SIGNATURE (through Fr. from Lat. signatura, signare, to sign, signum, mark, token, sign), a distinguishing sign or mark, especially the name, or something representing the name, of a person used by him as affixed to a document or other writing to show that it has been written by him or made in accordance with his wishes or directions (see AUTOGRAPH, MONOGRAM, etc.). In the early sense of something which "signifies," i.e. marks a condition, quality or meaning, the word was formerly also used widely, but now chiefly in technical applications. In old medical theory, plants and minerals were supposed to be marked by some natural sign or symbol which indicated the particular medicinal use to which they could be put; thus yellow flowers were to be used for jaundice, the " scorpion-grass," the old name of the forget-me-not, was efficacious for the bite of the scorpion; many superstitions were based on the human shape of the roots of the mandrake or mandragora; the bloodstone was taken to be a cure for hemorrhage; this theory was known as the " doctrine of signatures." (See T. J. Pettigrew, Superstitions connected with Medicine or Surgery, 1844.) In printing or book-binding the " signature " is a letter or figure placed at the bottom of the first page of a section of a book, as an assistance to the binder in folding and arranging the sections consecutively; hence it is used of a sheet ready folded. In music it is the term applied to the signs affixed at the beginning of the stave showing the key or tonality and the time or rhythm (see MUSICAL NOTATION).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)