The belief that handwriting is a sign of the inner personality is very old. The first serious attempt to analyze handwriting seems to have been that of Camillo Baldi, an Italian scholar, who published a book on the subject in 1622. As literacy spread, handwriting analysis became popular, being practiced as an art form by such literary figures as Goethe, Poe, the Brownings and Dickens. Jean Hippolyte Michon coined the term “graphology” in 1875. Michon systematized handwriting analysis by associating hundreds of graphic signs with specific personality traits.
Around the turn of the century, the French psychologist Alfred Binet performed several experiments with handwriting analysis as a device for testing personality. Binet claimed that handwriting experts could distinguish successful from unsuccessful persons with high accuracy. The German school of handwriting analysis, led by Ludwig Klages, developed a subjective and esoteric approach to graphology, and apparently never even attempted experimental verification of its claims.
There is today no single theory or method that dominates graphology. The French school concentrated on isolated signs as specific indicators of personality, and the Germans sought to make subjective interpretations based on a total impression of a person’s handwriting. In 1929 M. N. Bunker founded “graphoanalysis” as a compromise between these two extreme positions The language and techniques of graphoanalysis seem to be more or less the common graphological practice in the United States today. (Bunker 1971). Bunker founded the International Graphoanalysis Society, which now offers an 18-month correspondence course for analysts. The society is based in Chicago and claims 10,000 active members. The Institute of Graphological Science in Dallas also offers courses and accreditation in graphology, but it is not affiliated with the Graphoanalysis Society. Unless indicated otherwise, I will use the term “graphologist” to refer to a practitioner of any school of handwriting analysis for personality assessment.
Even though there is no canonical school of graphology, some discussion of the practice may be helpful. Remember that the basic assumption underlying graphology is that handwriting is an expression of the personality; hence, a systematic analysis of the way a person forms words and letters will reveal traits of personality. The graphologists are fond of repeating, “Handwriting is brain writing.”
Graphologists look for such features as the slant of characters, the size of individual letters, angularity and curvature, and such non-graphic features as the pressure of upward and downward strokes. In most systems, the slant of the letters is very important.