One of my students was writing a paper on Joseph Addison’s Will, and because she wanted to verify if the Will was actually in his own hand, she googled for “Joseph Addison” and “handwriting”. Joseph Addison lived from 1672 to 1719, and he is described in Wikipedia as an “English essayist, poet and playwright”. The udent found an image of a letter, watermarked “Photographers Direct.com”. The letter is dated 4 September 1714, and it is held in the British Museum. The web page notes that this image is not free to be used, and that a minimum fee of £50 is charged for using it in print. For the student’s purpose, it was good enough, and she was able to verify that the Will was indeed in Addison’s own hand.
Checking her procedure, I too googled for “Joseph Addison” and “handwriting”, and came across a website that sells images of famous authors with a specimen of their handwriting.
What wonderful things you can buy on the Internet! Would they have such an offer for Jane Austen as well, I wondered, and searched Google with the string “handwriting signature Jane Austen”. The fifth hit was a website that analyses people’s handwriting, and sure enough Jane Austen’s too! Read the analysis for yourself if you’re interested: does it fit what we know about her character?