Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Secondhand Handshakes"

Alan Pryor of the Kent-based Pryor Publications is perhaps the world's foremost preserver and distributor of charming reprints of the pamphlets of yesteryear. Topics common among the Pryor library include history, vintage cookery, courtship, and recreational pastimes like magic lanterns and optical illusions. Alan publishes the works of other authors far more often than his own, but he took pen to paper recently and the resulting pamphlet is destined to become a classic in its own right for its practicality and genius.

Secondhand Handshakes is a booklet small enough to fit in any jacket pocket or handbag, and that's exactly where you should keep your copy, becau
se it acts as a sort of passport to the social world. As Alan writes in the introduction to the booklet, "Few of us ever personally get to meet the great, the good, the famous or indeed the infamous in our everyday lives, though strangely enough we may be a lot closer than we think."

Like an autograph book, Secondhand Handshakes has pages dedicated to recording the handshakes you accumulate during the course of life, with space to write the name of the person you met, the date, and anything noteworthy about the encounter. Turning to the next section in the book, you can enter the handshakes they have acquired, and the handshakes those people have acquired, until you've got a several-generations association with someone you never might get to meet personally. It's amazing how easy it is to populate your pages with popes, presidents, and other world-famous individuals this way!

Alan gives a gr
aphic example of such a tree of handshakes in the booklet, starting with a Great War-era photograph featuring T.E. Lawrence, the King of Jordan Abdullah I, and other British military officers. Alan then traces a line of meetings across the decades until he comes to a photograph of (then) Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown shaking hands with young entrepreneur Tristan Cowell, followed by a photograph of Cowell meeting Pryor himself.

Anyone who is more chuffed to having shaken hands with Lawrence of Arabia--albeit five times removed--over shaking hands with the Prime Minister once removed is tops in our book. And just think, we've shaken hands with Alan!

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