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Book Reviews



by Edward Campbell

Reviewed by Richard Unger

Campbells work is, lets see, how should I describe it, encyclopedic. Yes. That covers it quite well. The Encyclopedia of Palmistry is the most encyclopedic palmistry book I have ever read (not to be confused with The Encyclopaedia of Palm and Palm Reading by M. Katakkar which is lengthy but not encyclopedic).

The Encyclopedia of Palmistry is a serious and comprehensive work, the culmination of a lifelong love and study of hands. How else to explain Campbells facile ability to discuss divergent systems of hand shape, line interpretation, etc. For instance, in his chapter on dermatoglyphic markings he compares the views of St. Germaine, Fenton and Wright, Scheimann, Nathanaiel Altman, Beryl Hutchinson, Enid Hoffman, Bevy Jaegers, Noel Jacquin, Andrew Fitzherbert, Dennis Fairchild, Terry Dukes, Elizabeth Daniels Squire, and David Brandon-Jones (What? No Maurice Cooke?), as well as adding in his own observations based on years of experience.

I can think of no other offering in the annals of palmistic literature that goes to such lengths to place side by side such a plethora of palmistic opinions. And, make no mistake about it, the art and science of palmistry needed (ached?) for just such a work.

If I want a comparison of hand shape systems, Campbell is the only one to turn to. Here, right next to each other, is a thoughtful and thorough discussion of DArpentignys Seven Hand Shapes, Gettings Earth/Air/Fire/Water, and Benhams Mounts System. Campbell also includes several lesser known typologies: Carus Four Types, favored by Sorrell and Wolf and still taught in Europe; Asanos Japanese Methodology; an astrological version developed by Georges Muchery; and Fenton and Wrights system that Campbell reports some difficulty using. I even learn which palmists favor which systems.

Campbells observations are well researched and I agree with a fair number of them (high praise indeed, coming from such a palmistry snob as myself). He attempts to assign himself the role of neutral observer, the better to catalogue and compare all the different approaches, and at the same time is glad to chime in with his own analysis, which he is careful to label as such. I have no problem at all with this dual role.

However, I do have a bigger bone to pick in regard to some of his selections of authors as points of reference. In his role of neutral observer, cataloguer of systems, he seems to give too much credence to Saint Germain, Niblo, and Jaegers. Jaegers is a more difficult case, in my opinion, because her work is so uneven - some really good stuff, some junk (perhaps Campbell could have labeled it accordingly). But Saint Germains book from 1897 seems to me almost entirely without merit. Why even include him except to show how far palmistry has come? Campbell takes a pass on Cheiros books (OK, I can understand that), but treats Saint Germains work as if it were a landmark (Ouch).

Beyond this one critique, my only other wish is that Campbell had gone still further. Ever the voracious one, I hunger for more (perhaps Campbell is already writing his second book). Show me a hand print and tell me what Fitzherbert would say, what Benham and Terry Dukes would say and, by so doing, reveal the strengths and weaknesses of the different systems. Show me several hands and how you used a combination of DArpentigny and Benham on this one (a Philosophic Hand with a weak Moon Mount, lets say) and switched to Gettings when confronted with a different pair of hands. Compare cohesive line systems (like Gettings or Dukes) and follow their axioms to see how they would interpret a line that has never been seen before. For example, "Using principle one and principle three we get the following meaning with this rare formation; however Dukes system would have to conclude...."

Of course, Campbells goal is not to teach me how to read hands. His "primary objective is to present a comprehensive survey of the major methods and developments of Western palmistry." His secondary objective is "to begin the arduous task of comparative study of these techniques." I must say, I believe Campbell has accomplished these two goals.

In conclusion then, I liked the Encyclopedia of Palmistry. As a reference work, every hand reader should have one. It is erudite, thorough and useful. And it mentions me (page 8 for those interested), certainly a key point in this readers evaluation. Since Ive read pretty much all of the authors Campbell cites and have my own views on the validity of their differing approaches, its fun to read what someone else thinks of those works.

But Edward, I hope you are not sitting on your thumbs. When will I see Volume II?