The Alleged Seventh Shakespeare Signature in Archaionomia
to the claim that "we have no paper trail of Shakespeare as a playwright
or poet, no correspondence, manuscripts, personal library or ephemera,"
David Kathman writes:
By "paper trail" I assume
you mean the things you mention - "correspondence, manuscripts,
personal library, or ephemera." Actually, we do have one letter
written to Shakespeare by his townsman Richard Quiney, and a book
(William Lambarde's Archaionomia) with a signature that is
now widely, but not universally, accepted as William Shakespeare's.
(Kathman, HLAS, 7 March 2002)
letter written to Shakespeare by Quiney, a Stratford man in search of
financing, is hardly evidence that Shakespeare was a writer, so we move
immediately to Kathman's claim for Shakespeare's signature in the Lambarde
book. If the signature were genuine, it would not only count as the seventh
authenticated signature, it would effectively put a book in Shakespeare's hand
and qualify as a "personal literary paper trail."
On his website in his section
Kathman directs readers to Giles Dawson's 1992 article,
"A Seventh Signature for Shakespeare." In a message to the
discussion group on 19 June 1995, Kathman cited some
authorities concerning "the Folger Shakespeare Library's copy of
William Lambarde's Archaionomia, a treatise on Anglo-Saxon law.
This has a
signature on the title-page which many, many very knowledgeable people believe
to be that of William Shakespeare. I will
not attempt to summarize the evidence here, but it is summarized by
Samuel Schoenbaum's William Shakespeare: Records and Images
(1981), and by Giles Dawson in an article he wrote for
a few years ago
(1992?), a couple of years before his death. Schoenbaum, a notorious skeptic,
believes that the signature is more likely to be genuine than not (and for him,
that's saying a lot), and Dawson believed flat-out that the signature is
genuine. I think the evidence is pretty persuasive; if the signature was
forged, the forger was one of the best ever."
information provides a place to start, and I begin by inquiring how Mr. Kathman
would quantify his phrases "many, many very knowledgeable people,"
and "widely, but not universally accepted." If the alleged seventh
signature is "widely" accepted, we should expect to find numerous
"very knowledgeable" authorities quoting it as evidence after the
initial reports of its discovery in 1942, and only a few hold-outs. What we
find, however, are a few lone voices of acceptance, versus "wide"
The Folger acquired the
Lambarde book in 1938 and it was examined by Giles Dawson, James
McManaway, and Edwin E. Willoughby. Scholarship has therefore had
the opportunity to examine, question, accept, or reject, the
signature in Archaionomia
since 1942, when Dawson reported his findings and Joseph Quincy
Adams published on the subject. Both accepted the signature as genuine. Very
few subsequently followed their lead, and the subject dropped out of sight for
In 1973, W. Nicholas Knight
rekindled the subject and got some media attention with his book,
Shakespeare's Hidden Life: Shakespeare at the Law
1585-1595. The signature in Archaionomia
was one of his principal "new" pieces of
evidence. The appearance of Knight's book prompted comments concerning not only
his disqualification as one of Kathman's "knowledgeable people" but also
the genuineness of the signature.
Bawcutt, for example, criticizes Knight's "use of evidence [as]
surprisingly careless. ... Even if we accept that the Lambarde signature is
genuine," it does not support Knight's additional claims (164-65).
So Bawcutt does not seize the opportunity to accept the signature as genuine.
In the Shakespeare
Quarterly review, R.J. Schoeck criticized "Knight's lack of
scholarly objectivity" and arguments built on "a host of
assumptions," including the Archaionomia
signature, a signature
"known to Shakespearean scholars for three decades ... [and] blown up into
'this new fact about Shakespeare's private life'" (305-7).
In his review in
Ronald Berman commends Knight's "fine
detective work on the authentication of Shakespeare's signature" but has
very little else good to say:
The question of
Shakespeare's autograph is clearly stated in a fact sheet
assembled by the Folger Library on William Lambarde's
Knight has attempted to identify a signature in that book as that of William
Shakespeare. Current scholarly opinion on the matter is summarized by the
Folger in purely descriptive terms: no ascription has at this time been
generally accepted. (99)
1992 article, Giles Dawson argues that there "is an overwhelming
probability that the writer of all seven signatures was the same person"
(79). But there is no proof that even the first six signatures were written by
the same person, since Jane Cox has argued, and Jonathan Hope has recently
reminded us all (on the Shaksper news group), that some of the allegedly genuine
signatures on Shakespeare's will may not be that of the testator:
At the risk of appearing
willfully mischievous, could I point out that the authenticity of
the signatures on the will is not certain. David Thomas'
Shakespeare in the Public Records
(1985: Public Record Office), page 34, notes
that signatures were often 'supplied' in a different hand from their own by the
scribe - wills were proved by executor's oath not by the signature. (Hope, Feb.
As for the "wide" acceptance
of the seventh signature by recent biographers, Park Honan doesn't
mention it. Neither does Duncan-Jones. In his discussion of Hand D,
Dennis Kay notes that "the only other examples of his hand are six
[emphasis added] signatures" (180). In his biography of Shakespeare,
Schoenbaum (Compact, 215) compares Hand D to "the six
[emphasis added] authenticated signatures," and he was writing years
after Dawson's and Adams's articles. The Reader's
describes the signature as
Another place to seek the
extent of "wide" or scant acceptance is in discussions of
Shakespeare's possible handwriting in Sir Thomas More.
Numerous scholars have revisited the Hand D arguments subsequent to
the proposed addition of a seventh signature to the control sample
of handwriting. R.C. Bald, writing seven years after Dawson's
initial report, accepts "only six signatures" in the control sample
(54). I.A. Shapiro likewise refers to six signatures, and Michael L.
Hays doesn't mention the Archaionomia
So where are all the
authorities who justify Kathman's claim that there is "wide
acceptance" among "many, many" authorities of the signature in
Archaionomia. The group would seem to consist of Giles
Dawson, Joseph Quincy Adams, Hereward T. Price (per Schoenbaum,
107n, who describes
H.T. Price's paper as "special pleading"), and David Kathman.
possible that, by unhappy chance as I checked through articles on Hand D,
recent biographies, and relevant articles, I have unintentionally missed all
the "very knowledgeable" scholars who accept this signature. At the
least, the seventh signature has not permeated Shakespearian scholarship to any
significant degree, as far as I have been able to ascertain. On the contrary,
it has been roundly ignored.
Kathman cites Schoenbaum as
believing "that the signature is more likely to be genuine than
not." But Schoenbaum's discussion appears in a section subtitled
"Doubtful and Spurious Signatures" in Records and Images.
Schoenbaum concludes that Dawson "thinks there is a better chance
that the signature is genuine than that it is not. That strikes
[Schoenbaum] as a fair statement of the position. Handwriting
analysis alone cannot resolve the question, and it seems unlikely,
so long after the event, that evidence of another sort will be
forthcoming. The Lambarde signature makes a better claim to
authenticity than any other pretended Shakespeare autograph, but it
is premature, to say the least, to classify it as the poet's seventh
signature" [emphasis added] (Records,109).
Mr. Kathman's claim that this
signature is "widely accepted" by "many, many" people as the poet's
seventh signature, is likewise premature.
Bald, R.C. "The Booke of Sir
Thomas More and Its Problems." Shakespeare Survey
Bawcutt, N.W. "The Year's
Contributions to Shakespearian Study," Shakespeare Survey
Review of Shakespeare's Hidden Life by W. Nicholas Knight.
(spring 1974): 99-100.
Campbell, Oscar James. The Reader's
Encyclopedia of Shakespeare.
New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1966.
Dawson, Giles. "A Seventh Signature
for Shakespeare." Shakespeare Quarterly 43
(spring 1992): 72-79.
Duncan-Jones, Katherine. Ungentle
Shakespeare: Scenes from His Life.
London: Arden Shakespeare, 2001.
Hays, Michael L. "Shakespeare's Hand in Sir
Some Aspects of the Paleographic Argument."
Honan, Park. Shakespeare: A Life.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Dennis. Shakespeare: His Life, Work and Era.
New York: William Morrow, 1992.
Knight, W. Nicholas.
Shakespeare's Hidden Life: Shakespeare at the Law
New York: Mason & Lipscomb, 1973.
Schoeck, R.J. Review of Shakespeare's Hidden
Life by W. Nicholas Knight. Shakespeare Quarterly
(summer 1975): 305-7.
William Shakespeare: Records and Images.
New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.
A Compact Documentary Life.
1977. Revised Edition with a New Postscript, New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.
Shapiro, I.A. "The Significance of A Date,"
Shakespeare Survey 8
Thomas, David, and Jane Cox. Shakespeare in
the Public Records,
Public Record Office.
London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1985.