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Historical note
Revisiting the Rorschach ink-blots: from iconography and psychology to neuroscience
  1. G D Schott
  1. Correspondence to Dr G D Schott, The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK; g.schott{at}ucl.ac.uk

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Introduction

For almost a century Rorschach's name has been associated with the ink-blots that he created. The famous and immediately recognisable Rorschach ink-blots comprise 10 plates consisting of white cards about 18 ×  24 cm in dimension, on which are printed amorphous but bilaterally symmetrical shapes. Five of the shapes are coloured in various shades of grey and black (eg, Plates I, V and VI; figure 1), two are in black and red (eg, Plate III; figure 2), and three are multicoloured (eg, Plate VIII; figure 3). The plates were included in Psychodiagnostik,1 the monograph by Hermann Rorschach (1884–1922) (figure 4) which became renowned a little after its eventual publication by Huber in 1921, a year before Rorschach's death. Only in 1942 was the book translated into English, together with Rorschach's posthumously published paper which contributed some further studies, with the title Psychodiagnostics.2

Figure 1

Black and grey Rorschach ink-blots: (A) Plate I (B) Plate V (C) Plate VI. Courtesy of Hermann Rorschach, Rorschach-Test. Verlag Hans Huber, Hogrefe AG, Bern/Switzerland.

Figure 2

Black and red Rorschach ink-blot: Plate III. Courtesy of Hermann Rorschach, Rorschach-Test. Verlag Hans Huber, Hogrefe AG, Bern/Switzerland.

Figure 3

Multicoloured Rorschach ink-blot: Plate VIII. Courtesy of Hermann Rorschach, Rorschach-Test. Verlag Hans Huber, Hogrefe AG, Bern/Switzerland.

Figure 4

Portrait of Hermann Rorschach. Date and photographer unknown. From title page of his Psychodiagnostics, 1942.2 Reproduced with permission of Verlag Hans Huber, Hogrefe AG, Bern/Switzerland.

The first to publish symmetrical blots was the eccentric 19th century German poet and spiritualist Justinus Kerner. It is very likely that Rorschach was acquainted with Kerner's book Kleksographien,3 written in 1857 but published posthumously,4 and several symmetrical blots which resemble Rorschach blots appear in Kerner's work (figure 5). But it was Rorschach's ink-blots which have endured, and are best known in the context of clinical psychology, in …

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