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Holograph vs Autograph

Page history last edited by Alison 13 years, 4 months ago

Holograph vs. Autograph:


Discussed the use of holograph vs . autograph manuscript at April 2010 meeting a the Folger Shakespeare Library.


During 5/2010 review of DCRM(Music) discovered use of term “holograph” instead of term “autograph” in standard. Seems to be following Chapter 4 of AACR2.






4.7B1Nature, scope, or form. Make notes on the nature of a manuscript or a collection of manuscripts unless it is apparent from the rest of the description. Use one of the following terms, as appropriate:


holograph(s) (for manuscripts handwritten by the person(s) responsible for the work(s) contained therein)

ms. (for all other handwritten manuscripts)

mss. (for all other collections of handwritten manuscripts)




If the item is signed, add signed.

                        Holograph, signed


Webster’s New International



A document, as a letter, deed, or will, wholly in the hand of the person from whom it proceeds and whose act it purports to be. [It goes on to describe how the term is used in various kinds of law, implying  that it’s meant to be used in a legal context.]



In the author’s own handwriting; as, an autograph letter; an autograph will.


DACS doesn’t list either term in its glossary.


AMREMM  glossary


A signature written by the individual to whom it belongs.


A manuscript in the handwriting of its author.


APPM doesn’t have a glossary:

For its part, APPM does include a few instances of the use of the term holograph: 1.1E1, 4th example (Holograph petition) and 1.1F, 2nd example (Divorce : holograph).

In footnote 5 on p. 14, it describes autograph as: in the hand of the author; and holograph(s) as: manuscript(s) handwritten by the author.




holograph :

a deed, letter, or document: Wholly written by the person in whose name it appears. [Most of the examples are in a legal context.]



That which is written in a person’s own handwriting; the author’s own manuscript. The adjective is defined as: Written in the author’s own handwriting. Also used of a painting done by the painter himself, not by an imitator.


Richard Pearce-Moses definitions:


Holograph: n. ~ 1. Handwriting. 2. An original document entirely in the handwriting of its author.


Synonym: Manuscript


Manuscript: n. (ms, abbr.) ~ 1. A handwritten document. 2. An unpublished document. 3. An author's draft of a book, article, or other work submitted for publication.


Notes: Other abbreviations include mss for manuscripts (plural) and MsS for manuscript signed. Manuscript1 is principally text or musical notation on paper, but may be supplemented by drawings. Typewritten documents are generally classified as manuscripts but are more accurately described as typescripts.


Synonym: holograph


Autograph: n. (auto, abbr.) ~ 1. An individual's handwritten signature. 2. A document written in the author's hand; a holograph. 3. Materials bearing the author's signature.


v. ~ 4. To sign by hand.


adj. ~ 5. Handwritten.




J.N. to DCRM(Music): “We on the DCRM(MSS) editorial group have decided to drop the term "holograph" in favor of the term "autograph" to mean a manuscript in the author's hand. We realize that the term is not unproblematic because "autograph" has also come to mean "signature" in common parlance, however in the archives and manuscripts community the term "autograph" has generally come to be accepted as the correct term to use when referring to something in the author's hand. On the other hand, the term "holograph" continues to flummox people, and there seems to be a strong tendency of moving away from it, as it has been found to be confusing, ambiguous, and not particularly helpful to scholars. I just wanted to share with you what our thinking was around this particular term.”


J. N.: “Holograph apparently means

> > "entirely in the author's hand"; is there enough of a difference between

> > "in the author's hand" and "entirely in the author's hand" to justify

> > continuing using that word? I believe we decided there was not.”        


From D. Ducharme: “We did decide to kill holograph. . . . No one but catalogers even recognizes the word, and even catalogers

> disagree about what it means.

> > I suppose the music people can argue that the word has special status

> for music description and that they need it, but in the broader world

> of manuscripts in general I think it is just useless....


H. W.: “manuscript specialists find the term to be useless and misleading and ambiguous. If they are using it to talk about music manuscripts, they should try to align themselves with our preferences as much as possible, right?”


A. B.: “[DCRM(Music)] may have chosen to use the word holograph

> instead of autograph because of the confusion of what autograph can mean.”


L. O’Keefe: “"Holograph" is the term used in AACR2; that is probably why the music

> catalogers  are sticking to it (go down with the sinking ship). I'm a

> little surprised that the bib standards committee didn't challenge us

> on this, but I think their concern about consistency is directed

> chiefly to maintaining consistency with DCRM, not with AACR, and I

> don't believe either term is used in DCRM-B (it's not in the Glossary,

> at any rate).

"Autograph" is the term consistently used in APPM, which reflects

> mainstream ms cataloging (have you ever seen HLS or HM or HM as

> abbreviations?). That is why we went with it. I would be curious to

> know whether it is actually used in preference to  "autograph" by

> catalogers of music manuscripts (as opposed to just echoing AACR).”


M. N.: “if we can’t make a slam-dunk case by

> referring to the dictionary, we can still make the case that the term holograph is obscure and people don’t know what it means.”


K. M.: “we might have an appendix with commonly-used terms for material type (not a prescriptive list) and that for holograph we will say "See Autograph."

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