointing. During the last nine years the Galton Laboratory has had frequently to purchase letters of Galton sold, by their recipients or the assigns of the latter to booksellers or autograph dealers. Among such purchases the Laboratory obtained -from a Birmingham bookseller, whose catalogue the Director luckily chanced to see, Galton's numerous letters to Collins on the subject of fingerprints: -
* The Illustrated London News, ]Feb. 7, 1925, p. 231.