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In the field of Textual Criticism, the word 'autograph' does not refer just to a signature but to a manuscript, traditionally hand-written on parchment or vellum, by either the writer themselves or by a scribe, from dictation.

But I recently came across the word 'authograph' which I assume is being used in the same context as it is used by John Burgon, a renowned textual critic.

The NGram shows its use and it appears to be still a valid, and not archaic, word. But I can nowhere find - anywhere - a dictionary that contains it, either online or at home.

Does this word mean what I think it means (the original handwritten manuscript of an author) or does it mean something else ?

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The word authograph appears precisely twice in OED3, within the entry for autograph:

Forms: α. 16 authograph, 16 autographe, 16– autograph.

The form authograph is perhaps influenced by author n.

This indicates that the word was in use four hundred years ago*, but isn't now. However, searching for the word yields an interesting extract which includes the words "now especially", indicating that it does have a reasonably fixed modern meaning:

  1. authograph in autograph, n. and adj.
    ...A manuscript written in the author's own handwriting. Now esp.: a composer's handwritten musical score. Cf. holograph...

So yes: it appears it does mean the original handwritten manuscript of an author or composer.

Link to result (logged-in subscribers to OED only)

*It's not clear whether 16 refers to 16th century or 1600s (17th century), but in this case that difference is not particularly significant.

  • 1
    @NigelJ Your profile indicates you're in the UK. Your county library service should provide you with one for nothing (or at least, it's included in your Council Tax). That's how I have mine. – Andrew Leach Oct 31 '17 at 23:31
  • I shall be on the doorstep at 9:00 am demanding my rights. – Nigel J Oct 31 '17 at 23:33
  • "Centuries of use are denoted by the first two digits of their years, e.g. 17 denotes the century 1700-1799." Guide to the Third Edition of the OED – AmE speaker Nov 1 '17 at 0:00

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