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Monday, 17th December 2007
Good Morning

I n 1926 Liebig issued

a set of cards, 'Greeting Among Primitive Peoples'. It is one of those sets you cannot get enough of, so it is a shame there are only the usual six cards. Lots of hair pulling, feet licking and waving of backsides make this a set of cards you only imagine would come from Liebig.

It has the feel of travellers tales from a lost age. The people showing their backsides are doing so to a very English looking gentleman in Empire garb. It is a non-UK series and it would be nice to think there was a bit of gentle mocking going-on.

Greeting people is a rather important thing (is it significant kids learn to say good-bye before they learn to say hello?). First impression last and all that and, well, it is all very important. Even I take stock of a handshake, firm, dry (but not like winter leaves), two pumps of the arm but not with any bone crushing threat seems a lot more reasonable than a limp hand offered for wringing out (aka the village priest).

if there were 50 I'd want 100.

Everyone goes through a stage of wanting to reduce another fellows hand to dust in a vice like grip. Many years ago I stayed at a friends house for a few days, recovering from a world by getting ludicrously drunk on the cheapest strongest wine we could find (this was a sign of how competitive we were, even trying to buy the most undrinkable wine for one another to endure).

Coming down for breakfast on the third day I discovered my right hand and arm were no longer doing all the things you expect them to do, pick up toast or cups of coffee, this sort of thing. 'Gracious', I think was the word I used, 'My hand really smarts.' My chum suggested his did too. This was a strange coincidence which confused us a good deal until his wife solved the mystery for us. At some stage of the drinking the previous night a handshake competition had begun. It lasted well beyond anything healthy as both of us were reduced to cartoon expressions of pain whilst vice like grips were applied. My secret weapon was being left handed the next four days were less difficult, although neither of us could wear much more than T-shirts, painfully buttoned trousers and unlaced shoes. We had to drink beer from that point as opening wine bottles was also out of the question, so it was not all bad news.

On a slightly more useful level all around Hignett produced one of the great sets in 1907, Greetings of the World. The cards were smaller than the Liebig efforts but there are more of them at 25 and in terms of printing quality they are at least the equal. Also you get the feeling it is depicting scenes which are rather more likely.

Hignett, Greetings of the World

There might well be 25 cards but every time I feast my eyes on this set (and feast it is) I wish there were 50 in the set. I have a sneaky feeling if there were 50 I'd want 100.

25 just is not enough, there is no English greeting for example, the Americans do not appear. You might think this would be needless repetition of themes but that is because you haven't seen the artwork (scans are almost the same but never like the real deal). I am sure another 25 cards showing Greetings in Africa, or India for example could well of been possible.

Verbal communication is rather more important in this issue than it was in the more non-verbal gesture of the Liebig series and at the bottom of each card is a phrase or two in the language the greeting is being made. At the top of the card Hignett proudly advertise the name of the firm and quite right too. The middle bit being given over to the people doing the greeting. The illustrations, at least in my opinion, are the equal of just about anything else to be seen on cards

The fact there is a transcript of what is being said in the 'native' language does limit the set somewhat. No sign of clicking or whistling dialects which would be rather tricky to commit to a card. This means the potentially more interesting greetings such as buttock bearing and feet licking would be unlikely to survive the editorial process. It is up to you to decide if this is a good or a bad thing. I say, variety is the spice of life. If I wandered down the high street and a couple of people greeted me by pointing their buttocks at me it would certainly be fine. Feet licking would be a bit intrusive as it would cause delays.

So what is left?

Plenty, although there seems to be a heck of a lot of handshaking going on. Within the set is an interesting diversity in the people that are greeting one another. I am not sure why some cards have men and women greeting one another and others just men greeting one another and in at least two cases you cannot be sure who is greeting who. The Austrian card (number 20) is most alarming. The chap is wearing what can only be described as a skirt which is just fine in my book, I defend the right of any chap to wear a 'skirt' in the same way I defend the right that I don't have to. When you look through the set chaps in trousers are in the minority (and when you see some of the ludicrous trousers some of the chaps are in you can see why flowing robes are the thing to be seen in).

However the real mischief is the fact the printing of the card has ensured the woman appears to have a moustache. Now this really is unfortunate.

Before I drop myself in ever hotter water about chaps in dresses and women with moustaches that also happen to be Johnny-foreigners on a site with a minority UK readership I shall move on.

The German fellow looks like Pickwick on spindly legs and is a good foot shorter than the woman who appears to be Mary Poppins. In every other instance on the cards the people greeting one another are about the same height. So why was it appropriate in 1907 to turn the German fellow into a chubby-chap of limited stature?

So we have a visually splendid early set dealing with a topic seldom explored which also happens to be considered a classic by those that care about such things. Enough I here you all cry, well it almost is but not quite.

Although the series is pretty early there is text on the back of the card which tries to explain what is going on. The reverse design is ornate to say the least. Some greetings need more explanation than others. Not only is there a good deal of handshaking going on these people generally seem to say, 'Good day, how are you?'.

Hignett, Greetings of the World

Hardly surprising when you consider we are talking about people meeting each other but some of the more literal translations are interesting enough.

Card One is a pre-revolution Russian greeting, 'Zaravstvuete kak pojivaete?' is said whilst the figures embrace. For those Englishmen not fluent in Russian there is a literal translation, Zaravstvuete (Hail) kak (how) pojivaete (do you live)?

There you go then, a word which needs breathing exercises to complete simply says Hail.and one word all but covers the rest of the sentence. The card does have the good grace to suggest there are many greetings in the country of Russia because of the size of the place.

The first four cards manage to dispose of Russia, China, Japan and just for good measure Ceylon. Certainly three of the four could have been sets of 25 in themselves.

The reverse texts also add the detail the handshake is often accompanied by a slight bow.

Thankfully though not all the world is content with a handshake and some are rather more enthusiastic in greeting. The Egyptians appear to be the most determinedly enthusiastic of all. It is a handshake which is repeated three times. In between the shaking of hands the fellows touch there hands to their hearts.

The form of greeting in Palestine is as follows :- Each clasps the other's right hand in his own; sometimes, after a long separation, all four hands are clasped together and each kisses the other on the right and left shoulder alternately, using the words, "Keif halaka?" "How (is) your condition?" or, literally, Keif (How) hal (condition) k (thou)?

For some reason the Abyssinians are considered most curious in the greeting which has the fellows placing one or both hands on one anothers shoulders.

According to the cards the French go in for more hat raising than the English. Surprising as every Englishman seemed to spend his entire life raising his hat. Indeed it seems about the only reason to wear one most of the time.

All this is as nothing to the Palestine greeting, which is given in entirety in the card box out.

All very European.

So there you go. From a sales point of view this set is one of my better kept secrets but that means there are all the more for me to keep and that is fine. There might come a point when I got fed-up of looking at this set but it is not about to happen any time soon.