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Autograph

The term autograph derives from Greek ["autógraphon" = written in one's own hand] and refers to a manuscript or original text written in the author's own hand. In general, writings such as letters, cards, documents and manuscripts are all called autographs. Moreover, a text not written entirely in the author's own hand may be called an autograph if it contains additions in his own writing or the author's name is noted in his own hand. Consequently books with entries, emendments or dedications made in the author's hand are classified as autographs. Since Greco-Roman antiquity, collecting autographs for scientific and bibliophile reasons has been a widespread practice and so has collecting the autographs of distinguished writers. Since autographs in both the above senses - and not merely celebrity signatures given to fans - are vehicles for content and can, therefore, be regarded as historical documents, their importance and their value vary depending on the significance of the information thus conveyed or the prominence of the person writing or addressed in writing, further on the grounds of the age, rarity, design, state of preservation and, very simply, the taste prevailing at a given time.