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AD 120 - Roman historian Suetonius always noted particular characteristics of the handwriting of the emperor whose biography he was writing and in the 11th century Chinese King and philosopher Jo-Hau said “Handwriting infallibly shows whether it comes from a noble-minded or a vulgar person”.

In Europe during the Middle Ages writing was an art, particularly practised by monks. Only in the 12th and 13th centuries did writing begin to be generally used by educated people, as a result of the influence of Islamic culture, and increasingly so since the Renaissance. Apart from the more formal and artistic writing achievements of calligraphists and professional writers employed by courts and authoritative bodies, handwritings expressive of individual personality came more and more into prominence. To the same extent attention was drawn to the individual character of handwriting.

The first detailed work was published in Capri in 1622 by Camillo Baldi, who was both Doctor of Medicine and Philosophy and Professor of Theoretical Medicine at the University of Bologna. Studies and treatises appeared subsequently in Italy, Switzerland and France, but the subject was not likely to have the intellectual appeal during the following centuries of reason and proof-based emphasis, and it remained an obscure study for another 100 years or so, not even acquiring a name.

Modern graphology originated in a circle of the higher French clergy in the mid-19th century. A pupil of this group, Abbé Jean Michon, established the name graphology - Grapho = I write and logos - theory or doctrine. L’Abbé Michon recorded his experienced observations in 3 books published between 1870 and 1875 and produced a comprehensive catalogue of signs and rules. However he didn’t attempt to explain why these might hold true or try to interpret the movements in terms of mental behaviour patterns. This was the start of the study of graphology although later European schools of graphology rejected Michon’s catalogue of definite signs in favour of more subtle groupings and tendencies, patterns and trends in the writing. Michon believed that, for instance, if your writing was curved you were a pleasant and accommodating person, but if your writing showed lack of curves you weren’t. Further study has shown this not to be true - the pleasantness and accommodation can be shown in other aspects of the writing.

Michon’s pupil Jules Crépieux-Jamin lived until 1940 and was a powerful influence in European graphology. He devised a more elaborate system of 175 signs divided into 7 groups. His insistence that any one sign in the writing must, like a jigsaw piece, be considered in relation to all the other signs, remains an important principle of graphology.

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