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In all examinations of questioned signatures to determine the

individual habit of the writer the use of the compound microscope is a

necessity to obtain the best field for study and analysis for the

reason that the most important details are often so minute that they

cannot be seen with the naked eye in sufficient size to determine

their individual character and accuracy. A magnifying glass has but a

field in this class of work, for it is not easily held in

position steadily for continued observation and study, besides it has

not the requisite power for the work. The lower powers of the compound

microscope are but available for the examination of signatures for the

reason that when the higher powers are used but little of the

signature is in the field of vision, although the power of the lens

may be increased when some particular point or feature in the writing

requires greater enlargement for more perfect definition. The higher

powers of the microscope are sometimes used to ascertain the character

of inks with which the writing is done, and also to determine the

character of the paper on which a signature is written, which at times

becomes important. For all practical uses of the microscope in the

examination of signatures the range of object enlargement occurring

between a three-inch and an inch objective will be found to answer the

purpose, as the various powers of the lenses become important in

making the analysis.

While it is a fact that the microscope and a knowledge of its uses is

of the greatest importance in ascertaining the character of the

signatures, when the question of their being forged or genuine is the

object of the examination, it does not follow that because a person is

learned in the use of the microscope in other fields of research that

he is therefore qualified to become an expert in handwriting. A

peculiar education made practically applicable by experience in this

latter field of study is absolutely necessary to determine with

accuracy what the microscope reveals, and its importance to give value

to any conclusions reached by its use. The connection of effect with

cause, and the determination of the latter as a matter of individualism

cannot be accomplished merely from what is seen under the microscope.

The examiner must by experience and education be fitted to ascertain

from personal characteristics manifested in the writing of a signature

necessitated their appearance as a matter of individuality.

From one of the best-known European experts on handwriting and who has

figured conspicuously in important cases some interesting facts

relative to this subject recently were learned. To the question, "What

is the primary requisite for a conscientious opinion on the

genuineness of any submitted handwriting?" this expert unhesitatingly

replied, "An utter and entire absence of either feeling or prejudice.

In other words, one should be perfectly dispassionate when engaged in

such a work and use a first-class compound microscope."

To make his analysis the expert uses a microscope of great power, and

by a strict and close attention to the subject-matter he can determine

the exact means or methods employed in making the individual letters

and the formation of the words and also the several inks that were

used. Handwriting as defined by this expert is a mechanical operation

pure and simple. Its general excellence or the reverse is largely

dependent on the education which the hand has received. When a man

sits down to write he mechanically reproduces on paper what is in his

mind, and this may be said to be his natural handwriting. Should he

stop to think even for a moment, not of what he is transferring to the

paper but of the writing itself, he instantly ceases to write his

natural hand, the transcription becoming only a copy or drawing from


In the opinion of the expert, emphatically expressed, a person never

writes twice exactly alike. This is stated to be the point around

which all his subsequent developments revolve when examining a

manuscript. Let several examples of the natural handwriting of an

individual be compared. It is true that there will be a general

similarity, but, as has been asserted, when placed in juxtaposition or

subjected to a careful comparison under a microscope no two words or

letters will be found to be alike. Thus it is not the similarity

between two pieces of writing that would arouse suspicion with some

experts, but rather the natural dissimilarity. Based on this point

such experts occupy a distinct position by themselves, since other

experts take what is called the positive side. With the first-named

class, however, handwriting is a science of negatives. A good

microscope will always be found a good detective in determining the

genuineness of handwriting.

By way of illustrating one method of forgery interesting material

which had played an important part in a court case was carefully

examined. It consisted of five or six graded photographic enlargements

of the duplicate signature which were carefully examined with the aid

of a microscope. The original had been made by an elderly person and

the forger had used the tracing process. To the naked eye it appeared

to be a capital copy; in fact, it seemed to bear every semblance of

being genuine. In the first enlargement of several diameters certain

inaccuracies of tracing could be discerned, only, however, after

attention had been called to them by an expert. In the next

enlargement these same errors were more apparent, and so on through

the series. The largest photograph was magnified several hundred

diameters greater than the original and stretched across quite an area

of paper. From an examination of this largest one with a microscope it

was evident that the forger first had traced his copy with pencil,

afterward going over it with ink, but so irregularly had his pen

followed the pencil lines that in certain portions of this enlargement

there was room for a man's fist between the first tracing and its inky


In trying to detect forged handwriting every letter of the alphabet,

wherever written, may be examined with a microscope for the following

characteristics: Size, shading, position relative to the horizontal

line, inclination relative to the vertical line, sharpness of the

curves and angles, proportion and relative position of the different

parts, and elaboration or extension of the extremities. In scarcely

one of these particulars can a man make two letters so much alike that

they cannot be distinguished by microscopical examination.

Although a great deal can be determined in a general way by close

observation with the naked eye, it is always best to employ some

magnifying power--usually an ordinary hand lens or pocket magnifier

will suffice--but the writer has found it better to use a microscope

objective of low power (four or five diameters), which is provided

with an easily slipping sleeve, terminating in a diaphragm which cuts

out the light entering the outside rim of the lens. This sleeve may be

pushed out for one or two centimeters, and the particular spot under

examination isolated from the adjacent parts without undue

magnification. It is one of the popular fallacies that a high

magnifying power is desirable in all cases of difficulty, but usually

the reverse is the case in questions of handwriting.

Experts have sometimes impressed the jury with the fact that they had

employed on some thick and opaque document, powers of several hundred

diameters without the lately applied illumination from the side,

reflected by a glass plate, introduced obliquely into the tube of

the microscope. Without such aid no microscopist need be told that

the light would be wanting to illuminate the field under these

circumstances. The best authorities prescribe a magnifying power of

not more than ten diameters for ordinary observation. For special

purposes higher powers are sometimes useful. An ocular examination of

the ink in the various parts of a written paper, document or

instrument of any kind will generally decide whether it is the same.