The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1408 Monday, 17 July 2000.
Date: Friday, 14 Jul 2000 09:02:15 -0600
Subject: 11.1400 Re: A Typographical Query
Comment: Re: SHK 11.1400 Re: A Typographical Query
> There are actually six uncontested signatures of Shakespeare -- three on
> the will, two on the Blackfriars Gatehouse documents from 1613, and one
> from his deposition in the Bellott-Mountjoy suit (1612). The words "By
> me" on the last page of the will are also in Shakespeare's hand.
Is it true that that these signatures are uncontested?
Jane Cox ("Shakespeare's Will and Signatures in the Public Records."
London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1985, ISBN 0 11 440192 6, pages
24-35), writes in reference to the six Shakespeare signatures:
"It is obvious at a glance that these signatures, with the exception of
the last two [Blackfriar's purchase and Guildhall] are not the
signatures of the same man. Almost every letter is formed in a different
way in each. Literate men in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
developed personalized signatures much as people do today and it is
unthinkable that Shakespeare did not.
"Which of the signatures reproduced here is the genuine article is
I would say that she is contesting the authenticity of the signatures.
Jane Cox served as a longtime custodian of the document and these
comments appeared in an official publication of the Public Record Office
By the way, Cox goes on in this article to suggest that the copy of the
will may not be the original will but rather a clerk's copy. She offers
much evidence to support this view. If this is the case, then even the
signatures would be in the hand of the clerk - not Shakespeare's.
Cox writes on page 34:
"The will signatures have been regarded as sacrosanct, in the main, but
in the light of Sir Hilary-Jenkinson's observations and practice in the
Prerogative Court of Canterbury, the authenticity of even these
signatures must be questioned. There is a possibility that the so called
original will is a facsimile copy made either by the court or by
Collins' clerk. The court's ancient practice had been to return the
original will to the executor and to keep a copy..."
"... Another possibility is that the clerk who wrote the will 'forged'
Shakespeare's signatures. Until the Statute of Frauds of 1667 there was
no necessity for a will to bear the testator's signature at all."
All this according to Her Majesty's Stationery Office.