Writing on Hands is divided into six major themes that concern the learning, ordering, and recollection of abstract concepts related to human experience and culture. 

In the first section, Reading the Writing on Hands, the hand stands as a metaphor for the whole person; it is the site for creative manual and intellectual skills, as well as for knowledge and memory. Mentor, Metaphor, and Map Catalogue Entries 1-4; Identity, Intelligence, and Creativity, Catalogue Entries 5-10.


Section II, Handiwork of the Creator, shows changing views of the anatomy and nomenclature (naming of the parts) of the hand as well as the connections between the brain, hand, memory, and senses. The Noblest Creation, Catalogue Entries 11-16; The Instrument of Instruments, Catalogue Entries 17-25.

Messenger of the World, Section III, examines the use of the hand in mnemonic (memory) theory: here, the parts of the hand serve as sites of memory onto which images, or ideas, are applied in ordered sequences. The Sense of Touch, Catalogue Entries 26-33; Inscribing Memory, Catalogue Entries 34-39.

Section IV, Knowledge on Hand, introduces viewers to two pre-modern applications of the hand: the first as a kind of instrument for calculation, including the reckoning of significant dates in the liturgical year; the second as means of teaching solmization (sight singing) and music theory. The final subsection treats hand and body gestures in rhetorical expression and fingerspelling for the deaf.  Manipulating Time, Catalogue Entries 40-45; Steps to Singing, Catalogue Entries 46-50; Companion to Eloquence, Catalogue Entries 51-56.) 

The Whole World in the Hand, Section V, represents the hand as a microcosm of the universe; reciprocally, the hand links the physical and the spiritual aspects of the body back to the universe. Chiromancy, now called palm reading, was then a serious discipline that enabled one to read the character and fate of individuals. Similarly, early modern texts devote much
attention to alchemy, the quest to achieve material and spiritual purification of base matter (for example, turning simple metals into gold). The Body as Microcosm,
Catalogue Entries 57-62; Signs upon the Hand, Catalogue Entries 63-68; The Hand of the Philosopher, Catalogue Entries 69-73. 

Section VI, Guiding Hands, figures the hand as the site of memory and learning of spiritual exercises. It concludes with a subsection on political and ethical maxims, in which the hand mediates between verbal and visual representations. Defenders of Faith, Catalogue Entries 74-78; Guardians of Morals, Catalogue Entries 79-83.