Your Hand: Signatures and Handwriting

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Signing your name is now such an automatic way of proving identity and validating a document that we forget that the signature has its own history. This presentation will explore the challenge of forged and fraudulent handwriting and the cultivation of professional expertise in its detection. The closely related field of graphology (interpretation of character from handwriting) will also be considered.


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23 June 2014   Signatures and Handwriting   Professor Jane Caplan     Introduction My last lecture ended with this slide of my signature, which you see here.   SLIDE:  JC SIGNATURE That’s not very interesting, I’m sure you will agree.  I have never been very pleased with my signature.   It’s neither particularly elegant, like this one    (SLIDE: COLUMBUS SIGNATURE), nor does it have the careless flourish of writers who are so important or so busy that they have reduced their signature to a skeletal outline.   (SLIDE: ANON SIGNATURE)   In fact, I have always felt that mine is not really a signature: I don’t actually sign my name, I just write it out, which is something rather different.  But apart from being a source of mild dissatisfaction to me, does that matter to anyone else?  You may think the answer is no, but you would be wrong.  If I wanted to protect my signature as a trade mark, I might find myself in some difficulty.  I have this on the authority of Elvis Presley, or at least the judge who adjudicated a 1997 appeal that turned on the question of whether a commercial company’s rendition of Elvis’s signature could be protected as a trade mark.     2 SLIDES:  ELVIS SIGNATURES: Co. & HIS OWN At issue here was not whether the company’s version of Elvis’s signature was faithful to the original, but simply whether it was distinctive enough to be more than a writing-out of Elvis’s name.  I’m going to ignore the details of the case, in favour of focussing on Mr Justice Laddie’s ruling, because it makes my argument more authoritatively:    ‘What makes most signatures distinctive is that they consist of a substantially unique and frequently highly distorted way of writing the author’s name. They are in a sense a private graphic tied to one person… The signature mark [in question] is not a highly stylised writing of Elvis Presley's name. In fact its most notable features are the words of the name itself. There is nothing graphically or visually distinctive about the style in which the words are written. It is just a simple, if not very fluent, cursive rendition of the name.’  (Laddie RPC 1997)    So here’s the point.  Although you may think your name belongs to you, in English law you don’t own it.  What you can own, or at least can register for copyright protection, is your mark, a graphic device which may or may not be your name.   What Mr Justice Laddie is telling us is, that to make a signed name into a protectably unique mark or graphic device, you have to distort it, even to the point of illegibility. Recall how Christopher Columbus and my relative both did this, in different ways.  And apparently even children understand the point better than I do, according to the handwriting expert Rosemary Sassoon.  Sassoon studied how children learn the difference between writing their name and writing their signature, and she found that for some children in the early stages of learning, ‘the perception of a signature seemed to be not so much a flourish, but crossing-out, defacing the name’: in other words deliberately rendering it illegible in the most literal way possible (Sassoon).   SLIDE: DEFACED SIGNATURES It is for this reason that one legal expert on the subject asserts bluntly that the ‘normal signature [is an] illegible signature’ (Watts).  So that puts my defectively legible signature firmly in its place.  It is not ‘graphically or visually distinctive’, nor is it even ‘illegible’: it is just ‘a not very fluent cursive rendition of my name’.  No wonder I’m not happy with it.   II. History and the Signature In a culture of literacy and documentation, we obviously need reliable ways to identify ourselves and to be identified by others in writing for legal purposes – for example, as parties or witnesses to a charter, a contract or a will.  Signing one’s name by hand on paper has become the authoritative convention for this, and one that is closely aligned with our own sense of identity. Of course, much of the time our signatures are of no great importance, since they appear on numerous trivial documents such as private letters or application forms.  But they become important in legal documents since ‘by signing, the paper document [becomes] an original whose terms [are] enforceable against the signatories, having tremendous evidential significance in civil law systems’ (Brazell).  Signing your name is now such an automatic way of proving identity and validating or authenticating a document that it is easy to forget that these uses even have a history.  But the autograph signature did not always enjoy this status as a mark of authentication and identity; in fact, it was quite a latecomer onto the documentary scene. In the rest of this lecture, I want to look more closely into the history of the autograph signature in law: its status as a means of authorization and identification.   You think, when you start looking into this history, that it will be a pretty mundane story of the transition from the impressed seal to the handwritten signature as the accepted sign of identity and authentication, from sealing-wax to ink, from parchment and vellum to paper, and suchlike.  In fact it turns out to be much more than this.  Tied up in this sign is a complex layering of historical processes at different scales of meaning.  They include such varied considerations as the technologies of writing, the stabilization of the personal name, the large-scale transition from an oral to a written culture in early medieval England that I spoke about in my first lecture, and successive intellectual, indeed theological conventions for representing identity in a legally and culturally persuasive way.  But this intricacy doesn’t seem to have provoked tremendous interest in the subject. Could this possibly be because the history of the signature is too arcane or too dull to deserve extended consideration? Of course, today I hope to persuade you otherwise.    Perhaps one reason that neither the character nor the history of the signature seems to have been of much interest to lawyers or historians is that in its standard form of the manuscript signature on paper, it has, as I have already said, seemed self-evident (Brazell; Reed).  At the same time, a considerable body of case law has accumulated in this country determining what constitutes a valid signature in particular cases, and I’ll return to this in a moment.  But the law has until recently taken little interest in even defining the meaning of the term, far less in subjecting it to any historical analysis.  However, in the 1990s this dearth of analytic attention gave way to a surge of active interest; and this was because of profound changes in the technology of signing that forced lawyers in Britain and across the world to take a new interest in what a signature is and what it does.  This change was the advent of electronic documents dependent on remote electronic or digital signatures.    SLIDE: DIGITAL SIGNATURE   There is now a buoyant literature on this subject, emanating from the pens of lawyers, scholars in the field of communications, and IT specialists; in fact, there is now even a specialist periodical devoted to the subject, the Digital Evidence and Electronic Signature Law Review.  Let me point to one of the problems raised by electronic communication by citing the words of one recent scholar: although ‘electronic signatures can perform all the functions currently required by case law and legislation … the thing to be signed, an electronic document, exists more as a matter of metaphysics than as a physical object. For this reason it is very difficult for an electronic signature to meet any physical requirement of form [my italics].’ (Reed)  The problem here is that although, as we shall see in a moment, there is a good deal of latitude in what a valid signature looks like, the one indispensable characteristic it had to possess is that it must physically add something to the document. The common law presumption is that this document will be ‘anything upon which information could be visibly inscribed with recognisable and legible characters’, and that the signature will leave a physical mark or trace upon its surface.  But electronic documents do not satisfy this condition, and the signature, like any alteration to an electronic document, does not leave a trace – or if it does, it is at such a microscopic level that it is in practice invisible. It looks nothing like the marks that have been accepted in law as constituting a manuscript signature.     I am not proposing to delve more deeply into the taxing issues raised by electronic documents and electronic signatures.  Since the first decade of this century, most jurisdictions, including this country in our 2007 Electronic Communications Act, have enacted laws setting out the conditions for valid electronic communications and signatures, and attention has shifted to the need to standardize international practice and methods, notably in the EU. Harmonization is made more challenging by the fact that different jurisdictions have obviously developed different laws governing the formalities required for finalizing documents; and that is another subject in itself.  But the debate about electronic signatures has focussed unprecedented attention on these basic questions of what a signature is, and what it does.     As I have already mentioned, English law has taken a very latitudinarian approach to the question of what a signature is. A definition of the term ‘signature’ will not be found in England’s bible of statutory terminology and meaning, the Interpretation Act (1978/2005). That on its own is not unusual, since very few countries have found it necessary to define in law what a signature is.  (It seems to me that section 7(2) of the 1995 Requirements of Writing (Scotland) Act does amount to a definition, but why Scottish law now has this while English law doesn’t, I do not pretend to know.)  At any event, in England, that definition has been left to the case law. One of the classic legal reference books, Stroud’s Judicial Dictionary of Words and Phrases, has long taken its definition from an 1874 court case (R v Kent Justices) which has also become the de facto benchmark definition: ‘A signature is the writing, or otherwise affixing, [of] a person’s name, or a mark representing his name, by himself or by his authority ... with the intention of authenticating a document as being that of, or binding on, the person whose name or mark is so written or affixed.’    You can see that this is a very capacious definition which rather dismantles our common-sense assumptions of what a signature is.  It indicates that in terms of its form, my signature does not need to be my name, it does not need to be in my handwriting, and it does not even need to be ‘written or affixed’ by me in person.  So what can a signature be?  Let me count the ways, courtesy of a number of other legal reference books.  The following have been judged acceptable as valid signatures in the 19th- and 20th-century English case law, mainly on wills: a typewritten name; a rubber stamp; a person’s signature ‘engraved on to a stamp and then applied by a third party in the presence of the person’ concerned; a surname; initials; a name written in pencil; a mark that doesn’t include any part of the name; part of a name only (this case involved a woman unable to complete her name in her will because she fell unconscious); an assumed name; a name which is not the person’s real name, but is intended to represent that real name; a guided signature or mark (the cases here involved someone too ill to write, and an illiterate holding the top of a pen that was guided by another person to form his name); and my favorite: the words ‘your loving mother’, as long as she was also named in the document (Anderson & Warner pp.127ff; Stroud).  Apparently in some jurisdictions in the USA a blood splotch will also do the trick, though I do not have chapter and verse for this.   This is all quite entertaining, but the reason for this latitude is that the English courts have viewed the form of the signature as less important than its functions.  In the words of one key court decision in 1855, ‘Signature does not necessarily mean writing a person’s christian and surname, but any mark which identifies it as the act of the party’ (Maule J in Morton v Copeland).  The primary function of a signature is to provide evidence of the will or intent of the signatory, and it has been defined by one legal authority as ‘a mechanism to prevent the signatory repudiating his or her former position’ (Brazell).  But in fact that same legal authority points out that the common law position derives largely from cases brought under the 1837 Wills Act, which aimed to guarantee that a will genuinely represented the testator’s wishes, by fortifying it with numerous signatures and witnesses, precisely because at the relevant time the signatory would be in no position to confirm or repudiate his or her dispositions.  The point at issue in the courts was not the grand question of whether a will represented the testator’s wishes, but whether he or she intended the mark in question to constitute his or her signature. Hence, as she points out, English courts have been ‘ready to accept as signatures marks which, had they stood alone as evidence of identity or intention to execute the document, might well have been inadequate’, but were in practice accepted as long as there was enough circumstantial  evidence of the testator’s intent to sign (Brazell).  Contrast this with the position in 19th-century Germany, where a determinative case in the supreme commercial court in 1877 found that an illegible signature was invalid without notarization: ‘[It is true that] the writer had made an effort to write his name, but he had not been able to inscribe even a single recognizable letter on the note, but only pen-strokes that bore no resemblance to letters of the alphabet’ (Schneickert 1906)   Although this is the main function of the signature, it also has  other functions: principally, to identify the signatory; to authenticate the content of the document; to constitute a formal, quasi-ceremonial moment that makes the signatory aware of the significance of what they are consenting to; and, where there is a provision that a document must be signed at its foot (as in the Wills Act), to bolster the integrity of the document by disallowing additions appended below the signature (Brazell; Laborde).  This final function of ‘writing under’ is conveyed more explicitly in the English legal term ‘subscription’, which is almost if not quite a synonym for signature in certain circumstances.  It is also seen in the normal German word for signature, Unterschrift.  By contrast, the English word ‘sign’ and the French word signature derive from the Latin signum, or sign, a term we shall meet again shortly.   Out of this list of the contemporary functions of the signature, I would like to select just two in order to explore how they figured in the emergence of the modern signature: the significance of the act of signing; and the signature as evidence of identity.   III. Signing: Significance and Identity   Let me start with the significance of the act.  To the extent that this can be treated as part of the character of the contemporary signature, we are entitled to see it as a residue of pre- or non-documentary methods of giving certainty and publicity to an agreement or contract. In my first lecture I referred to Michael Clanchy’s pathbreaking research into the transition in early medieval England from a non-literate oral culture, in which memory was the repository of knowledge, to a literate culture in which this function was eventually taken over by writing.  I want to refer again to the example I mentioned in that lecture: an agreement for the transfer of property in land, which needed dependable validity that would outlast the life of the donor.  (The same would be true of wills, which by definition are expressions of intention that only come into force when the testator is no longer around to confirm his wishes with regard to the disposal of his property.)  Early medieval transactions of this kind were performed not primarily by the written agreement, but by ‘hearing and seeing’ the transfer: by oral declaration and by the transfer of a symbolic object invested with authority and significance, ion the presence of witnesses.  In land transfers, the land itself had to be delivered into possession of, or ‘seised’, by the recipient: hence the ceremony of livery of seisin which mentioned on this image that I also used a few weeks ago.     SLIDE: PENN LANDING NOTICE   Here is a description of the ceremony of livery of seisin by a late 19th-century expert in land registration, the barrister and Land Registrar Charles Fortescue Brickdale: ‘A written document usually formed part of it but was not absolutely necessary. [It involved] a symbolic act, more or less publicly performed, on the land itself, or at least in sight of it. The ceremony consisted in the vendor handing to the purchaser the ring or hasp of the door, or a branch or twig of a tree or a piece of turf, or even a parchment deed or gold ring, and pronouncing a set form of words such as “here I deliver you seisin and possession of this house in the name of all the lands and tenements contained in this deed” ... both parties holding the ring, hasp, branch, turf or twig, and the deed (if any).’ (Brickdale p.13f) And here is a statue of William Penn holding the turf and twig with which he became seised of Pennsylvania, the US state in which I lived for 20 years.  In the text of this lecture I have included the link to a Youtube clip where you can watch Colorado attorney Michael Robinson performing this ceremony in a TV studio for the information network Broker ip TV: []   SLIDE: PENN TURF & TWIG STATUE   Brickdale was highly unsympathetic to the mentality that relied on this process. He described it as an ‘elaborate and futile pantomime’ that needed to be put ‘on a rational basis … making the written document supreme’. In his view it was only because ‘primitive man is very suspicious of writing’ that the ceremonial act had survived up to the mid-16th century, although the significance of the act of transfer persists in our term ‘conveyance’.  In any case, in our more enlightened time, we are surely more ready to recognize that oral culture and the symbolic authority attached to material objects are not reducible to mere primitivism, but represent an equally rich and complex mental world that is different from our own.   [For one thing, this preference for the authority of an oral account over a written record has a very old lineage.  It is the argument famously put into the mouth of Socrates in Plato’s Phaedrus, when Socrates privileges speech over writing, arguing that writing is an inhuman thing that weakens memory and human wisdom, and that is closed to dialectical disputation: you can interrogate a speaker but the written text is mute. The same argument that technologies of writing make us stupid was later advanced against the printed book in the 15th century, and it is heard again today in contemporary critiques of the mentally debilitating effects of using calculators and computers (Ong).  Of course, as scholars have pointed out, these historic arguments remain available to us only because of writing and its technologies, and Plato’s case is itself not quite as unambiguous as one might think.  But to leave it at that would miss the historical point that in early medieval England and Europe, writing did have to conquer the suspicion of literacy.]   Michael Clanchy gives a wonderful example of the tension that could arise when cultures of speech and writing were in contention.  This is the story, told by the chronicler Eadmer, of a dispute in 1101 between the English king Henry I and the archbishop of Canterbury, Anselm, in which the pope was also involved.  Its resolution depended on the relative weight given to written papal letters that had been brought to England, versus an earlier verbal message from the pope relayed by a deputation of bishops.  Anselm’s side argued for authority to be accorded to what they called ‘documents signed with the pope’s seal and not to the uncertainty of mere words’.  On the king’s side, his partisans countered that they would rather place their faith in the words of the bishops than in what they dismissed as ‘the skins of wethers blackened with ink and weighted with a little lump of lead.’ (p261).   That contemptuous phrase is of course a description of a parchment document authenticated with the papal seal.  It reduced the pope’s letter, as Clanchy says, to a mere physical object whose content disappeared behind its materiality. But in early medieval Europe, even the literate were more used to ‘hearing and seeing’ than reading, and their view of the relationship between writing and reading was in any case not the same as ours. In this oral culture, reading was authoritative not for its fidelity to a text but for the fact of its orality and audibility. In my example of the ceremony of seisin, it mattered less whether it was accompanied by a written text; it was the oral declaration and the performance in the presence of a whole group of witnesses that counted.  The written charter, meanwhile, was as much a symbol as a text, and it secured its authority by means of its visual artistry and impact: it too was something to be seen rather than read.  It was partly for this reason that early medieval charters were often festooned with multiple seals, images and flourishes that fortified their status as an object.     SLIDE: RICHARD III CHARTER Obviously the written document brought enormous dividends in terms of communicative reach and durability, but the culture as a whole first had to overcome this belief that speech was a more authoritative and reliable medium of communication than writing.  People had to understand the document as itself constituting the contract, rather than merely serving as the record of something that had already been performed in speech and act, and that if necessary could be verified by calling on the verbal testimony of the witnesses named.  They had to transfer their faith from these living witnesses to a mute and passive document: in other words, to substitute literary proof for testimonial proof.  This meant providing a reliable and accepted means of signifying the presence, identity and consent of the parties and witnesses to a transaction in the written document itself.  With this I move to the second function of the signature, to provide evidence of identity.   In early medieval continental Europe and England, the handwritten signature did not perform this function. Although the late Roman empire had adopted the signature as a token of validation for documents other than the sealed will, it was the Romans’ seal or signet that was handed down to the largely illiterate societies that followed the collapse of Rome.  In medieval Christendom, the cross, or signum, was the privileged sign both on signets and in writing.  A Christian illiterate would mark a cross on a document and fortify this with the conventional signing of the cross on his body.  A literate participant would act as witness this act of marking the cross, and write in the words ‘signum de [name]’ as well as his own name.  The ‘X’ was therefore not simply an convenience for the illiterate, but a sign of great religious significance that belonged with the performative repertoire I have been describing.  Later conventions and terminology surely bear witness to these older practices. The continuing currency of the alphabetic X to denote name and signature derives from this usage, while the word ‘signature’ itself arrives via the terms signum and its derivation, the ‘sign manual’, i.e. autograph signature.      The seal was in a sense intermediate between a symbolic object and a signature, between the non-literate and literate worlds; Clanchy calls it the ‘harbinger of literacy’. As it developed, it was a portable token whose design incorporated both a pictorial symbol suitable to the owner’s rank or occupation, and either name and title or a motto or rebus gesturing to the name.  It was used to make an impression on a wax or metal blob that was attached at the foot of the document in question, or that could literally ‘seal’ a confidential document such as a will or a letter.  The earliest medieval seals were initially the monopoly of ecclesiastics and royalty, but their use expanded to aristocrats and public corporations such as cities as political and administrative authority disseminated.  Seals of this kind carried such authority that their use was also made available to lesser people, who thereby borrowed for their own documents the power of guarantee that they conveyed.  However, by 1300 in England the possession of a personal seal appears to have become routine.  In a society where few could write but written documentation was expanding, the wax impression of a seal was functionally equivalent to the modern signature, and documents that did not carry seals were regarded as suspect and unreliable.    SLIDE: ENGLISH SEAL The fact that seals were so prevalent in England may have helped to hold back the acceptance of the autograph signature by name in this country until the late 14th and early 15th centuries, but thereafter seal and signature coexisted for several centuries.  The signature’s achievement of primacy was contingent on the spread not so much of literacy – the ability to write one’s name is not a reliable test of literacy in any meaningful sense – but of the complex cultural transformation which brought familiarity with and confidence in writing and the written.  Also important here was the stabilization of the hereditary personal name, which, as we saw last week, had gathered momentum in England by the mid 14th century, although it took longer to become universal.    In southern Europe, by contrast, the revival of Roman law in the 12th century had already recovered the signature as an alternative means of authentication, in the form of the handwritten subscription and signature by an authorized notary.  The subscription certified the identity of its parties and witnesses, while the authenticity of the document was guaranteed by the notary’s own autograph signature, often incorporating an elaborate paraphe or flourish, which was recorded in an official register that enabled the verification of subsequent inscriptions against this original.     SLIDE: NOTARY PARAPHE The documents themselves were dated and registered, and so the signed and notarized document became and has remained the gold standard of proof in continental European jurisdictions.  By contrast, English common law remained, broadly speaking, more open to the probative value of witness testimony and cross-examination.    To account for this difference would require more skill in comparative legal and cultural history than I can muster.  At any event, it was the continuing role played by oral evidence in English courts that lay behind the decision in 1677 to enforce a statutory requirement of writing and signature for certain more weighty transactions involving real estate, property and wills which might be subject to contestation in court.     SLIDE: STATUTE OF FRAUDS This Statute of Frauds followed the mid 17th-century years of upheaval in the English civil war and Restoration, which seem to have generated numerous fraudulent claims and transactions and prompted a quest for improved methods for the authentication and verification of contracts.  The primacy of the signature under this Act was slowly affirmed by subsequent cases which make interesting reading – or at least I find them interesting. The view that seal and signature could be treated as equivalent evidence of intent was proposed by the court in a case in 1681 involving a handwritten will that was sealed but not signed (Lemayne v Stanley); one of the judges commented that ‘the putting of his seal had of itself been a sufficient signing within the statute; for signum is no more than a mark, and sealing is a sufficient mark that this is his will.’  By the 1750s this view had changed, with Lord Hardwicke arguing in a similar case involving a will that:   ‘the statute requiring the will to be signed, undoubtedly meant some evidence to arise from the handwriting; then how can it be said, that putting a seal to it would be a sufficient signing? For any one may put a seal; no particular evidence arises from that seal: common seals are all alike, and one man’s may be like another’s’. ( Grayson v Atkinson c. 1752, Adolphus & Ellis vol. 8, 1838 pp. 95-6)   IV. CONCLUSION In conclusion. Although we have seen that in this country neither your handwriting nor your name are indispensable for a valid signature, I want to end with a few observations prompted by Hardwicke’s implication that the advantage of the signature over the seal is that one man’s handwriting is not like another’s.  If this is admitted, it ought in theory to be possible to verify the authenticity of a signature or any other handwriting, or alternatively to expose it as a forgery.  And in fact, how this can be detected and proven in court has a long history, which is tied into the changing cultures of writing and the changing contexts within which writing has circulated.  In Europe, the three legal tests of contested handwriting have tended to be eye-witness, familiarity, and expertise: i.e. (a) the testimony of someone who witnessed the questionable writing; or (b) the opinion of someone who already knew the handwriting in question; or (c) the opinion of an expert in the techniques of handwriting who had the ability to compare multiple specimens.   Roman law, for example, knew the practice of comparatio litterarum, i.e. the comparison of handwriting by experts known as comparatores, and this was adopted in medieval and early English canon law.  In early 18th-century England, verifying a hand or exposing forged writing within this period’s small networks of commercial relationships was likely to depend on the evidence of witnesses who were personally familiar with the hand of the writer in question. By contrast, in the much larger and more anonymized paper commerce of the later 18th century, the detection and identification of forged handwriting were no longer left to friends and business acquaintances. Instead, in the words of one historian, this was ‘underwritten by the authority of books, clerks and specialized knowledge’, and by the increasing authority accorded by the courts to written evidence in general (McGowen).     Another example is offered by the notarial culture of early modern France, where, following a notorious forgery of king Charles IX’s signature by his secretary, a professional corporation was chartered in 1570 as the ‘Maîtres jurés écrivains experts vérificateurs en écritures et signatures, comptes et calculs contestés en Justice’.  These trained and examined specialists in handwriting guarded their expertise closely; in the 17th century they were given a formal role to present evidence in court proceedings and survived until the French revolution, although they enjoyed neither a full monopoly nor unalloyed public or legal faith in their skills.    In the course of the 19th century, as police and detective forces became normative and institutionalized in Europe, handwriting expertise was incorporated into police science and forensic procedures in most European countries, if not without difficulties.     SLIDE: SCHNEICKERT For one thing, handwriting experts faced popular and legal suspicion that it did not take any special expertise to detect whether or not two specimens of handwriting came from the same hand, since any sufficiently attentive observer could spot this.  (In England, 19th-century judges were not persuaded that they needed the testimony of experts on issues that they felt juries could be left to decide.)  On the other hand, the handwriting experts were under simultaneous pressure to defend the boundaries of their knowledge against the emergence and energetic popularization of a more ambitious science of graphology, which claimed to be able to read psychological character from handwriting.     SLIDES: MICHON; KLAGES; GRAPH.MONATSHEFTE Graphologists like Jean-Hyppolite Michon, Jules Crépieux-Jamin and Ludwig Klages, among others, argued that handwriting was one of the best sources of knowledge of an individual’s mentality and character because it is a process of ‘involuntarily expressive movements’ (Meyer) that are far more revealing than our intentional acts.  To put it in a nutshell, graphologists claimed that handwriting analysis enabled them to determine the psychological  subjectivity and identity of a writer; while handwriting experts argued that their skill was directed at the more exacting and objective task of detecting the identity (or otherwise) of one piece of writing with another.    There is much more that could be said about the relationship and overlap between these two fields of knowledge, which recall my starting-point in the subjective and objective dimensions of identity – separable, and yet entangled in the word ‘hand’, which denotes simultaneously the part of our physical body that is most involved in the act of writing, the act of writing itself, and its results on paper.  All this is involved in the act of writing out signature; and to complicate it a little further and offer a preparatory glimpse of my final lecture on the tattoo, let me quote the Reverend Samuel Morrison in New Zealand in 1815, and leave you with this image of a Maori chief’s signature on a treaty from New Zealand a few years later:   'The chief has signed the grant in a manner extremely original, He has displayed the ingenuity which is a characteristic of his countrymen in a minute and laborious copy of the tatu marks upon his own face.' (   SLIDE: MOKO SIGNATURE                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  © Professor Jane Caplan, 2014     FURTHER READING N. Adams, J. Cherry & J. Robinson, Good Impressions. Image and Authority in Medieval Seals (British Museum 2008)   B. Bedos-Rezak, When Ego was Imago. Signs of Identity in the Middle Ages (Leiden 2010)   L. Brazell, Electronic Signatures and Identities. Law and Regulation, 2nd edn (London 2008)   M. Clanchy, From Memory to Written Record. England 1066-1307 2nd edn (London 1993)   B. Fraenkel, La signature. Genèse d’un signe (Paris 1992)   E.  Higgs, Identifying the English. A History of Personal Identification 1500 to the Present (London 2011)   S. Neef, Imprint and Trace. Handwriting in the Age of Technology (London 2011)   T. Thornton, Handwriting in America. A Cultural History (New Haven/London 1996)
Jane caplan

Professor Jane Caplan

Visiting Professor of History

Professor Jane Caplan is Visiting Professor at Birkbeck, University of London, and Emeritus Fellow at St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford. She is a world-renowned...

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