Over three hundred years before the Christian Era, Aristotle observed: “Spoken words are the symbols of mental experience, and written words are the symbols of spoken words. Just as all men have not the same speech sounds, so all men have not the same writing.” . . . A later Roman emperor, Justinian, records in his memoirs that he has been struck by the observation that an individual’s handwriting changes with ill-health and age. (Roman, p. 3)After a brief introduction to the history of graphology, readers will find the signatures of famous leaders and personalities below, as well as those of some very infamous individuals. We will reach back into the past, and look at those who lead us now, ending with Obama. Where possible, I will provide a link to an analysis of that signature. In some cases, I will offer my own amateur thoughts. If you follow the links and learn from them, you will soon draw upon your intuition and knowledge of history to reach your own conclusions.
“Freud asserts that it is impossible for anyone to keep a secret. Deep down, and in a very real way, we do not want to keep our secrets. We want the world to know exactly who and what we are. Paradoxical though it seems, we still give a great deal away even when we are being most taciturn, for taciturnity itself reveals something about the individual.” (Olyanova, p. ix)
History of Graphology
Graphology has been studied in Europe since the beginning of the seventeenth century, but research didn’t truly flower until around 1830 when a strong interest arose in France, beginning with the work of Abbé Flandrin and his disciple Jean-Hippolyte Michon. Following thirty years of methodical research, Michon published a system of analysis and named it “graphology.” Michon attached “signs” to individual graphic elements such as forms of t bars, i dots, flourishes and hooks. French researchers after him developed different theories based on the gestalt of the writing, i.e., a ‘theory of ‘resultants’ produced by the combination and interaction of many elements.”
Near the end of the nineteenth century, German physiologists and psychiatrists took over the lead in research. Wilhelm Preyer, a professor of physiology at Jena “demonstrated the similarity of the writing patterns produced by use of different body members--the right hand, the left hand, the mouth, the toes.” Thus Preyer developed the concept that handwriting is really “brain writing.” Georg Meyer, a psychiatrist, added to the body of knowledge by conducting experiments with psychotic patients in various states of mental health. His research revealed a relationship between writing movement (psychomotor skills) and emotion.
The Hungarian School of graphology took an independent path of development in the 1920s in that university psychologists and clinicians used controlled observations to validate their graphological findings, and as a result founded a graphological institute in Budapest under the control of the ministry of education. “Efforts of individual graphologists were correlated and guided by the graphological association, so that the results obtained had a collective significance.”
Graphology finally reached America’s shores in the early twentieth century. June Downey of the University of Iowa studied handwriting as an aspect of expressive movements. She published her research, Graphology and the Psychology of Handwriting, in 1919. Gordon Allport and Philip E. Vernon at the Harvard Psychological Clinic posited in the 1930s that “If an individual is inclined to a rigid, inhibited pattern of behavior, it will be as evident in his manner of walking as it is in his writing, and no less in the way he holds his head, and in the facial expressions and the gestures that accompany his speech.” Other American scholars have contributed to the study of handwriting since then, but over time serious study seems to have declined. If any clinical or psychological studies are taking place at this time, I am not familiar with them. However, a number of popular books on the subject have been written for public consumption. I cannot attest to the qualifications of these recent authors, so if you are interested in a serious study of the subject, I suggest you read the two authoritative books listed below.
Handwriting: A Key to Personality by Klara G. Roman, Pantheon Books, New York, 1952.
Handwriting Tells by Nadya Olyanova, Bell Publishing Co., New York, 1969.
Each signature appears below the typed name. Actual size of each signature is unknown. What you see here could be smaller or larger than the original.
A few genenralities about handwriting
As with many individual formations, angularity can denote both good and bad traits, in this case ranging from mental acuity to mental rigidity to aggression to sadism. Severe angular letters represent thoughts that cut, like knives.
In contrast, rounded formations denote softer emotions like kindness and empathy; if every formation in the writing is rounded similar to grade-school cursive, the individual would be immature, childlike. Rounded letters represent thoughts that may cause tears.
Small handwriting vs. large handwriting tells us the degree to which a person is interested in intellectual activities vs. ego-driven pursuits. Small writers are thinkers; large writers are doers.
Degree of pressure (not discernible here) indicates the intensity of that person's overall traits. For example, if you meet someone with a very angular signature coupled with pressure so heavy you can feel the writing on the underside of the paper, run away as fast as you can.
As you may recall from your school days, handwriting is written in three zones. Letters in the upper zone like l, d, and t point to our thoughts and dreams. Middle zone letters like m, n, o, a, etc. represent the real world or earthly zone. Lower zone letters like g or y reflect our physical and sexual needs. As we age we tend to focus our energies and thoughts in one or possibly two of these zones.
Sometimes a signature displays a graphic doodle, or symbol, which alludes to something subliminal going on in the writer's mind. That symbol may even reflect a tool of special interest.
Unfortunately, the above generalities barely touch the surface of human nature or the art and science of graphology. However, the more you study the subject, the better equipped you will be to discern who you can lean on, trust, love, or avoid as if your life depended on it.
Click the typed name to read an analysis. Click each image to enlarge the signature.
J. K. Rowling:
Fluidity of overlapping thoughts.
In this rendition, Fidel has literally fenced himself in between the upper and lower strokes. A metaphor? Extreme obstinancy seen in the knotted t-bar.
Reminds me of Hugo's defiant hand gestures. Velocity upward also makes me think of missiles in the sky. Very angular, very controlling.
Inflated ego represented in large loop. Underscore reinforces this. Indistinguishable letters mean he can keep secrets.
Muddy pressure and angularity reveals his brutality.
Note the changes over time. Signature includes the swastika symbol.
His way or the highway. He was a racist.
John F. Kennedy:
George W. Bush:
Osama Bin Laden:
Also, do you see a rifle?
Rightward leaning script indicates a desire to speak out. Choice of a thick pen nib mirrors Frank's brash and blunt speech patterns.
Richard M. Nixon:
Barack Obama (1):
The split O, to my mind, suggests that there is a dual nature to his personality, perhaps explained in 2 below. The staccato flow of the O here supposedly resulted when he signed the healthcare bill with multiple pens; however, the big/small/big/small nature of the signature also reflects Obama's staccato speech patterns. Another sample of his signature shows the difference. Size of the B and O reflect his ego and the objects of his thoughts. Small letters suggest that he thinks about things very carefully. Vertical writing is generally done by people who are aloof from those around them. In his heart of hearts, he doesn't want people to know who he truly is.
Barack Obama (2):
Here the signature is a symbol of Obama's sexuality, especially when it is turned on end and the inferred line is added. I will go out on a limb and say that I think Barack Obama may be bisexual. While that statement may seem shocking, there is historical evidence which may support this supposition. Also, in case you missed the analysis, here's the link again about symbols in signatures.