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The Llewellyn Encyclopedia

Brief History of Graphology

This article was written by Ruth Gardner on May 31, 2002
posted under Graphology

The science of graphology has for many years been a tool to increase awareness of an individual’s character or personality. Three thousand years ago, Nero stated that he had no trust for a certain individual because his handwriting showed him to be treacherous. Aristotle believed that "Spoken words are the symbols of mental experience, and written words are the symbols of spoken words. Just as men have not the same speech sounds, so all men have not the same writing."

In l622, Camillo Baldo, a physician in Italy, wrote the first book that we know of on graphology. The book was titled How To Judge the Nature and the Character of a Person from His Letter. He commented on the fact that all writers write differently and that no one can write like another.

The word "graphology" was first used by Abby Michon of Paris. The word is taken from the Greek "graph" meaning writing and "ology" meaning study. Michon collected and studied thousands of samples and after many years published his system of analysis. He and perhaps some of his students established the Graphological Society in Paris that actively existed until World War II. A student of Michon’s, Jean Crépieux-Jamin, emphasized that handwriting must be studied as a whole gestalt, not as so many unrelated characteristics. Each of us is a complicated creation with many characteristics that form a sum total. When those characteristics are in conflict, they must be weighed one against the other to arrive at an accurate evaluation of the writing.

Ludwig Klages, a well-known philosopher in Germany, established the laws and principles of graphology in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Some of these principles are still used by many graphologists today. Klages states that the basic law of expression is that every bodily movement actualizes the tensions and drives the personality. Klages originated the concept of "form level," which is judged by the general rhythm of writing. (This concept is accepted or rejected depending on the graphologist’s own desire and experience.) Among his many published books are Handwriting and Character and The Problem of Graphology.

Edgar Allan Poe analyzed handwriting and published some of his analyses. He used the word "autography" to describe his involvements. He stated that there are systemized procedures to autography, and that the analyst must be able to distinguish the differences between calculation and analysis. His observations and research were published in 1926 as a book by Dial Press of New York.

Gordon Allport, in his studies at Harvard Psychological Clinic in 1930, based his research on the assumption that: 1) personality is consistent; 2) movement is expressive of personality; and 3) the gestures and other expressive movements of an individual are consistent with one another. Thus he explained a basis for personality evaluation and its expression in handwriting.

In l955, Klara Roman and George Staemphli developed a checklist that organized certain factors and plotted them on a chart called a graphological psychogram. This psychogram was refined by Daniel Anthony of New York some years later.

Oddly, the acceptance and practice of graphology in the United States has progressed more slowly than in other parts of the world although there have been many noted American researchers. In Europe graphologists have been leaders in the study of graphology. Psychology curriculums in many European universities require studies in handwriting psychology.

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