Book One -- The things that sustain and support the entire body, and what braces and attaches them all. [the bones and the ligaments that interconnect them] | Chapter 27 On the Digits of the Hand

The dignity of the fingers 47

If the thumb (which it was convenient to have opposed to the other four and was for this reason called a)nti/xeir 48 by the Greeks as if to say promanum, “in front of the hand”) were missing, all the others would be deprived of their power, since without its aid they can do nothing — as our very judges show, who no less often than they amputate thieves’ ears take off the thumbs


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which have been used mainly to rip the top off purses and wallets. For nearly the same reason the Athenians decreed that the thumbs of the Aeginetans, who had a powerful fleet, should be lopped off. 49 Of the remaining fingers, the index and middle finger, being located next to the thumb, are likewise next in usefulness. With these we grasp small things, and we see that the operations of every craft are accomplished mainly with them. If we do anything more violent, we employ these particularly in the task. The ring finger and little finger are of less use than the others, but a use is seen in fingers with which we grasp an object that must be embraced in a circle. If something is liquid or small, 50 it is useful to tighten the fingers closely together and bend them around it. In this operation the little finger 51 is also suitable when placed against the others like a cover. If a hard object is of such a size that the fingers need to be quite spread and parted from one another to hold it, beside the fact that we see it is best held by several fingers and the fingers meet and attach themselves to several of its parts, it also readily occurs to us how useful it is for man that the fingers can be adducted to each other and considerably abducted to the sides. The thumb surrounds such a body on the inside while the other fingers come around its outside and the whole body is contained thus in a circle. This being the case, who does not know that more than five fingers would be quite superfluous when he knows that five suffice for this task?



Book One -- The things that sustain and support the entire body, and what braces and attaches them all. [the bones and the ligaments that interconnect them] | Chapter 27 On the Digits of the Hand