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About Graphology

An Abbreviated History of Graphology

Since the beginning of written communication, from prehistoric cave painting to the development of alphabets in the various countries, there has been interest in the relationship between the written symbols and the character of the writer.

Over 300 years before the Christian era, the Greek Philosopher Aristotle observed that “written words are the symbols of spoken words” and “all men have not the same writing.”  He and his students dealt with writing and the information concealed within the writing itself.

Some Chinese sages in the east and Romans in the west, made observations about the formations of letters.  King Jo-Hau (1060 and 1110 AD,) a philosopher and painter of the Sung Period  declared that “handwriting infallibly shows us whether it comes from a vulgar or a noble minded person.” 

The first known systematic attempts to describe the relationship between handwriting and personality were made in Italy in the 17th century.  Alderisius Prosper published a study entitled “Ideographia.  Camillo Baldi, a physician and professor of medicine at the University of Bologna, followed him with a treatise presenting a method for judging the nature of a writer from his lettersHis text is called “Treatise on a method to recognize the nature and quality of a writer from his letters.”

Long after Baldi, curiosity about the possible revelations to be found in handwriting began to interest poets and philosophers such as: Shakespeare, Goethe, Edgar Allan Poe, George Sand, Dumas, Zola, C.G. Jung, Chekhov and Albert Einstein.  Fascinated by discovering the intimate link between handwriting and character, they came up with sharp observations about personality portraits that were amazingly accurate.

In the 19th century, French priest and scholar Abbe’ Flandrin and his disciple, the Abbe’ Jean-Hippolyte Michon of Paris, devoted their lives to the study of handwriting.  Michon, who is recognized as the Founder of European Graphology, possessed a methodical mind, an extraordinary gift of observation and a photographic memory.  After studying minute details of thousands of handwriting samples, he defined them as “elements of the handwriting.”  He regarded each of these graphic elements as a “sign” to be interpreted as an outward index of an inner attribute.  After 30 years of study, Michon published his system of handwriting analysis.  He coined the name “Graphology,” which became widely known and accepted after his publication of  “Les Mysteres de L’ecriture” in 1872 and “La Methode Pratique de Graphologie” in 1878.  His basic assumption was that each graphological sign corresponds to a personality trait, and that the absence of a specific sign indicates the lack of its matching trait.  Michon is credited with arousing an interest in Graphology and the thoroughness of observation he introduced in the field. 

Jules Crepieux-Jamin (1858-1940), a follower of Michon, broke the tradition of examining individual “signs” or traits and related to handwriting analysis as a whole, thus giving Graphology its modern orientation.  The development of Psychology, Freudian Psychoanalysis, Gestalt and other approaches also supported this new, far-reaching direction in Graphology. 

Toward the end of the 19th century, several German scientists began to make important contributions to the field.  Wilhelm Preyer, a professor at the University of Jena, was the author of Zur Psychologie des Schreibens (The Physiology of Writing.)   He established that handwriting was actually “brain-writing” by comparing the similarities in the handwritings of people who lost their arms with writings they made holding the writing instrument in their foot or mouth.

German psychiatrist George Meyer related individuals’ writings to their emotions.  As German psychologists and psychiatrists became interested in Graphology, they soon produced scholars who laid the foundation for Graphology as it is today.  The application of the Gestalt theory to handwriting analysis is attributed to Dr. Ludwig Klages (1872-1956) a German handwriting analyst, philosopher and psychologist who started publishing articles and essays on handwriting analysis in 1904.  Especially significant is “Handwriting and Character” published in 1940.  He made the study of Graphology his life’s work and is known today as the “father of modern Graphology.” 

Max Pulver, a Swiss professor at the University of Zurich, applied the psychoanalytic approach of Freud and psychological methods of Adler and Jung to handwriting analysis.  In Pulver’s book “Symbolism of Handwriting” (1940), he discusses the interpretation of handwriting and its relationship to some unconscious mythological or ancient symbols.  He developed the importance of interpreting upper, lower and middle zones of writing.

Others stand out for their contributions in refining the principles of Klages.  Robert Saudek, a native Australian who spent much of his life in England and the United States, studied with psychologists June Downey and Frank Freeman.  Author of “The Psychology of Handwriting” (1920), and “Experiments with Handwriting” (1929), Saudek conducted many experiments on the speed of handwriting, which he considered an important indicator of the spontaneity of the writing and relevancy to every analysis.

Professor Rudolph Pophal, a Hamburg neurologist, established a method of classifying people into categories based on motoric movements.  Pophal published several books and publications in the field on Kinetic Graphology. 

Until recently, the United States has lagged behind Europe in an interest in Graphology.  American Milton Bunker founded a standardized system of handwriting analysis known as Graphoanalysis.  He began his career as a shorthand teacher and was familiar with numerous shorthand systems. He noticed that his students, who were taught shorthand by the same instructor from the same textbooks, did not produce the shorthand characters in the same way.  After analyzing thousands of handwriting samples and studying various European sources, he developed Graphoanalysis in 1929 and a school, the International Graphoanalysis Society, to teach his methods.  Bunker is credited with taking a middle-of-the-road approach, combining the intuitive approach of the German School with the strict interpretation of signs.  This method, called Graphoanalysis, is a system of identifying basic handwriting strokes, relating them to the particular personality traits and evaluating the relative strengths of different traits of the writer.

Bunker died in 1961 and the leadership of the International Graphoanalysis Society fell to psychologist V. Peter Ferrara.  Ferarra stressed exacting standards for those practicing handwriting analysis and encouraged research studies.

Thea Stein Lewinson, Werner Wolf and Klara Roman are additional American contributors of note.  Lewinson, who practiced Graphology in Germany before she came to America, was involved in research in the field of psychosomatic medicine with physicians.  She also investigated the writings of children and emotionally disturbed people.  In collaboration with Joseph Zubin, Lewinson published “Handwriting Analysis: A Series of Scales for Evaluating the Dynamic Aspects of Handwriting” (1942).  They combined clinical judgments with objective measurements to get a complex score.  They were particularly interested in the rhythmic balance in writing, which they considered an important indicator of normalcy.

Werner Wolf is another German-trained graphologist who studied at the University of Barcelona and the Sorbonne in Paris before arriving in the United States in 1939.  His expertise in a variety of languages led him to be fascinated by both the physiology and psychology of handwriting.  In his book “Diagrams of the Unconscious” (1948), he states that man in his handwriting or artistic expression communicates not only his conscious thoughts but also his underlying thoughts of which he is unaware.

The late Kara Roman, who was trained in Hungary, studied the relationship between speech and handwriting.  She found the handwritings of those with speech disorders showed poor rhythm, split letter formations and a general lack of fluency. 

Around 1938, Roda Wieser conducted a landmark graphological research in her ten year study on the writings of criminals.  She is credited with discovering the “basic rhythm”, and developed theories concerning criminal tendencies.

In Europe, Graphology is one of the oldest psychological approaches for the study of personality, and it was widely used before the advent of psychoanalysis, Gestalt theory, social anthropology or projective techniques. An important step toward acceptance in the United States was made in 1980 when the Library of Congress recognized Graphology as a science and changed the Dewey Decimal System classification for Graphology from the Occult section to a place in the Psychology section.  Now in the 21st Century more and more businesses and individuals throughout the world are experiencing the benefits of using handwriting analysis. 

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