THE HISTORY OF GRAPHOLOGY
The first specialized book dealing with the relationship between handwriting and the character of the writer was published in 1622 in Capri by Camillo Baldi (Baldo), an Italian, who was both Doctor of Medicine and Philosophy and Professor of Theoretical Medicine at the University of Bologna. Another Italian professor, this time of Anatomy, called Marcus Aurelius Severinus, wrote a book on the same subject about the same time; but he died from the plague in 1656 before it was published. From the mid-seventeenth century onwards, the number of articles and treatises on this topic continued to increase. The most important of them are the studies of the Swiss physiognomist Lavater in the eighteenth century and a book by the French writer Hocquart which appeared in 1812, at first anonymously.
The real origins of modern graphology are to be found in France. A study circle formed amongst the members of the higher French clergy systematically examined the relationship between human qualities and their graphic expression in handwriting. Cardinal Regnier, Archbishop of Cambrai, Bishop Boudinet of Amiens and the Abbe Flandrin belonged to this study group. Flandrin later became the teacher of the man who is the acknowledged founder of modern graphology as a science, Jean Hippolyte Michon (1806-81); Michon also established the name Graphology which is composed of the Greek words grapho, meaning I write, and logos, which means theory or doctrine. The Abbe Michon, like most of the great graphological research workers before and after him, was a man of wide knowledge with many spheres of interest. In the course of his long life he published not only novels but also books on many topics; but the sphere in which he won the greatest success and everlasting fame was graphology, where he formulated almost all the signs and rules on which it is still based. Michon, who himself called graphology an art, worked only by experience and observation. In the course of years of study, he compared the handwriting of thousands of people whose character was familiar to him. With his intuitive genius and great faculties of observation, he found the graphic signs which writers with similar qualities and deficiencies have in common. With the help of his collaborators, Delestre and Debarolle, he collected the signs of almost every human quality and published them from 1872 onwards. By his life work Michon produced an invaluable catalogue, so far unsurpassed, of graphological signs and rules based on his own experience. He did not attempt, however, to explain the probable reasons for the production of these signs, or to connect the psychology of handwriting with other branches of physiology or psychology, or to form a theoretical system.
The French school which followed him, led by his eminent pupil, Jules Crepieu-Jamin, continued to emphasize experience and empirical comparison in their graphological research. However, Crepieu-Jamin abandoned Michon’s doctrine of definite signs, which point to only one meaning, and elaborated a more subtle system of co-ordination of dominant signs. A society for the study of graphology was founded by Depoin, who also edited a periodical. Thus a centre of research and discussion was created, which attracted many illustrious Frenchmen including Dr. Binet, Director of the Sorbonne, Arsene Aruss and G. Tarde the sociologist. This tradition is upheld by the modern French school.
The theoretical system of graphology, based on physiology and psychology and its connection with the other branches of characterology, was the work of the German school. In Germany a contemporary of Michon, Adolf Hentze, worked as a graphological practitioner for a Leipzig periodical and by a series of correct handwriting analyses not only thrilled the readers of the paper but also drew attention to the subject. The books and articles, however, which this writer published did not help the development of research, the impetus for which came from Austria. Here E. Schwiedland, later a Professor of Economics, published articles and a book based on the discoveries of the French school. Later, Schwiedland’s interest was fully absorbed by economics, but his pupils, for instance, the gifted Austrian woman Rudolphine Poppee and the German Wilhelm Langenbruch, worked on so that the new science should be recognized. Langenbruch, a very able expert, founded in 1895 a periodical entirely devoted to graphology. He introduced two medical doctors to assist his researches and these later became his chief collaborators. One of them, Dr. William Preyer, a University Professor of Medical Physiology, was born in England. He went as a child to Germany and became the founder of the new theory which took into account the physiology, psychology and pathology of handwriting and so connected graphology with the other achievements of modern science.
In 1897, a second graphological periodical was founded in Germany, also a society for graphological research. The founder of both was Hans Busse, a gifted practitioner and an able organizer who edited a critical German edition of Crepieu-Jamin’s main works. The chief contributors to Busse’s periodical were Dr. Georg Meyer and Busse’s assistant editor, Dr. Ludwig Klages. Dr. Georg Meyer was psychiatrist to a German mental home. He wrote a book in which he systematically analysed the scientific and theoretical basis of handwriting psychology, in particular the spontaneity of writing impulses. The great importance of Meyer was overshadowed only by the eminence of Dr. Ludwig Klages, the most important research worker and the acknowledged high-priest of the German theoretical school. His achievements and those of Michon together form the real basis of graphology.
Klages, who later moved to Switzerland, wrote many books on problems of philosophy and the psychology of expression. He was the first to create a complete and systematic theory of graphology. It was he who first saw in it the expression of human personality as a whole, and fitted it into its place with the other doctrines of human expression and characterology. He brought the basic elements of handwriting, into a system clearly defining the various meanings of every single handwriting trend, according to a general law of polarity (that is, the same trend can denote one quality in one handwriting and the converse of the same quality in another). Klages based his researches on a conception of writing as a conflict between natural impulses and rhythms on the one hand, and mental discipline on the other. He worked out a new system of analysis determined by a general standard of handwriting. For him the standard of writing is high when the writer succeeds in reconciling his genuine personal rhythm with the requirements of disciplined writing; the standard is lower by the degree to which he fails to achieve this reconciliation. By analysing the changeable and unchangeable elements in handwriting, he found a way to reveal both intentional and unintentional disguise. But in spite of his great merits, Klages’ system also had deficiences. In the first place, he overemphasized his personality conception; his somewhat rigid system of compressing human nature into standards of value based on his ideals of personality does not allow for the relativity of all tendencies in human character. He is opposed to the idea that potential faculties of the same human being can develop in opposite directions and that the positive and negative aspects of the same writing tendency can consist in the same person.
Secondly, Klages’ intellectualism, and his tendency to supercilious condescension in appreciating the achievements of the French empirical school, prevented graphology from developing discoveries by experience and practical achievement, and inclined it to a more sterile study of characterological theory. Thirdly, his slight knowledge of the peculiarities of national characters and handwritings confined his practical achievements to the zone of specifically German text-book writings and to a specific German conception of character. Fourthly, his somewhat Carlylean conception of personality resulted in his ignoring the Freudian and other schools of thought, and so he missed the connection between graphology and the modern psychology of the unconscious.
These last two points—the peculiarities of national handwriting and the connection between graphology and the psychology of the unconscious—were developed by two other men who, basing their ideas on those of Klages, filled the gap to a certain extent.
The first was Robert Saudek, who came from Czechoslovakia and finished his main works in England. He was a polyglot who wrote some of his books in English and some in German. He was especially concerned with the differences between national characters and national copy-book writing. He made a special study of English handwriting, in particular the criterion of speed which is a most important factor. Thus he created a basis for the application of continental research to English handwriting.
The second was Max Pulver, the Swiss, one of the most ingenious of the present generation of graphologists. He partially abandoned Klages’ abstract and idealistic conception of personality, and linked graphology with the discoveries of the psychology of the unconscious. He emphasized the strong symbolic element in handwriting, and especially illuminated the problem of what the writing space symbolizes in the writer’s mind.
Apart from these general fields of research, many specialized fields have been investigated by different authors. Here are just a few of them.
(1) The identification of handwriting in law-cases has been dealt with by Michon himself, by Dr. Meyer, Busse, the German Schneickert, Weingart and the Austrian Dr. Gross.
(2) The writing of criminals has been extensively studied by Crepieu-Jamin, Langenbruch, Pulver, the Italian psychiatrist, Professor Lombroso, the Austrian Dr. Wieser and many others.
(3) There are excellent studies of children’s handwriting by the Frenchman Couilliaux, and a German lady Mina Becker. The German Bahnsen wrote a book to show how graphology can be used for educational purposes.
(4) The expression of the sexual character in handwriting has been investigated, and thrilling discoveries have been made by Georg and Anja Mendelssohn.
(5) Monographs have been written by the Swiss Keller and by the Frenchman Duparchy on the writing of addresses and signatures.
(6) The graphological characteristics of illnesses have been dealt with in many books. A general diagnosis of all illnesses has been attempted, as for instance in the book by Duparchy, but these attempts have so far proved unsatisfactory. There are, however, many valuable studies of the writing of patients suffering from mental and nervous diseases also of degenerates, made by Lombroso, the German Koster, the Austrian psychiatrist Pick, the Frenchman Dr. Rogues de Fursac and many others.
(7) Handwriting and professional choice have been dealt with by the French collaborating under the direction of Pierre Foix.
Finally a few words on the development of graphology in England. As already mentioned, many great English writers and artists have been attracted by handwriting. A lot of clever remarks on the subject have been made by Scott, Poe, the Brownings, Byron, the painter Gainsborough, Disraeli and others. The first Englishman to deal extensively with the relation between character and handwriting was Stephen Collett, alias Thomas Beverley, who published his book in 1823.
Continental graphology was introduced to England and made popular by Shooling, who translated the main work of Crepieu-Jamin. An English lady Rosa Vaughan also wrote a very useful text-book. The work of the” German theoretical school, was brought to England by Robert Saudek, the handwriting expert, novel-writer and polyglot from Prague. Saudek had many pupils of whom one, C. H. Brooks, wrote a textbook based on Saudek’s system which was translated into German. In the last years before the 1939-45 war another fairly prominent continental graphologist, H. J. Jacoby, came to England and published some books here, in which he used photographic illustrations in a very clever way to explain the connection between features of handwriting and their pictorial parallels in nature and in human movements.