Object Lessons is a series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things.
Why do we sign our names? How can a squiggle both enslave and liberate? Signatures often require a witness-as if the scrawl itself is not enough. What other kinds of beliefs and longings justify our signing practices?
Signature addresses these questions as it roams from a roundtable on the Greek island of Syros, to a scene of handwriting analysis conducted in an English pub, from a wedding in Moscow, where guests sign the bride’s body, to a San Franciscan tattoo parlor interested in arcane forms.
The signature’s history encompasses ancient handprints on cave walls, autograph hunters, the branding of slaves, metaphysical poetry, medical malpractice, hip-hop lyrics, legal challenges to electronic signatures, ice cores harvested from Greenland, and tales of forgery and autopens.
Part cultural chronicle, part travelogue, Signature pursues the identifying marks made by people, animals, and planetary forces, revealing the stories and fantasies hidden in their signatures.
Object Lessons is published in partnership with an essay series in The Atlantic.