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Any manuscript handwritten by its author; in common usage, a handwritten signature. Aside from its value as a collector's item, an early or corrected draft of a work may show its stages of composition or correct final version. The earliest autograph signature of a famous person is probably the Cid's, dated 1096. There exist autographs of most of the great Renaissance figures, including Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Ludovico Ariosto. Since the 18th century, autograph material of notable people in the arts, sciences, or public life has been more abundant.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on autograph, visit Britannica.com.