ABC’s of Book Collecting: Autograph January 16, 2010 – Tags:

Portrait of Edgar Allan Poe by Clark Ashton Smith, circa 1915
with Poe autograph facsimile


In our world it is an adjective (and is better not used as a noun). It is properly applied to a manuscript, a letter or a document, either in the hand of, and preferably signed by, the author of one’s choice, or on the subject of one’s choice; or annotations in books, whether signed or not. Descriptions of the former are commonly buttressed with abbreviations, for which see the list of abbreviations above. It is as well to remember that without the essential preliminary ‘A’, ‘L.s’ must be assumed to be in the hand of another, with only the signature autograph. ‘Q.’, now rare, stands for an autograph extract, if (as often) musical, then in notation, from the author’s or composer’s work, written on a loose sheet, an autograph album leaf, or even a photograph.

The use of autograph as a noun is generally only extended to the writer’s signature, often the hapless victim of the ‘autograph’- collector’s scissors. Albums of such objects now induce melancholy contemplation of the fate of the letters and documents from which they were barbarously shorn.

See A.N.L.Munby’s, The Cult of the Autograph Letter in England 1962, the classic text on this subject.

Previous ABC’s of Book Collecting posts

Carter, John & Nicolas Barker
ABC of Book Collecting. 8th Edition
New Castle, Delaware : Oak Knoll Press, 2004

Buy a copy

Thanks to Oak Knoll Press for permission to reprint

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