Thursday, August 9, 2012

Identifying the signature of actor Roger Livesey

Many old bonds and shares have a handwritten signature. Frequently the writing is hard to read. Recently I learned a trick that can help you identify a signature.

Adam Films Ltd was active in the British film industry
share certificate for 25 Shares of 1 Pound
representing 1/6th of the initial capital, issued in 1949
printed by Chas, Davy & Co. Ltd
double-click to enlarge image

Roger Livesey
The certificate above was issued to Roger Livesey Productions Ltd. Roger Livesey (25 Jun 1906 – 4 Feb 1976) was a British stage and film actor. Between 1921 and 1970 Livesey featured in not less than 40 movies, often teaming up on scene with his wife Ursula Jeans. During World War II, together they volunteered to entertain the troops. Livesey played the lead role in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) which established Livesey's international reputation. 

The London Gazette from April 10 1975 announced the Adam Films company had ceased its operations, a few months before Roger Livesey passed away. 

detail from the share certificate showing signature of Roger Livesey
This looks like Roger Livesey's signature.

Skewing and stretching a signature
With some good will, the signature above can be read as Roger Livesey. But you can make it more readable by skewing and stretching the image. These image editing functions are available in image editing programs such as Microsoft Paint. This is the result :

The signature is more readable now. The image results from applying the following image editing operations to the original :
  • Skew horizontally : -40 Degrees
  • Stretch horizontally : 120 Percent

Here are some guidelines  :
  • When the handwriting inclines
    • to the right, then use a negative number of horizontal skew degrees, e.g. -40°
    • to the left, then use a positive number of horizontal skew degrees, e.g. 30°
  • When the characters appear
    • flattened, a 'n' looks like a '_', then use a vertical stretching percentage larger than 100, e.g. 130%
    • narrow, a 'd' looks like a '/', then use a horizontal stretching percentage larger than 100, e.g. 140%

Caution: being able to identify the name in a signature, does not mean the person actually wrote it. On stocks and bonds, a signature was often written by someone else, a secretarial signer. In our example this is maybe improbable, but possible. I don't have any further references to signatures of Roger Livesey.

MS Paint window displaying the Stretch and Skew functions.

Online software
MS Paint is available on Windows PC's and it works extremely well. There are online alternatives. Sumo Paint 4.2 is a free online image editor. The image editing functions here are called Transform and Rotate. Below you'll see the result on the signature of the Swiss entrepreneur Eduard Guyer-Freuler. The original signature was shown in an earlier article, see here .

Example with the online editor Sumo Paint
double-click to enlarge image

Does anyone know about a free app for iPad or an android smart phone with similar image stretching and skewing functions? I have searched but so far without succes. 

Applicable to other disciplines than scripophily
Precisely, you can use this identification method in other collecting disciplines as well. Originally I read about it in a post on E-Sylum, the free eNewsletter of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society. In that article a generous collector shared his experience with the identification of a much harder to read signature present on an old banknote. You can read it here.

In some cursive writings, the characters are written extremely narrowed, flattened or skewed. I'm sure you know someone in your family to whom this may apply. In such cases this technique will not help you to identify a signature, but anyway, I would be happy to learn about other approaches.


References :

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