Sumerian merchants were the first to codify their transactions in a recognisable script in 3000BC and the earliest understanding of an individual’s character from their handwriting goes back to 500BC when Confucius warned “Beware of a man whose writing sways like a reed in the wind”.
The Italians in the early 17th century were the founders of modern graphology – with activity centred on the city of Bologna, home of the oldest university and where graphology is still taught today. It is from Italy that graphology has become a recognised subject in the study of human nature and identity all over the world.
In the 19th Century France played a major role in laying the foundations for the formal study of graphology. The subject is now taught across the world in Europe, Israel, North and South America, India and China.
Graphology first came to Britain in the 18th century when Gainsborough, among others, was known to have analysed handwriting, Rosa Baugham published ‘Character Indicated by Handwriting’ in 1871 and the Strand Magazine ran articles on the subject. Graphology was in commercial use by the early 1900s while eminent refugee graphologists from Europe taught in England before the Second World War. These included Dr Eric Singer, a pupil of Dr Ludwig Klages, who was the father of modern graphology’.
From the 1930s a number of groups were formed to discuss the subject. In 1980 the USA Library of Congress re-classified the subject of Analytical Graphology under three categories: Diagnostic Graphology, Documentary Evidence and Selection of Personnel.
However it was not until a tremendous initiative by Frank Hilliger, a pupil of Dr Eric Singer that the subject was put on a formal and professional basis in the UK.
Hilliger set about advertising to graphologists, inviting them to discuss the future of the profession. At a meeting with 148 graphologists at the Victory Services Club in London on October 9, 1983, the British Institute of Graphologists was established and the first edition of The Graphologist was produced later in the same year.
Italian doctor Camillo Baldi writes “How to recognise from a letter the nature and quality of a writer”. This is the first known printed publication on the study of handwriting.
Late 18th Century
Gainsborough reputedly keeps his model’s handwriting on the easel whist painting portraits.
French abbot Jean Hyppolyte Michon coins the term "graphology", from the Greek: "graph" meaning 'to write' or 'I write', and 'logos' meaning 'doctrine' or 'theory'.
Wilhelm Preyer, child psychologist, says writing originates in the brain, not in the fingers and that handwriting is actually brainwriting.
Henry Grunfeld, the co-founder of SG Warburg, discovered someone was stealing petty cash at his family firm in Germany. He enlisted the help of a handwriting expert, who promptly identified the culprit. Applicants had to submit samples of handwriting before being accepted for a position. Grunfeld remained convinced of the merits of graphology until his death in 1999 at the age of 95. “There is not one case in 60 years where the graphologist has said something that turns out to be wrong”.
Dr Ludwig Klages, widely regarded as the father of modern graphology, publishes the influential ‘Handwriting and Character’.
1949, 1950, 1953, 1954
Dr Eric Singer, an Austrian, living in England, publishes 'Graphology and Everyman'; 'The Graphologist's Alphabet'; 'Handwriting and Marriage'; ‘Personality in Handwriting'.
Francis T. Hilliger, (a student of Dr Eric Singer's) sets up his company ‘Handwriting Analysis Ltd’. His business encompasses personnel selection, tuition, graphotherapy (which proposed that negative emotions can result in disease) and work at London’s Old Bailey as an ‘expert witness’. He devises a method for assessing the degree of any trait or characteristic in a sample of handwriting, setting the (first) standards for student examination in the UK.