Monday, 4 July 2011

Handwriting in the News – The Osama Bin Laden notes

Together with the information that trickles to the press about the contents of Osama Bin Laden’s recently discovered and raided compound in Pakistan there are two scraps of handwritten notes, BBC News reports on 30 June 2011. Experts say the notes are genuine and written in typical Bin Laden style – but not necessarily by the man himself. The image of the notes published online shows two A4 sheets of ruled paper with a wide margin on the left and a two-line header where “day/date” is printed on the left hand side. The sheets are torn from some sort of a spiral notebook. The notes are written in red ink. Some parts are damaged by water, some are crossed out, some circled. What kind of pen was used? What make of notebook ? He obviously didn’t mind the English words on the header.

The handwritten notes were allegedly found in the room next door to Osama Bin Laden’s bedroom. But it is highly likely that they were not written by the ex-leader of the al-Qaeda. Handwriting experts believe the writing to be that of a teenager between 13 and 16 years old. The notes with the red ink bleeding into pink unravel a domestic scene. Bin Laden, the father, dictates his thoughts to his daughter, changes his mind, tells her to underline this or cross that out – a glass of water is knocked over and makes the ink bleed. As relics of one of the most despised men in the world these notes with the haemorrhaging ink carry the foreboding of his erasure. 

Read more on BBC News “Osama Bin Laden’s intriguing handwritten notes”, 30 June 2011 (accessed 4 July 2011).


  1. So what you're saying is, pens are for terrorists. That's why you should always use a pencil; it's the writing instrument of choice for those who love FREEDOM.


  2. Those stains look kind of spooky..

  3. Andy: Always carry a pencil just in case you're stopped and searched. Pen may be incriminating evidence.
    Matthias: They sure do.

  4. Thanks for this post, Palimpsest. Based on his apparent self-regard, I had the late Osama Bin Laden pegged as a guy with custom-bound journals and a costly desk rig. No evidence of that from the photos I've seen. Jack/Youngstown

  5. Something handwritten made it into the news again: a football rulebook from 1857, worth £881,250