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"B-A-C-H is beginning and end of all music", signed autograph document by Max Reger (dated 7 May 1912) B-a-c-h Reger.jpg
"B-A-C-H is beginning and end of all music", signed autograph document by Max Reger (dated 7 May 1912)

An autograph is a person's own handwriting or signature. The word autograph comes from Ancient Greek ( αὐτός , autós, "self" and γράφω , gráphō, "write"), and can mean more specifically: [1] [2]



What might be considered the oldest "autograph" is a Sumerian clay table from about 3100 BC which includes the name of the scribe Gar.Ama. [4] No ancient written autographs have been found, and the earliest one known for a major historical figure is that of El Cid from 1098. [5]

Autograph manuscript

"Autograph" can refer to a document transcribed entirely in the handwriting of its author, as opposed to a typeset document or one written by an amanuensis or a copyist. This meaning overlaps that of "holograph". [3]

Celebrity's signature

John Hancock's signature on the United States Declaration of Independence JohnHancockSignature.jpg
John Hancock's signature on the United States Declaration of Independence

Autograph collecting is the hobby of collecting autographs of famous persons. [1] Some of the most popular categories of autograph subjects are presidents, military soldiers, athletes, movie stars, artists, social and religious leaders, scientists, astronauts, and authors.[ citation needed ]

See also

Related Research Articles

Aramaic is a Semitic language that originated among the Arameans in the ancient region of Syria. During its three thousand year long history, Aramaic went through several stages of development. It has served as a language of public life and administration of ancient kingdoms and empires, and also as a language of divine worship and religious study. It subsequently branched into several Neo-Aramaic languages that are still spoken in modern times.

Manuscript Document written by hand

A manuscript was, traditionally, any document written by hand – or, once practical typewriters became available, typewritten – as opposed to mechanically printed or reproduced in some indirect or automated way. More recently, the term has come to be understood to further include any written, typed, or word-processed copy of an author's work, as distinguished from its rendition as a printed version of the same. Before the arrival of printing, all documents and books were manuscripts. Manuscripts are not defined by their contents, which may combine writing with mathematical calculations, maps, music notation, explanatory figures or illustrations.

Palaeography Study of historic handwriting

Palaeography (UK) or paleography is the study of historic writing systems and the deciphering and dating of historical manuscripts, including the analysis of historic handwriting. It is concerned with the forms and processes of writing; not the textual content of documents. Included in the discipline is the practice of deciphering, reading, and dating manuscripts, and the cultural context of writing, including the methods with which writing and books were produced, and the history of scriptoria.

A signature is a handwritten depiction of someone's name, nickname, or even a simple "X" or other mark that a person writes on documents as a proof of identity and intent. The writer of a signature is a signatory or signer. Similar to a handwritten signature, a signature work describes the work as readily identifying its creator. A signature may be confused with an autograph, which is chiefly an artistic signature. This can lead to confusion when people have both an autograph and signature and as such some people in the public eye keep their signatures private whilst fully publishing their autograph.

Collecting Hobby of locating or acquiring items of interest

The hobby of collecting includes seeking, locating, acquiring, organizing, cataloging, displaying, storing, and maintaining items that are of interest to an individual collector. Collections differ in a wide variety of respects, most obviously in the nature and scope of the objects contained, but also in purpose, presentation, and so forth. The range of possible subjects for a collection is practically unlimited, and collectors have realised a vast number of these possibilities in practice, although some are much more popular than others.

Penmanship Technique of writing with the hand

Penmanship is the technique of writing with the hand using a writing instrument. Today, this is most commonly done with a pen, or pencil, but throughout history has included many different implements. The various generic and formal historical styles of writing are called "hands" while an individual's style of penmanship is referred to as "handwriting".

Autograph collecting

Autograph collecting is the practice of collecting autographs of famous persons. Some of the most popular categories of autograph subjects are presidents, military soldiers, athletes, movie stars, artists, social and religious leaders, scientists, astronauts, and authors.

Colophon (publishing) Brief statement of a books own information, such as publisher, location, and date of publication

In publishing, a colophon is a brief statement containing information about the publication of a book such as the place of publication, the publisher, and the date of publication. A colophon may include the device of a printer or publisher. Colophons are correctly printed at the ends of books, but sometimes the same information appears elsewhere and many modern (post-1800) books bear this information on the verso of the title-leaf, which is sometimes called a "biblio-page" or the "copyright-page".

Book collecting

Book collecting is the collecting of books, including seeking, locating, acquiring, organizing, cataloging, displaying, storing, and maintaining whatever books are of interest to a given collector. The love of books is bibliophilia, and someone who loves to read, admire, and a person who collects books is often called a bibliophile but can also be known as an bibliolater, meaning being overly devoted to books, or a bookman which is another term for a person who has a love of books.

Handwriting Writing created by a person with a writing implement

Handwriting is the writing done with a writing instrument, such as a pen or pencil, in the hand. Handwriting includes both printing and cursive styles and is separate from formal calligraphy or typeface. Because each person's handwriting is unique and different, it can be used to verify a document's writer. The deterioration of a person's handwriting is also a symptom or result of several different diseases. The inability to produce clear and coherent handwriting is also known as dysgraphia.

Thomas Hoccleve English poet 1368–1426

Thomas Hoccleve or Occleve (1368–1426) was an English poet and clerk, who became a key figure in 15th-century Middle English literature. His Regement of Princes or De Regimine Principum is a homily on virtues and vices, written for Henry V of England shortly before his accession.

Holographic will Handwritten and signed will and testament

A holographic will, or olographic testament, is a will and testament which is a holographic document, i.e., it has been entirely handwritten and signed by the testator. Traditionally, a will had to be signed by witnesses attesting to the validity of the testator's signature and intent, but in many jurisdictions, holographic wills that have not been witnessed are treated equally to witnessed wills and need only to meet minimal requirements in order to be probated:

Letter of appointment

The "letter of appointment" is a controversial three-page document used by James J. Strang and his adherents to prove that he was the designated successor to Joseph Smith as the prophet and president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It formed part of a four-tiered argument for succession, being that according to various passages in Doctrine and Covenants, a prophet successor had to be A) appointed by Joseph Smith, B) ordained by angels, C) receive revelations as Smith did and D) translate ancient records certified by witnesses. Sent from Nauvoo, Illinois on June 19, 1844, to Strang in Burlington, Wisconsin, this letter was highly influential at gathering support for Strang's claim to succession until his death. Following Strang's murder in 1856, the letter passed through various hands until acquired by Yale University, where it currently forms a part of its Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

An autograph is a person's signature, but may also refer to:

Biblical manuscript A handwritten copy of a portion of the text of the Bible

A biblical manuscript is any handwritten copy of a portion of the text of the Bible. Biblical manuscripts vary in size from tiny scrolls containing individual verses of the Jewish scriptures to huge polyglot codices containing both the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) and the New Testament, as well as extracanonical works.

Ancient Egyptian literature Literature of Egypt from pharaonic period to the end of Roman domination

Ancient Egyptian literature was written in the Egyptian language from ancient Egypt's pharaonic period until the end of Roman domination. It represents the oldest corpus of Egyptian literature. Along with Sumerian literature, it is considered the world's earliest literature.

Spelling of Shakespeares name Several forms of the name of the English playwright have been used.

The spelling of William Shakespeare's name has varied over time. It was not consistently spelled any single way during his lifetime, in manuscript or in printed form. After his death the name was spelled variously by editors of his work, and the spelling was not fixed until well into the 20th century.

Shakespeares handwriting

William Shakespeare's handwriting is known from six surviving signatures, all of which appear on legal documents. It is believed by many scholars that the three pages of the handwritten manuscript of the play Sir Thomas More are also in William Shakespeare's handwriting. This is based on many studies by a number of scholars that considered handwriting, spelling, vocabulary, literary aspects, and more.

Charles Hamilton, Jr. was a paleographer, handwriting expert and author of historical works. He invented the term "philography" as another term for his profession. He is the author of a number of books on this topic. He was also an autograph dealer. He died in New York City at the age of 82.

Autograph (manuscript) Manuscript or document written in the authors handwriting

An autograph or holograph is a manuscript or document written in its author's or composer's hand. The meaning of autograph as a document penned entirely by the author of its content, as opposed to a typeset document or one written by a copyist or scribe other than the author, overlaps with that of holograph.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Thompson, Edward Maunde (1911). "Autographs"  . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica . 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 45–47.
  2. 1 2 3 Gove, Philip B. (ed.), 1981. Webster's Third New International Dictionary , p. 147. ISBN   0-87779-206-2
  3. 1 2 Tomita, Yo (2016). "Autographs, Copies and Original Manuscripts". In Leaver, Robin A. (ed.). The Routledge Research Companion to Johann Sebastian Bach. Taylor & Francis. pp. 52–54. ISBN   9781315452807.
  4. "The Earliest Autograph Signatures (Circa 3,100 BCE) :".
  5. Fletcher, Richard A. (1 January 1989). The Quest for El Cid. Oxford University Press. ISBN   9780195069556 via Google Books.

Further reading