Wonder Why Wednesday

Who Signed The First Autograph?

The great thing about writing a Wonder Why Wednesday post is that almost anything is fair game. I can cover topics spanning from the Fast and the Furious franchise, to daylight savings time, to why our belly buttons fill up with lint.

Very rarely do I wonder about something that can’t be answered.

This week, however, I thought I just might be stumped.

As a kid, I used to love collecting autographs. Whether it be famous sports stars or Disney characters, I had a drawer full of signed memorabilia. I still look fondly on the collection, mostly because it reminds me of my childhood, but now that I am older, these signed items seem a little odd.

When you really think about it, my collection is just a bunch of pieces of paper with random people’s names on them. I guess it is proof that I really met the person, but why do we get so excited about seeing someone’s name written down on something?

That led me to today’s Wonder Why Wednesday–the one I didn’t think would have an answer.

I want to know who signed the first autograph. That seemed like a pretty steep request and I didn’t expect to find an actual answer. But low and behold I was wrong. All it took was a quick Google search. That will teach me to underestimate the power of the Internet.

Who Signed The First Autograph?

According to Guinness World Records, “the earliest surviving examples of autographs are those made by scribes on cuneiform clay tablets from Tell Abu Salãbikh, Iraq, dated to the early Dynastic III A period c. 2600 BC.” The signer was named ‘a-du’ and he added ‘dub-sar’ after his name, thus translating to ‘Adu, scribe’.

The oldest signature on a papyrus is that of the scribe Amen’aa, which dates back to the Egyptian middle kingdom, in 2130 BC. This autograph is held in the Leningrad (St Petersburg) Museum, Russia.

No word on who those autographs were originally signed for.