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This article is a step by step tutorial on setting up Google Authorship. Tom of Problogger.net efficiently defined it as:
Authorship, in this context, refers to Google’s parameters for making a verified connection between a person’s original web content and their Google Plus profile.
In a nutshell, authorship is Google’s way of determining digital ownership. It’s like having an equivalent of “copywrite” for Google’s eyes: you can claim ownership of the content that you’ve written and Google search engine will acknowledge you for it by displaying your name, avatar, and some Google+ info in the Search Results alongside your content. If you have a well-optimized Google + profile, that is.