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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Finger

The Finger

A Handbook

Angus Trumble

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



In this collision between art and science, history and pop culture, the acclaimed art historian Angus Trumble examines the finger from every possible angle. His inquiries into its representation in art take us from Buddhist statues in Kyoto to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, from cave art to Picasso's Guernica, from Van Dyck's and Rubens's winning ways with gloves to the longstanding French taste for tapering digits. But Trumble also asks intriguing questions about the finger in general: How do fingers work, and why do most of us have five on each hand? Why do we bite our nails?

This witty, odd, and fascinating book is filled with diverse anecdotes about the silent language of gesture, the game of love, the spinning of balls, superstitions relating to the severed fingers of thieves, and systems of computation that were used on wharves and in shops, markets, granaries, and warehouses throughout the ancient Roman world. Side by side with historical discussions of rings and gloves and nail polish are meditations on the finger's essential role in writing, speech, sports, crime, law, sex, worhsip, memory, scratching politely at eighteenth-century French doors (instead of crudely knocking), or merely satisfying an itch—and, of course, in the eponymous show of contempt.

Praise for The Finger

“[A] cheerfully encompassing natural, cultural, and artistic survey of the finger. Trumble is at once ferociously comprehensive and silly . . . This is the sort of exuberant nonfiction in which you learn something surprising on every page, and not only does Trumble amass a great wealth of finger facts, his interpretations are deft and pleasing in their acuity, and his delight in the entire endeavor is contagious.” —Donna Seaman, Booklist

“An adept cultural tour of our fingers . . . Intelligent, passionate and amusing.” —Kirkus Reviews

“[Trumble] blends art history, anatomy, and etymology in this analysis of finger lore . . . This prodigiously researched work offers many gold nuggets of wisdom.” —Publishers Weekly

“A charming scholarly analysis of simpers and grins across space and time.” —Praise for A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SMILE, The Boston Globe

Reviews from Goodreads

Angus Trumble

Angus Trumble is the youngest of four brothers and was born and raised in Victoria, Australia. He is a graduate of the University of Melbourne, and of New York University's Institute of Fine Arts, where he was a Fulbright Scholar in 1994–95. From 1996 to 2001 he was Curator of European Art at the Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide, and since 2003 has been Senior Curator of Paintings and Sculpture at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut.

image of Angus Trumbleo
© Richard Caspole

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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