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14 Famous Signatures and The Meanings Behind Them

14 Famous Signatures and The Meanings Behind Them

Do you know your signature can reveal a lot about you. Let’s take a look at 14 famous signatures and the meanings behind them.

Signature Analysis

While some autographs are toned-down and modest, others can be more ostentatious. Signatures are central to a person’s identity because they are part of how we present ourselves to the outside world.

Signature analysis experts evaluate each distinctive feature, down to the slants and angles, to determine different signatures’ meanings in relation to their creators.


14 Famous Signatures and The Meanings Behind Them
Andrew Jackson signed ship passport with unusually large signature, $3,780 via Worthington Galleries

The size of a signature is seen as reflective of a person’s self-esteem and awareness of how others perceive them.

In theory, the bigger the signature, the more outgoing and affable a person presents to the public. Author Jack Kerouac often signed with just his first name in large letters, which could indicate a favorable view of his personal accomplishments.

  • Large: generally associated with greater self-esteem, wants to be recognized, strong sense of self-confidence and mastery of craft
  • Medium: a balanced sense of self, modest, firm understanding of how you are perceived to the outside world
  • Small: low self-esteem and confidence, doesn’t recognize worth, might be deliberately holding back

Read What Does Your Signature Say About You?


Much can be said about the slanting and angles of a person’s signature. Inclination correlates with a person’s expression of feelings and emotions. Inventor Orville Wright’s signature slants slightly upward near the end, suggesting a sense of optimism that is paralleled in the brilliance of inventions.

  • Right slant: generally associated with one who takes initiative, is affectionate and more outgoing
  • Left slant: less motivated, lacks self-esteem, finds it harder to assert themselves emotionally
  • Straight: strong grasp on work-life balance


14 Famous Signatures and The Meanings Behind Them
Andy Warhol lithograph, signed, numbered, €600 – €800 via Novartia (July 2018).

Many signatures are completely illegible, which reflects a desire to remain more mysterious and an inclination towards deflection. The style is not always used in a malevolent manner; rather, it’s possible that the notary is a less efficient communicator. Activist Susan B. Anthony’s signature is written clearly and definitively, suggesting an accomplished, approachable sense of self.

  • Legible (name easily recognizable): generally associated with balanced, strong sense of duty, socially open and straightforward, assertive
  • Semi-legible: impatient, anxious
  • Illegible (completely unrecognizable): lack of self-confidence, tendency toward avoidance
  • First name more legible than surname: approachable and direct, friendly
  • Surname more legible than first name: closed-off, reserved upon first contact, craves familiarity


The use of excess lines in autographs often reflects feelings of assertiveness and the appetite for recognition. English author J. R. R. Tolkien’s signature is underlined, suggesting a sense of self-importance, allowing his accomplishments to shine without explanation or commentary.

  • No underline: generally associated with those who are unassuming, self-assured, doesn’t feel the need to make presence known
  • One underline: wants existence to be recognized but not excessively, could mean lack of confidence in certain circumstances
  • Multiple underlines: takes credit, makes presence well-known, yearning for importance and recognition


14 Famous Signatures and The Meanings Behind Them
Hancock Near Mint Signed Military Appointment, $6,500 via Nate D Sanders Auctions

More elaborate signatures have different embellishments in the form of shapes, lines, and initials. In Albert Einstein’s signature, the famous physicist only uses his first initial “A” when signing to highlight his family name.

  • Strike-throughs: generally associated with those who are self-critical
  • Circles or loops: craves reassurance, overthinks most circumstances
  • Dotting: makes presence known, not easily forgotten
  • Use of initials: private person

Read Revealing Things Your Signature Says about You

Famous Signatures

Every influential creative has their own unique signature. We’ve gathered some of the most famous signatories from various art forms to determine their signatures’ meanings and how those qualities are reflected in their life and work.

14 Famous Signatures and The Meanings Behind Them

Autographs are valuable to collectors for a variety of reasons. Not only do they represent a particularly memorable event or bear historical significance, but they can also reveal a bit about the interests of those who collect them.

The practice of collecting famous signatures dates back to the ancient Romans and Greeks and becomes even more relatable after understanding what a signature can reveal an individual’s personality. As time goes on, signatures will continue to hold value and prestige, depending on scarcity and other important factors.

Looking for more? Click here to explore more famous autographs on Invaluable.
Written by Emma Welsh
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14 Famous Signatures and The Meanings Behind Them


Emma Welsh is a writer at Invaluable, an online auction site that sells decorative art, antiques, literature, collectibles and more! Their blog is dedicated to exploring the history and intricacies behind some of the most exquisite art and collectibles from years past.View Author posts