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A Ring on the Little Finger: Andreas Capellanus and Medieval Chiromancy

Author(s): Stefano Rapisarda

Source: Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, Vol. 69 (2006), pp. 175-191
Published by: The Warburg Institute
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Accessed: 26-10-2016 23:30 UTC

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Stefano Rapisarda

In a well-known passage from the treatise

his partner as a love-token, he should place it on
the little
On Love (De amove > 11.7.21), written somefinger of his left hand and always keep
time between the late twelfth theand stone of the ring hidden on the inside of the
hand. The reason for this is that the left hand
thirteenth century^ the still mysterious
normally refrains from all dishonourable and
author known as Andreas Capellanus,
base acts ofor
touch: a man's life and death are
Andre., le chapelain, considers on
to reside in the little finger more than in
hand and which finger a ring presented by all lovers are bound to keep their
others: and
one's lover should be worn:1 love hidden.2

I should like individual knights of love to be In his view, therefore, the ring should be
informed that if a lover has accepted a ring from worn on the left hand and placed on the

* This article was researched and written under De amove as a summa of courtly love (see also n. 3
the Censimento, Archivio e Studio di Volgarizza- below) and to date it no later than the end of the 12th
menti Italiani (CAS VI), financed by the Ministero century. According to the most recent scholarship,
dell'Istruzione, Universita e Ricerca, as one of the however, the treatise should probably be dated to
Progetti di Ricerca di Interesse Nazionale (PRIN), around the 1230s (see Dronke, p. 56); and Andreas
2005, in which are involved the Universities of Lecce should be shifted from Champagne to the city of
(director R. Coluccia), Catania (M. Spampinato), Paris, either in the court (Karnein) or in the univer-
Basilicata (R. Librandi), Turin (A. Vitale Brovarone) sity (Dronke) . Finally, Dronke himself suggests that
and Siena-University for Foreigners (C. Ciociola). Andreas Capellanus is nothing but the witty pseudo-
1. De amove was written between 11 74, the date nym of a cleric imitating 'Andrea of Paris', a literary
of a letter cited within the text, and 1238, when it character who died for love in a lost vernacular
was quoted in the treatise De amove by Albertano da romance (ibid., pp. 53-55).
Brescia. The identity of Andreas Capellanus is, how- 2. Andreas Capellanus, De amove libvi tves, ed. E.
ever, by no means clear. See J. F. Benton, 'The Court Trojel, Copenhagen 1892; repr. Munich 1964, p. 294:
of Champagne as a Literary Center', Speculum?, xxxvi,'Hoc tamen singulos volumus amoris milites edoceri,
1 96 1, pp. 551-91: 'The identification of Andreas quod, si amans a coamante anulum amoris causa
Capellanus, author of the celebrated treatise De susceperit, ipsum in sinistra manu et in minuto debet
Amove, as the chaplain of Countess Marie is so digito collocare et anuli gemmam ab interiori manus
commonly repeated that it is easy to forget the un- parte semper portare absconsa; et hoc ideo, quia
certain nature of the evidence and doubts of a sinistra manus a cunctis magis consuevit tactibus
number of critics. The present discussion is ... inhonestis et turpibus abstinere, et in minuto digito
intended ... to show that the question is still open' prae cunctis digitis mors fertur hominis et vita
(p. 578). According to L. A. Vigneras, 'Chretien de manere et quia singuli tenentur amantes suum
Troyes Rediscovered', Modevn Philology, xxxn, 1935, amorem retinere secretum.' Translation (with slight
pp. 341-42, a certain Andreas, chaplain of a Frenchmodifications) from Andveas Capellanus (On Love\
king, signed seven documents between 11 82 and ed. and transl. P. G. Walsh, London 1982, pp. 269-
1 1 86; but an Andreas Cambellanus (chamberlain), 71. See also the translation in TheAvt ofCouvtly Love
can be found in Parisian records of 1 190-91; see P. by Andveas Capellanus, ed. and transl. J. J. Parry, New
Dronke, 'Andreas Capellanus, Jouvnal of Medieval York 1 94 1, pp. 176-77. On the use and custom of
Latin, iv, 1994, pp. 51-63 (52), citing A. Karnein, rings in general see A. Ward, J. Cherry, C. Gere and
De amove in volksspvachlichev Litevatuv, Heidelberg B. Cartlidge, The Ring fvom Antiquity to the Twentieth
1985, p. 36. The traditional view was to place Andreas Centuvy, London 1981.
Capellanus at the court of Champagne, to consider



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little Jean Renart,

finger LEscoufle (1200-02): 'The lady put
(minutus dig
stone should be turned inwards so that it her hand under her white blouse because she
was swearing an oath...; on her little finger he
is not visible, for secrecy is one of the key
touched the ring which was there.'7
features of what we refer to, since Gaston
Paris coined the term, as 'courtly love'.3Nevertheless, when Andreas Capellanus
The custom of lovers and sweethearts recommends that a ring betokening love
wearing a ring on their little fingershould is be placed on the little finger, he
confirmed by various Old French literary contradicts a very old tradition prescribing
sources:4 that rings were to be worn on the fourth
Chretien de Troyes, Contes du Graal (c. 1181): finger, which therefore became known as
Gauvain, requested by Grinomalant to bring a the 'ring finger'. As Isidore of Seville
ring to the girl he loves, 'placed the ring on his writes:
little finger and said: "Sir, on my faith, trust me
They are called fingers (digiti) because there are
that you have a wise and kind lover" . . .'5
ten {decent) of them or because they are elegantly
Roman de Tristan en prose (c. 1240): 'On the little joined together (decenter iuncti), for they have in
finger of his left hand, he wore a gold ring, which themselves both the perfect number and a very
was very expensive and very beautiful, with a beautiful proportion. The first finger is called the
precious stone. And you should know that in thumb (pollex) because it predominates over
those times no one wore a gold ring unless they (polleat) the others in virtue and power. The
possessed great power and authority' second is called the index (index) and greeting

3. See J. B. Moore, '"Courtly Love": A Problem hand became the rule, probably because wearing a
of Terminology', Journal of the History of Ideas, ring on the right hand was a bishop's prerogative.
xc, 1979, pp. 621-32, which deals for the most part The preference for the fourth finger, according to
with the problem of interpreting De amore: is it a Molin and Mutembe (p. 168), was developed 'sous
serious work or are the author's intentions ironic? l'influence d'un texte de saint Isidore de Seville,
The question remains a matter of discussion, and souvent cite par les rituels'. See Isidore of Seville, De
Dronke (as in n. 1), p. 56, believes that the style of ecclesiasticis officiis, 11.20: 'quod inprimis anulus ab
argument belongs more to a scholastic than to a sponso sponsae datur, fit hoc nimirum vel propter
courtly milieu. mutuae fidei signum vel propter id magis, ut eodem
4. In wedding ceremonies - the love described by pignore eorum corda iungantur. Unde et quarto
Andreas Capellanus would usually be adulterous, of digito anulus idem inseritur quod eo vena quaedam,
course - the situation is more confused because there ut fertur, sanguinis ad cor usque perveniat.' Molin
are different local traditions. See, e.g., the accountand ofMutembe (ad loc.) identify Isidore's source as
a late medieval Spanish wedding in J.-B. MolinMacrobius and (quoted n. 9 below).
P. Mutembe, Le rituel du manage en France du XIIe au 5. Les Romans de Chretien de Troyes edite d'apres la
XVIe siecle, Paris 1974, p. 159, where the groom places
copie de Guiot (Bibl. nat.,fr. 794), v, Le Conte du Graal
a ring on the index finger of the woman's right hand, (Perceval), ed. F. Lecoy, 2 vols, Paris 1972-75, 1, p. 82
while the bride places one on the little finger of(11. his8800-03): 'Lors a mes sire Gauvains mis / l'anel
right hand: 'Deinde tradet viro ad puellam annulo au son plus petit doit / et dit: "Sire, foi que vos doi, /
suo in dextera manu in digit [o] iuxta pollice[m], amie avez cortoiose et sage"...'
Similiter et mulier tradet illi in extremum dextri.' 6. Le Roman de Tristan en prose, ed. R. L. Curtis,
In a Parisian pontifical of the first half of the 313th vols, Cambridge 1985, 1, p. 55: 'Et il avoit ou petit
century, the ring is first placed on the thumb, while doit de la main senestre un anel d'or mout riche et
saying 'In the name of the Father' (In nomine Patris), mout bon a une pierre precieuse. Et sachiez que a
then on the little finger, saying 'In the name of celi the tens ne portoit nus hons anel d'or, s'il n'estoit de
grant pooir ou d'autorite.'
Son' (In nomine Filii) and finally on the middle finger,
where it remains, saying 'And of the Holy Spirit' (Et7. Jean Renart, LEscoufle. Nouvelle edition d'apres
Spiritus Sancti) . In some ceremonies the ring remainsle ms. 6s 65 de la Bibliotheque de V Arsenal, ed. F.
on the middle finger of the right hand; in others, on
Sweetser, Geneva 1974, p. 144 (11. 4470-75): 'La
the ring-finger of the same hand. It was only with belethe a mis por la suour / Sa main sous sa blanche
introduction of the Roman rite of 1592 that wear- chemise; I ... o son petit doit / Senti l'anel qui estoit
ing a wedding ring on the fourth finger of the left ens.'

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{salutaris) or pointing (demonstratorius)

their fourth fingerfinger
starting from the thumb,
because we generally use it for greeting
since there andwhich links it to
is a vein here
for pointing things out. The third is called the
the heart - something which the ancients
naughty finger (impudicus) because it is often
thought worth noting and honouring.510
used to express an offence against decency. The
fourth is called the ring finger (anularis) The traditionbecause
of wearing rings on the
we wear a ring (anulus) on it; it is also called fourth finger was handed down from
medicinal (medicinalis) because doctors use it for antiquity to the present day. Yet even in
collecting medicinal powders. The fifth is called the late Latin world there were minor
the ear finger (auricularis) because we use it to exceptions to this rule. Pliny, for instance,
clean our ears (aures) .
speaks of a contemporary fashion for
But what is the rationale for wearing rings wearing rings on the little finger:
on the fourth finger? The basis for this It had originally been the custom to wear rings
longstanding practice is an anatomical and on a single finger only, the one next to the little
physiological fact, as Macrobius points out finger; that is how we see them on the statues
in a passage from his Saturnalia, where one of Numa and Servius Tullius. Afterwards people
put them on the finger next to the thumb, even
of the characters says:
in the case of statues of the gods; and more
A discussion of that very point [i.e., which hand recently, it pleased them to give the little finger a
and which finger a ring should be worn] had ring as well. The Gallic Provinces and the British
come to us from Egypt, and I was in doubt for Islands are said to have used the middle finger.
a while whether to call it just an idle tale or a Nowadays this is the only finger exempted, while
true explanation. But later, after consulting some all the others bear the burden, and even each
books on anatomy, I discovered the truth: that finger- joint has another smaller ring of its own.
there is a certain nerve which has its origin in Some people put all their rings on their little
the heart and runs from there to the finger next finger only, while others wear only one ring even
to the little finger of the left hand . . . ; and that on that finger and use it to seal up their signet
this is the reason why it seemed good to the ring, which is kept stored away as a rarity, not
men of old to encircle that finger with a ring, as deserving the insult of common use, and is
though to honour it with a crown.9 brought out from its cabinet as from a sanctuary.
And so even wearing a single ring on the little
Isidore as well, in his chapter 'On Rings', finger may advertise the possession of a costlier
writes: 'Men have begun to wear a ring on piece of apparatus put away in store.11

8. Isidore of Seville, Etymologiarum sive Originumille digitus anulo tamquam corona circumdaretur.'
libri viginti, ed. W. M. Lindsay, 2 vols, Oxford 191 1;Translation (with modifications) from Macrobius,
at xi. i. 70-71: 'Digiti nuncupati, vel quia decem sunt, The Saturnalia, transl. P. V. Davies, New York and
vel quia decenter iuncti existunt. Nam habent in se London 1969, p. 498. Molin and Mutembe (as in n.
et numerum perfectum et ordinem decentissimum.4), p. 168 n. 22, identify Macrobius's source as Aulus
Primus pollex vocatus, eo quod inter ceteros polleat Gellius (quoted n. 13 below).
virtute et potestate. Secundus index et salutaris seu 10. Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae (as in n. 8), at
demonstratorius, quia eo fere salutamus vel ostend- xix. 3 2. 2: 'Anulos homines primum gestare coeperunt
imus. Tertius impudicus, quod plerumque per eum quarto a pollice digito, quod eo vena quedam ad
probri insectatio exprimitur. Quartus anularis, eo cor usque pertingat, quod notandam ornandamque
quod in ipso anulus geritur. Idem et medicinalis, aliquo insigni veteres putaverunt.' For Macrobius as
quod eo trita collyria a medicis colliguntur. Quintus Isidore's source see n. 4 above.
auricularis, pro eo quod eo aurem scalpimus.' 11. Pliny the Elder, Historia naturalis, xxxm.6.24-
9. Macrobius, Saturnalia, vn.13.8: 'De hac ipsa 25: 'Singulis primo digitis geri mos fuerat, qui sunt
quaestione sermo quidam ad nos ab Aegypto venerat, minimis proximi. Sic in Numae et Servi Tullii statuis
de quo dubitabam fabulamne an verum rationem videmus. Postea pollici proximo induere, etiam in
vocarem; sed libris anatomicorum postea consultis, deorum simulacris, dein iuvit et minimo dare. Galliae
verum repperi, nervum quemdam de corde natum Britanniaeque medio dicuntur usae. Hie nunc solus
priorsum pergere usque ad digitum manus sinistrae excipitur, ceteri omnes onerantur, atque privatim
minimo proximum... ; et ideo visum veteribus, ut articuli minoribus aliis. Sunt qui uni tantum minimo

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Macrobius, This again

custom continued duringin the the
another of his characters say that he Middle Ages, as a passage from the Poli-
remembers having read in the works of acraticus of John of Salisbury (c. 1 115-80)
jurist that in the past rings were not shows:

regarded as decorations but rather were It is well known that the ancient Greeks wore a
used as indications of personal identity ring on the finger of the left hand which is next
and as expressions of will: only free men to the little one. They say that the Romans, too,
had the right to wear a ring, and they wore commonly wore their rings in the same manner.
only one. There was no rule as to its King Apion in his Egyptian books says that the
reason for this practice is that when you cut and
position: it could be worn on either hand
open human bodies, a custom which the Greeks
and on any of the fingers. But then the age
call anatomas, you find a very fine nerve con-
of luxury arrived, and people began to necting that finger to a person's heart.13 So it
incorporate precious gems into their rings. seemed that it was right to honour in this way
At that point, to avoid the risk of damagingsuch an important finger, which is joined and
these valuable rings, they started to weareven appears to be united to the most important
them on their left hand, since it was less organ, that is, the heart.14
used in everyday matters. The thumb was There was therefore a consistent
excluded because even on the left hand it
tradition, going back to the Greeks and
is frequently employed, so there would Romans, of wearing rings on the fourth
be a high risk of damage to the ring. finger.
Nor We can observe the persistence of
was the second finger acceptable, since it custom in various genres of texts from
was naked and unprotected (nudus et sine the Middle Ages:
tuitione). The third finger was ruled out,
on account of its large size (magnitude?),1)
asLaw books. Decretum Gratiani (twelfth
was the little finger, due to its smallness on wedding ceremonies:
(brevitas) .I2 This left only the fourth finger
Item: that a ring is given by the groom to the
as the natural place to wear a ring. bride at the beginning of the ceremony happens

congerant, alii vero et huic tantum unum, qui fuit, quas Graeci dvaTO|id<; appellant, repertum est
signantem signent. Conditus ille, ut res rara et iniuria nervum quendam tenuissimum ab eo uno digito de
usus indigna, velut e sacrario promitur, ut et unumquo diximus, ad cor hominis pergere ac pervenire;
in minimo digito habuisse pretiosioris in recondito propterea non inscitum visum esse eum potissimum
supellectilis ostentatio sit. lam alii pondera eorum digitum tali honore decorandum, qui continens et
ostentant. Aliis plures quam unum gestare labor est, quasi conexus esse cum principatu cordis videretur.'
alii bratteas infercire leviore materia propter casum For the Egyptian books of King Apion see F. Jacoby,
tutius gemmarum sollicitudini putant, alii sub Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker, in C, Leiden
gemmis venena cludunt, sicut Demosthenes summus 1958, p. 126 (616: 'Apion von Oasis und Alexandeia',
Graeciae orator, anulos que mortis gratia habent.' F7).
Translation (with modifications) from Pliny the 14. John of Salisbury, Policraticus, ed. C. C. I.
Elder, Natural History, transl. H. Rackham, 10 vols, Webb, 2 vols, Oxford 1909, 11, p. 30 (vi.12): 'Veteres
London and Cambridge MA 1938-63, ix, p. 21. quoque Graecos annulum habuisse in sinistrae manus
12. Macrobius, Saturnalia, vil.13.11-16. digito qui minimo proximus est celeberrime traditur.
13. The reason why John mentions a very fine Romanos quoque homines aiunt sic plerumque usi-
nerve instead of a vein is that, in contrast to the rest tatos annulis, causamque hujus rei Apion in libris
of the tradition, which relies on Isidore of Seville, he Aegyptiacis dicit, quod insectis apertisque corporibus,
is quoting almost verbatim from Aulus Gellius, Noctes ut mos fuit, quas Graeci anatomas vocant, compertum
atticae, x. 10. 1-2: 'Veteres Graecos anulum habuisse est quemdam tenuissimum nervum ab eo uno digito,
in digito accepimus sinistrae manus qui minimo de quo diximus, ad cor hominis pertingere, ac
est proximus. Romanos quoque homines aiunt sic pervenire: visumque esse eum potissimum digitum
plerumque anulis usitatos. Causam esse huius rei tali honore decorandum, qui continens, et quasi
Apion in libris Aegyptiacis hanc dicit, quod insectis connexus cum principatu cordis videretur.'
apertisque humanis corporibus, ut mos in Aegypto

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without doubt as a sign of mutual trust works.

4) Homiletic or rather
Honorius of Autun
as a pledge of love by which (fl. their hearts
1106-35)5 Gemma areanimae:
joined. For this reason, the ring has to be placed
on the fourth finger because in it there is a Concerning the ring. It is believed that the
certain vein which, it is said, carries blood to the Gospels accepted the use of rings, since the guest
heart.15 at the dinner in which the fatted calf is served is
dressed in the best robe and given a ring (Luke
2) Sermons. Martin of Laon (d. 1203), in 15 [22-23]). In former times kings used to sign
his Sermo IV In natale Domini, repeats the letters with a ring; this was also the custom for
passage from Gratian's Decretum virtually nobles and for those who took wives. It is said
word for word.16 that a certain wise Prometheus was the first to
wear a ring made of iron as a sign of love and
3) Episcopal investiture protocols. Epistola that in it he put a diamond stone, signifying
XXIX of Hincmar, Archbishop of Reims that just as iron dominates everything, so love
(c. 806-82): conquers all, and that just as a diamond is un-
breakable, so love is unconquerable. He decided
Rules for the ceremony in which the metro- that the ring should be worn on the finger in
politan and the diocesan bishop are to be which there is a vein that runs up to the heart,
consecrated. When the consecrator reaches the
and for this reason it acquired the name of ring
places in which there are signs of the cross, let {annularis).
him take the vase with the anointing unction
in his left hand, and with his right thumb, asIt is clear that the practice of wearing
he sings of what is contained within, let him a ring
in from one's lover on the little finger,
each place make the sign of the cross with as thedescribed by Andreas Capellanus, goes
anointing unction on the head of the person to
against the widespread tradition reflected
be consecrated; and then the consecration is
in these texts. Except for Pliny, who
complete. And when everyone says 'Amen', let
the Gospels be lifted by the bishops from his
mentions a recent fad for loading all the
shoulders, and let him place the ring on his rightfingers with rings, it was customary to wear
hand on the finger which comes before the littleany type of ring, whether a love token or
one, explaining why the ring is given to him.17 a religious symbol, on the ring finger, not

15. Concordia discordantium canonum, canon VII. 3 autem ventum fuerit ad loca in quibus sunt cruces
3 in Patrologia Latina [hereafter PL], ed. J.-P. Migne, signatae, accipiat consecrator vas chrismatis in
Paris 1850, clxxxvii, col. 1450A: 'Item, quod in sinistra manu, et cum dextro pollice, cantans quae
primis negotiis annulus a sponso sponsae datur, fitibidem continentur, per singula loca faciat crucem
hoc nimirum vel propter mutuae fidei signum, velde chrismate in verticem consecrandi, et perfecta
propter id magis, ut eodem pignore eorum corda consecratione, et respondentibus omnibus Amen,
jungantur. Unde et quarto digito annulus idem tollantur ab episcopis Evangelia de collo ejus, et
inseritur, quod id est quod in eo vena quaedam, ut mittat annulum in dexterae manus digito qui prae-
fertur, sanguinis ad cor usque perveniat.' Cf. Gratian,cedit minimum, dicens ad quid illi annulus datur.'
Decretum, C. XXX, q. 5 c. 7, who refers to Isidore, De 18. Honorius of Autun, Gemma animae, in PL,
officiis, 11. 16 (cited by Molin and Mutembe, as in n. clxxii, col. 609C-D (1.216): 'De annulo. Annuli usus
4, P. 168 n. 22). ex Evangelio acceptus creditur, ubi saginati vituli
16. Martin of Laon, Sermo IV In natale Domini, in conviva prima stola vestitur, annulo insignitur (Luc.
PL, ccviii, col. 506B: 'Illud autem quod in primis XV). Olim solebant reges litteras cum annulo signare;
annulus a sponso sponsae datur, fit hoc nimirum vel cum hoc soliti erant et nobiles quique sponsas
propter mutuae fidei signum, sive propter id magis, subarrhare. Fertur quod Prometheus quidam sapiens
ut eodem pignore eorum corda in amore jungantur: primus annulum ferreum ob insigne amoris fecerit,
unde et quarto digito annulus ille inseritur, quod de et in eo adamantem lapidem posuerit; quia videlicet
eo vena quaedam, ut fertur, sanguinis ad cor usque sicut ferrum domat omnia, ita amor vincit omnia; et
perveniat.' sicut adamas est infrangibilis, ita amor est insuper-
17. Hincmar of Reims, Epistola XXIX, in PL, abilis. Quern enim in illo digito portari constituit, in
cxxvi, col. 188. 'Quo debeant ordine consecrari quo venam ut cordis deprehendit, unde et annularis
metropolitanus atque dioecesanus episcopus. Ut nomen accepit.'

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on the recognise it as a deviation

little one. from the normal W
Capellanus convention or,opt more probably, they for did not
why does understand he the passagesay themselves. One th of
in this them records the interesting The
finger? variant 'life v
and translators of De amore have not and love' ('la vita e l'amore') instead of
answered these questions either.19 'life and death': the ring 'ought to be worn
they have simply annotated the textonwith the little
a finger because the life and love
reference to the Policraticus, in which, as of man lies here more than in any other
we have seen, John of Salisbury speaks of finger'.23 Is this a departure from the Latin
the fourth finger, not the little one.20 tradition, or is it an attempt to rectify by
Nor can any answer be found within means of conjectural emendation what he
the anatomical tradition, which similarly regarded as a corrupt reading in the Latin
refers to the fourth finger as privileged because it was incomprehensible to him?
because it is joined to the heart by a vein We cannot say. The other Italian version
or nerve. Guy de Chauliac (c. 1300-68), is substantially the same, except that this
for example, makes no mention of any translator adds one detail: the 'life and
special status of the little finger in his death of man and woman ('de l'uomo e
Inventarium sive Chirurgia rnagna,21 nor della femmina') reside more in the little
does Arnold of Villanova (d. 131 1) in the finger than the others.24
section of his Doctrina Galieni de interior- The Florentine Antonio Pucci (d.
ibus where he discusses the anatomy of the1388) includes a simplified version of the
little finger.22 passage from De amore in his Libro di varie
We might expect some of the stone, but he, too, makes no comment,
thirteenth-century translators of Andreas stating merely that:
Capellanus's treatise to explain, by means
if one lover receives a ring from the other, he or
of annotations or glosses, why life and
she should wear it, out of love, on the little finger
death reside in the little finger. This never of the left hand and the stone should be held in
happens, however. Neither of the medieval the inside part of the hand, and it must be
Italian translators, for instance, provides hidden.25
an explanation. Why? Either they did not

19. In addition to the editions and translations by amante dall'altro, anello per amore prenda, nel
Trojel, Walsh and Parry (n. 2 above), see: Des konig- minimo dito della sinistra mano le de' portare, e la
lich frdnkischen Kaplans Andreas 3 Biicher Ueber die gemma portare dallato dentro della mano e sempre
Liebe, introd. and transl. H. M. Elster, Dresden 1924, nascosa. E questo de' fare perche la sinistra mano da
pp. 323-34; Traite de V amour courtois, ed. and transl. tutti i liciti toccamenti si suole piu astenere, e nel
C. Buridant, Paris 1974, pp. 175 and 248 n. 140 (he minimo dito si dee portare, che piu che li altri sta la
notes, however, that the John of Salisbury passage is vita e l'amore dell'uomo: e ancora, perche tutti li
not a sufficient explanation); and De amore, transl. J. amanti sono tenuti di tenere loro amore segreto.'
Insana, Milan 1992, p. 150. 24. Ibid., p. 339 [in the apparatus]: 'quello anello
20. See n. 14 above. de' portare nella mano manca e nel dito mignolo, e la
21. Guy de Chauliac, Inventarium sive Chirurgia gemma dell'anello da lato della palma della mano: e
magna, ed. M. R. McVaugh, New York and Cologne per cio adiviene perche la mano manca si guarda da
1997, pp. 40-43 ('Capitulum quatrum de anathomia toccare piu che la diritta ogni brutta cosa; e nel dito
homoplatis et brachiorum seu manuum magnarum') . mignolo e la vita e la morte de l'uomo e della
22. Arnold of Villanova, Doctrina Galieni de inter- femmina piu che negli altri'.
ioribus, ed. R. J. Durling, in his Opera medica omnia, 25. Antonio Pucci, Libro di varie stone (1362), ed.
XV, Barcelona 1985, p. 318. A. Varvaro, in Atti della Accademia di Scienze, Lettere e
23. Andreas Capellanus, Trattato d amore /De amore Arti di Palermo, Parte 2, Lettere, s. IV, vol. xvi, parte
libri tres, ed. S. Battaglia, Rome 1947, p. 337: 'Ma II, fasc. II, 1957, pp. 3-312 (279): 'e se l'uno amante
questo vogliamo che sappiano gli amanti: che se l'uno riceve dall'altro anella, per amore debbonlo portare

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Nor, finally, do we find The most any explan-

likely explanation, in my
ation in the versified French version ofopinion, is that the passage reflects the
Drouart La Vache (c. 1290): influence of chiromancy, which at the time
attracted wide attention and was broadly
I want you to learn, you who maintain your love
diffused among the upper classes, the
in good order, that if a lover gives a ring to his
beloved, in courtship, the ring must always clergy,
be at court and at university.27 Under
on the little finger of the left hand, and thethe name
stone of palmistry, it survives today,
must be artfully hidden on the inside of thepractised
hand. by fortune-tellers and regarded
There is a good reason for this and here itby is:some as a game and by others as
Nature teaches us and says that the left hand is
superstition, quackery and esotericism. In
better at keeping itself from touching uncleanli-
the Middle Ages, by contrast, after the
ness than the right, and in the little finger, so it
first Latin treatises got into circulation
is said, is man's death or life, more than in any
other finger; and because a woman must keep
throughout Europe, chiromancy was con-
her love a secret.2 sidered a natural science, more closely
related to medicine and physiognomy than
Summing up what we have estab- to divination and prophecy. At least in its
lished so far, there seem to have been origins, it was a rational and philosophical
two traditions in the Middle Ages which discipline, which spread in the West follow-
co-existed: the majority view, dating ing winding roads, under the banner of
back to classical antiquity and based on Aristotle's authority, treading a narrow
anatomical and physiological fact; and a path between the licit and illicit, between
minority position, which was recent and the reading of natural signs and the pre-
mainly French and which, for reasons that diction of future events.28 It helped princes
remain obscure, maintained that life and to select their advisers, clergymen to know
death resided in the little finger. Where, whether they would gain benefices and
then, did this latter belief come from? episcopates, men to determine whether

in dito mignolo della mano sinistra e dee portare la ut ... ciromancia in manu'. For the oldest surviving
gemma volta in entro celatamente'. text see C. Burnett, 'The Earliest Chiromancy in the
26. Drouart la Vache, Li Livres dy Amours. Texte West', this Journal, L, 1987, pp. 189-95: he describes
etabli d'apres le manuscrit unique de la Bibliotheque de a chiromancy in the so-called Eadwine Psalter
I'Arsenal, ed. R. Bossuat, Paris 1926, p. 185: 'Tant (Cambridge, Trinity College MS R.17.1), which
weil je que vos aprenes, / Vous qui bonne amour appears to be more or less contemporary with the
maintenes, / Que, se li amans a ss'amie / Donne .i. Policraticus and the treatise of Gundissalinus. It is
anel, par cortoisie, / Ou petit doi touz jors doit estre / accompanied by an onomancy; the texts are tran-
Li aniax, de la mani senestre, / Et doit la pierre estre scribed consecutively, without beginning a new page,
mucie / Par dedenz la main, par maistrie: / Et raison i soon after some annotations to the Credo and Pater
a telle et bonne: / Nature nous aprent et donne / Que Noster. The presence of two divinatory texts in a
mix se garde la senestre / D'ordure touchier que la devotional manuscript might seem at first sight rather
destre, / Et ou petit doi, quoi c'on die, / Est la mors odd; but the chiromancy was apparently designed for
de l'omme ou la vie, / Plus qu'el n'est en nul autre clergymen, containing a series of predictions aimed
doit, Et por ce que la fame doit / S 'amour garder at an ecclesiastical user, such as the gaining of bene-
secreement.' fices and episcopal offices. Thomas Becket's interest
27. In Western Europe the term chiromancy first in divinatory practices is well known; see John of
occurs in the 12th century, almost simultaneously Salisbury, Policraticus (as in n. 14), 1, p. 144 (11.27);
in Plantagenet England in the Policraticus of John Manuali medievali di chiromanzia, ed. S. Rapisarda,
of Salisbury, and in Christian Spain in De divisione transl. and comm. idem and R. M. Piccione, Rome
philosophiae by Dominicus Gundissalinus or Gundi- 2005, pp. 9-12. Moreover, the same hand is respon-
salvi (Domingo Goncales), archdeacon of Toledo, to sible not only for copying the onomancy and the
whom many translations and adaptations of Arabic chiromancy but also for the annotations to the Credo.
texts are attributed: ed. L. Baur, Munster 1903, pp.28. See Manuali medievali di chiromanzia (as in n.
119-20, 'cum enim multae sint sciencie iudicandi... 27), esp. pp. 18-20.

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their brides mancy, Palmistria Salomonis were (Figs 3-4). c

women to find out whether their men were The caption reads: 'This cross removes
brave or cowardly, and everyone to dis-life and brings its opposite' (Fig. 3bis).32
cover whether they would have sons or The caption under the man's right hand
daughters, be rich or poor and have a long {manus dextera qui est masculi) reads: 'When
or a short life. this cross is present, it removes life; and
In the rubrics on the hands illustrating the further it extends, the more death ad-
several twelfth-century chiromancies,29 we vances' (Fig. 4bis).33The same statements
read that if a cross is seen under the little appear in an Anglo-Norman version of
finger in a man's right hand (dextra viri)> this
it work, which depicts a Mayn de femme
is a sign of life and death: 'This cross goingand a man's right hand (Figs 5-6). On the
out, removes life and brings its oppositeformer it says 'Cete crois tout la vie e
[i.e., death]. The more it goes out, the meyne la mort' (Fig. 5bis), while on the
sooner [life] departs.'30 And in relation to latter, 'Cete croiz signefie la vie et le plus
the woman's left hand (sinistra mulieris), ke ele ist vint el la mort' (Fig. 6bis).34
which is more or less a mirror image of More structured treatises, such as
the man's right hand, we read: 'This cross the Tractatus ciromancie of Roderick of
going out removes life and brings its Majorca, provide the same information:
opposite, that is, death.'31 In each case, Concerning the middle line. ... when it is well
the cross at the base of the little finger is articulated, deep and clearly visible, and reaches
shown on a drawing which accompanies up to the mount of the blade, it means a long
the prediction (see Figs i and 2, no. 21 in life; and when it does not traverse the entire
both pictures). hand, it means a short life; and when it is cut
A cross located in the same place can by a line, producing a sort of cross towards the
end, it means a near and imminent death, which
be observed in similar works. For example,
will happen within a year.35
there is a 'cross of life and death' on the
woman's left hand (manus sinistra que Similarly, in the Chiromantia of pseudo-
est mulieris) in another illustrated chiro- John of Seville, we read:

29. C. Burnett, 'Chiromancy: Supplement: The 32. Cambridge, Trinity College MS 0.2.5, fol.
Principal Latin Texts on Chiromancy Extant in the 388V, 'hec crux vitam removet et eius contrarium
Middle Ages', in his Magic and Divination in the inducit'.

Middle Ages, Aldershot and Brookfield, VT 1996, pp. 33. Ibid., fol. 389r, 'hec crux existens vitam
1-29 (18-29). removet in quanto plus extendit tanto plus mors
30. For text and (slightly modified) translation excedit'.

see ibid., pp. 24-25 ('Dextra viri', no. 21), 'Hec 34. Cambridge, Trinity College MS 0.3.45, fls
crux exiens vita removet et eius contrarium inducit. 59v-6or. For an edition of all the Anglo-Norman
Que quanto plus exierit, tanto magis mox excedit' chiromancies see S. Rapisarda, Chiromanzie anglo-
(London, British Library MS Sloane 2030, fol. normanne,
I26r). forthcoming.
See also the variants in Oxford, Bodleian Library 35. R. A. Pack and R. Hamilton, 'Rodericus de
MS Ashmole 399, fol. I7r ('Dextra viri', no. 21), Majoricis:
'Hec Tractatus Ciromancie', Archives d'histoire
crux exiens vitam remordet'; and Cambridge, Trinity doctrinale et litteraire du moyen age, xxxvni, 1971, pp.
College MS 0.2.5., fol. 1301", 'Que quanto plus 271-305
ex- (287-88); and see now Manuali medievali di
tenditur, tanto magis mox accedit.' chiromanzia (as in n. 27), p. 214, '6. De linea mediana.
31. Ibid., p. 28 ('Sinistra mulieris', no. 21), 'Hec
...quando est bene articulata et profunda et bene
crux exiens vitam removet et eius contrarium in- apparens, protensa usque ad montem incisionis,
ducit, scilicet mortem' (Oxford, Bodleian Library longam significat vitam, et si <non> pertransit totam
MS Ashmole 399, fol. i6v); variant in Cambridge, manum, brevem significat vitam. Et quando linea
Trinity College MS 0.2.5., fol- I29V, 'Hec crux exiens
ipsam secat ad modum crucis versus finem, mortem
vitam removet. Quanto hec crux extendit, tanto proximam significat et imminentem, infra annum
mors propinquior erit'; omitted in Oxford, Bodleian futuram.'
Library MS Ashmole 399, fol. I7r.

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1. Dextra viri, man's right hand (after Burnett, 'Chiromanc

2. Sinistra mulieris, woman's left hand (ibid., p. 19)

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3. Cambridge, Trinity Co

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4. Cambridge, Trinity College MS 0.2.5. fol. 389^ Palmis

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5. Cambridge, Trin

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6. Cambridge, Trinity College MS 0.3.45, fol. 6or

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3bis. Detail of Trinit

4bis. Detail of Trinity

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5bis. Detail of Trinity College MS 0.3.45, fol. 59V

6bis. Detail of Trinity College MS 0.3.45, fol. 6or

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Now it is Much the same passage

time to is speak
found in ab
. . . When it is
pseudo-Johnwell articulat
of Seville, Chiromantia:
deep, and reaches up to th
the blade, Concerning
it means the mount of the little a
finger long
. . . some l
not traverse the entire hand, it means a short say that ... if the lines between the table line and
life; and when there is a line near the end of it the base of the little finger are oblique, they mean
producing a sort of cross, it foretells death within past marriages; if straight, future ones.3
a year.3
And in Roderick of Majorca, Tractatus
Indications of the length of a person's ciromancie:
life and of his or her sudden transit from
Concerning the mount of the little finger ... if
life to death are thus found at the mount the lines between the table line and the base of
of the blade, which is located directly the finger mentioned above [i.e., the little finger]
below the mount of the little finger, which, are oblique, they mean happy marriages; but if
for this reason, is more significant than thethey are cut, the prediction changes.39
In conclusion, we can say that the
The same belief may also have influ- passage from Andreas Capellanus's De
enced the semiotics of chiromancy. Some amove seems to reflect the influence of
chiromancy books locate the signs of the chiromantic theory. The presence of this
number of weddings or the quality of a allusion to the 'modern' science of chiro-
couple's relationship or the nobility of mancy is perhaps a further clue to the
one's partner at the base of the little perceived Aristotelian naturalism, the
finger, in the folds at the joint of the palm. 'vanitates' and 'insaniae falsae' which, in
For example, in the Chivomantia pavva, we the eyes of Etienne Tempier, bishop of
Paris, made the content of Andreas Capel-
From this line on the side of the hand between lanus's De amove unacceptable and which,
it has been claimed, contributed to the
the table line and the little finger, however many
lines appear, they signify as many marriages Parisian condemnations of 1277. 4
(apart from the first line); if they are oblique,
past marriages; if straight, future ones.37

36. Ps.-John of Seville, Chiromantia , 1: '4. De linea mulieris', no. 1), 'Quot lineas tales post primam
mediana sive sinistra trianguli nunc est dicendum. . . . habuerit, tot viris desponsabitur. Et si maiores sint
et quando est bene articulata, bene apparens et pro- secunde quam prime, nobiliores erunt mariti quam
funda, protensa usque ad montem incisionis manus, ipsa sponsa.'
significat longam vitam, et quando non transit per 38. Ps.-John of Seville, Chiromantia, 1: 21. De
totam manum, significat brevem vitam, et quando monte auricularis . . . dicunt aliqui quod . . . linee inter
una linea ipsam circa finem in modum crucis, mensalem et radicem auricularis transversantes
mortem infra annum denunciat futuram', in R. A. nupcias preteritas significant, sed directe, futuras; sed
Pack, 'A Pseudo-Aristotelian Chiromancy', Archives tedia magis quam impedimenta talium nupciarum
d'histoire doctrinale et litteraire du moyen age, XXXVI, significant', in Pack (as in n. 36), p. 223; see now
1969, pp. 189-241 (210); see now Manuali medievali Manuali medievali di chiromanzia (as in n. 27), p. 160.
di chiromanzia (as in n. 27), p. 134. 39. Pack and Hamilton (as in n. 35), p. 297; and
37. For the text and translation (slightly modi- see now Manuali medievali di chiromanzia (as in n.
fied), see Burnett (as in n. 29), pp. 14-15 (no. 31),
27), p. 236: '17. De monte auricularis ... et si inter
'Iuxta eandem a latere manus inter lineam men- mensalem et radicem digiti predicti transversantes
sint linee, nupcias cum summo gaudio significant; si
salem et auricularem quotcumque linee apparuerint,
totidem designant nupcias, excepta primaautem linea.scindantur,
Si mutatur iudicium.'
oblique fuerint, peractas; si recte, futuras.'40. SeeM.also
Grabmann, 'Das Werk De Amore des
the rubrics below the little finger in 'The Andreas
Hands': Capellanus und das Verurteilungsdekret
ibid., p. 20 ('Dextra viri', no. 1), '[Linee] nupciarum.
des Bischofs Stephan Tempier von Paris vom 7 Marz
Quot lineas tales post primam habuerit, tot1277', Speculum, vn, 1932, pp. 75-79; A. J. Denomy,
nubet; et si longiores, nobiliores'; and p. 24 'The('Sinistra
"De Amore" of Andreas Capellanus and the

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Universitd degli Studi di Catania

Condemnation of I2jj\ Mediaeval parisienne

Studies, de i2jj> ed. and
viii, transl. D. Piche, Paris
pp. 107-49. See 'Epistola scripta a Stephano I9995 PP- 72-79 (72,76).
Episcopo Parisiensi anno 1277', in La condemnation

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