Early Fingerprint History
Chinese seals, made from
clay (feng ni), were utilized in sealing documents written on slips of bamboo or wood. These pre-date jade seals which were
first mentioned in connection with Emperor Ts'in Shi (246 - 210 B.C.). Some of these clays seals have been found and they
bear the name of the owner on one side and the owner's thumb impression on the reverse side. These seals served two purposes
in ancient China. Firstly, they were employed to seal official letters and packages and secondly, seals were considered to
be magical objects suitable for combating evil spirits, tigers and monsters when traveling.
History of China
The Chinese Laws of Yung-hui (650 - 655 A.D.) and the subsequent Japanese Laws of Taiho, enacted in 702 A.D. dealt
with Domestic Law and divorce proceedings. In China the man was required to add his shau-mu-ying (lit. hand-pattern stamp
i.e. the impressions of his thumb and four fingers) to the divorce document. In Japan the husband had to give his wife a document
stating which of the seven reasons for divorce was assigned for the action and ..in case a husband cannot write, let him hire
another man to write the document...and after the husband's name sign with his own index finger.
Mohammed I Gherai (1480 - 1523), a ruler of the Crimea,
was unable to use his hands because of battle wounds. Consequently, he signed all state documents by stepping barefoot into
a dish of ink and placing his footprint on the document as a signature.
Relics bearing finger, palmar or plantar impressions
are found throughout Eastern religions. In Tibet the impressions taken from the hands or feet of Buddhas play an extensive
role in ceremonies. Believers are still shown foot imprints left by the famous mystic, ascetic and poet Milaraspa (1038 -
Tibetan Buddhism The Kargyu Sect
Nehemia GREW 1641 - 1712, UK
A botanist noted
for his work on vegetable anatomy and physiology. In 1684 he presented a paper to the Royal Society which was later published
in Philosophical Transactions of the Society that year. The paper concerned patterns of the fingers and palms, sweat pores,
and the epidermal ridges and their arrangements. He also presented a drawing of the configurations of one hand. He wrote:
For if any one will but take the pains, with an indifferent glass, to survey the palms of his hands, very well washed with
a ball, he may perceive innumerable little ridges, of equal size and distance, and everywhere running parallel to each other.
And especially on the ends of first joints of the fingers and thumbs, on the top of the ball, and near the root of the thumb
a little above the wrist. In all which places, they are very regularly disposed into spherical triangles and ellipses. On
these ridges stand the pores, all in even rows, and of such a magnitude as to be visible to a good eye without a glass.
Philosophical Transactions - The Royal Society
Further uses of palmar and plantar (foot prints) impressions
are recorded by de Barros in his book Asia, published in 1563. He relates a custom that prevailed in 16th century China whereby
the palms and soles of children being sold were impressed in ink on the deeds of sale.
Prior to the 19th century, the
only mention of hand impressions, in connection with scenes of crime, occurs in a work by the Roman legal scholar and advocate
Marcus Fabius Quintilianus, born 35 A.D. In his Paries Palmatus (Handprints on the Wall) he described how he successfully
defended a blind boy who had been accused, by his stepmother, of murdering his father. Handprints in blood led from the body
to the boy?s room. Quintilianus presented his case based on the fact that if the hand impressions were followed from the boy?s
room to the body the impressions grew progressively fainter and their size was consistent with the stepmother's hands, not
Londonderry Agreement 1691, UK
There is, in the Cathedral of St Columb, Londonderry Northern Ireland,
a copy of an agreement between the citizens of Derry (some 225 in number) and David Cairnes and Robert and John Moggeridge.
The agreement covenants that the three men mentioned should journey to London to see the King, the Parliament, or the Irish
Society for the purpose of obtaining compensation for the other signatories to remunerate them for their losses during the
siege of Derry. In addition to the signatures on the document, there are marks made by fingers and/or thumbs.
St. Columb's Cathedral