Roger that, CEDAR

Posted By on February 1, 2012


An Old Man and the Sea: Herman Melville. Engraving kindness Barry Moser.

Well, its been a few weeks since I’ve done a post, and I can only plead in my own defense for such lack of productivity that I have in fact been very productive indeed, just not on Facebook or on this blog  (Hey, we old fuddy-duddy scholars have to do real work sometimes…..with such primitive tools as WORD, pencils, and pieces of paper, read and comment on student papers, and all of the usual academic fol-de-rol).

Here’s the News that’s fit to print:

1) I haven’t mentioned here yet that Lynne Kositsky and I have had our Tempest book accepted by McFarland.  The manuscript will be delivered in June.

We are grateful to have the assistance of such a well established and professional academic publisher. So during a good bit of January I stayed with Lynne and Michael to put a few finishing touches on the manuscript.

2) I’ve been working hard on a classified de Vere project to be discussed at the Spring Concordia conference.

3) This is the best.  The internet is a strange and wonderful place, a kind of eddy in time-space where all sorts of rickety old broken pieces from the past seem to be swirling around to the dervish music, diamonds and junk alike.

Having grown up in Washington State, where the tides of the Pacific pile the driftwood high and shuttle on their bouncing waves the Japanese glass fishing floats of yesteryore,  I like to go beachcombing  as frequently as possible. I find  it works on the internet too.

Sometimes you will even find that what were looking for was yourself, and —  there you are.

A few days ago  I accepted Richard Waugaman’s invitation to join Google scholar.

When you join Google Scholar the first thing you will see is a list of all the papers Google scholar has by you as well as those who’ve cited you (whether to cuss you out or add something significant to the conversation).  While I was looking over the list of publications I’ve written and I discovered one I forgot I had written (well, actually, listed as a rather inconsequential co-author along with the folks who actually did most of the work), and didn’t know had been published.  And if you were ever going to find such a paper on the internet, this little gem from the good folks at CEDAR  (Center of Excellence for Document  Analysis and Recognition at the University of Buffalo) would be the one you’d want.

Here’s the abstract:

Over the last century forensic document science has developed progressively more sophisticated pattern recognition methodologies for ascertaining the authorship of disputed documents.

These include advances not only in computer assisted stylometrics, but forensic handwriting analysis. We present a writer verification method and an evaluation of an actual historical document written by an unknown writer.

The questioned document is compared against two known handwriting samples of Herman Melville, a 19th century American author who has been hypothesized to be the writer of this document. The comparison led to a high confidence result that the questioned document was written by the same writer as the known documents. Such methodology can be applied to many such questioned documents in historical writing, both in literary and legal fields.

Of course, I did  already know about CEDAR’s  preliminary findings on the same subject,  written up in a previous paper.  Like the second test, the first one concluded that

The comparison led to a high confidence result that the questioned document was written by the same writer as the known documents.

But that test had one significant flaw in it. Suggestive as it was, it used 20th century controls to test a proposition about a 19th century piece of writing.  Given the resources available to them, this wasn’t a bad place to start, but the experimental design was open to the criticism of not taking into consideration the possibly confounding variable of historical evolution of handwriting styles.

The second test tested to see if this variable was relevant to the outcome of the report. It was not. Unless handwriting lies, the document is by Herman Melville.

What is this document, you ask?

Well, you came to the right place to find out.

For a few sample handwriting comparisons between the manuscript and Melville, check out the pdf.


Update 2-7. I just realized that I had the wrong link for the new article – as originally posted this linked twice to the original article. The error has been corrected. I apologize for any confusion. Cheers-RS














About the author

Roger Stritmatter is a native liberal humorist who lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Contrary to rumor, he does not live on North Avenue. He does, however, work on North Avenue. A pacifist by inclination, one of his heroes is John Brown. But he thinks that Fredrick Douglass, another of his heroes, made the right decision. Stritmatter's primary areas of interest include the nature of paradigm shifts, the history of ideas, forensic literary studies, MS studies, renaissance literature, and the history of the Shakespearean question, the latter a field in which he has published extensively.


2 Responses to “Roger that, CEDAR”

  1. Lurking Ox says:

    “Well, its been a few weeks since I’ve done a post…”

    It has been since November 22, 2011 by my count.

  2. Roger Stritmatter says:

    Yayaya. Write it yourself you big roast oxbeef. : )

    Yikers. Where do these readers come from?

    Or is it, where do these writers come from?

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