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]

"B-A-C-H is beginning and end of all music", signed autograph document by Max Reger (dated 7 May 1912)
Share of the Standard Oil Trust, issued 5 April 1882, signed by John D. Rockefeller



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. No ancient written autographs have been found, and the earliest one known for a major historical figure is that of El Cid from 1098.[4]

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

Picture of German yodeler Franzl Lang, autograph (likely for a fan's collection) at bottom.

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.[5]

See also a signature



  1. ^ a b c d e Thompson, Edward Maunde (1911). "Autographs" . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 45–47.
  2. ^ a b c Gove, Philip B. (ed.), 1981. Webster's Third New International Dictionary, p. 147. ISBN 0-87779-206-2
  3. ^ a b 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. ^ Fletcher, Richard A. (1 January 1989). The Quest for El Cid. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195069556 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ "Collection: Autograph Collection | USF Libraries - Tampa Special Collections ArchivesSpace". Retrieved 2023-02-03.

Further reading

  • Collecting Autographs and Manuscripts by Charles Hamilton, Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1961, 269 pages.
  • Autographs and Manuscripts: A Collector's Manual edited by Ed Berkeley, Charles Scribner's Sons Pub., 1978, 565 pages.
  • T.J. Brown's series on Autographs in The Book Collector.