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BERTILLON, Alphonse.

Identification Anthropometrique. Instructions Signalétiques.

Nouvelle Édition, entièrement refondue et considérablement augmentée...

Published: Melun: Imprimerie Administrative, 1893

Stock code: 60687

Price: £3,950

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First published in 1886, this edition represents Bertillon’s final statement of the technique of Bertillonage or forensic anthropometry. This copy inscribed on the front free endpaper, “hommage de haute estime”, to Monsieur Cruppi. Jean Cruppi (1855-1933), was a prominent French politician who served as a député for 25 years: Bertillon here addresses him as “avocat général à la Cour de Cassation”. He held various ministerial posts, including education (1907), commerce and industry (1908), foreign affairs (1911), and from June 1911 to January 1912 he was minister of justice. Gernsheim explains the significance of this work in terms of the history of photography and also of the development of scientific method in detection: “In France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Denmark an anthropometrical system consisting of measuring certain bones which do not alter after maturity was adopted in the early 1880s. Alphonse Bertillon, a Parisian police officer, in 1880 devised this method for identification by measuring the length and width of the head, the length of the middle and little fingers of the left hand, of the left foot and forearm, and the height of the body. Examination of 50,000 people showed that no two had the same measurements. By the Bertillon method, photographs were divided into three classes according to height – tall, medium, or short – and each of these classes was subdivided again and again according to the other measurements. The measurements of an arrested person were given priority over comparison of photographs, thus avoiding mistaken identity due to strong chance resemblance – or a false name which prisoners frequently give” (The History of Photography). Bertillon’s successes led to the system’s rapid adoption in Britain and America, but flaws began to emerge, and the successful use of finger-printing signalled the end for Bertillonage. However, his work was without doubt the first fully-developed scientific system used by police to identify criminals. Bertillon standardized the mug-shot, and also created many other forensic techniques, including forensic document examination; the use of galvanoplastic compounds to preserve footprints; comparative ballistics; and the dynamometer, used to determine the degree of force used in breaking and entering. His work was viewed with approval by no less an authority than Sherlock Holmes, who in “The Naval Treaty” expressed “his enthusiastic admiration of the French savant”. In The Hound of the Baskervilles Holmes is “just a little” put out to be considered second best to Bertillon, snappishly suggesting that Dr Mortimer had “better consult him” if he considers Bertillon his superior. Uncommon, particularly so signed, and with such an excellent association.

Octavo (247 161 mm). Contemporary blue quarter cloth on marbled boards, tan morocco label to the spine. Line-drawn frontispiece and 51 similar plates, 30 photogravure plates, 2 folding tables, folding photogravure plate of “Nuances de l’Iris humain,” illustrations and diagrams to the text. A little rubbed, hinges slightly cracked, light browning, but nonetheless a very good copy.

Bibliography: Garrison-Morton 181

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