Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: August ::
The Collier Leaf, part 2
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0716  Friday, 4 August 2006

From: 		Gerald E Downs <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date: 		Thursday, 3 Aug 2006 17:06:45 EDT
Subject: 	The Collier Leaf, part 2

In addition to numerous paleographical errors in his article on the 
"Collier Leaf" in _Shaksperian Scraps_, Tannenbaum adds poorly conceived 
theatrical and literary arguments, suggesting again that his case was 
hurriedly overconfident.  One example is particularly telling. Because 
the lines discussed may yet touch on the question of forgery, the poor 
argument will at least introduce one of Collier's traits.

    Granting, then, that the manuscript is not a remnant of a
    prompt-book, is it possible -- as has been suggested
    (privately) -- that it is part of the author's first draft, that is,
    part of the author's "foul papers"? That this view is . . .
    untenable . . . will be granted when the following remarks
    by [Greg] are considered: "In line [30] 'degestion' [sic]
    should surely be 'dejection,' and in lines [31-32] neither
    of Collier's versions seems satisfactory. In the earlier the
    colon after 'ayme' [line 31] is manifestly wrong, and the
    repetition of 'now' [line 32] hardly less so: in the later 'More
    at thy ende than exterpatione' is nonsense." Evidently,
    then, the leaf is not in the handwriting of the author.
    Not even in his foulest papers would an author write such
    absurd and unintelligible stuff without attempting to
    correct it. (182-3)

This passage must have been maddening to Adams. The private suggestion 
that the leaf was foul papers was made by Adams himself, who was no 
doubt blindsided by the "refutation." More to the point, Tannenbaum 
should have been more careful in citing Greg on this Guise speech:

    fondlie has thow in Censte the guises sowle     28
    yt of itself was hote enoughe to worke
    thy Iust degestione wt extreamest shame.
    the armye I have gathered now shall ayme
    more at thie end then exterpatione                   32

Greg had no access to the leaf for his 1928 edition. He relied instead 
on Collier's 1925 and 1931 transcripts, which were inaccurate and did 
not agree with each other. The later transcript is accurate at line 32, 
but that of 1925 reads:

    Nowe at thine end then exterpatione

Knowledge of the correct transcription obviates the need to question 
this reading as a product of the Elizabethan theater. Greg's treatment 
in itself shows his reliance on Collier, but that must have been known 
to readers of the edition anyway. In questioning a suggestion of foul 
papers, Tannenbaum should have cited approvingly only Greg's comment 
about the correct version. Tannenbaum was too hasty with his own 
argument and Adams was quick to reply.

As it happens, "digestion" is not wrongly used; there is no colon after 
"ayme"; and "more at thie end then exterpatione" makes passable sense. 
It is possible that Tannenbaum did not himself believe Greg's arguments, 
but saw a win-win scenario if he cited them. Greg's authority could 
discredit Adams's 'foul papers' suggestion. If the arguments failed, the 
discredit would redound to Greg. Whatever the motive, the addition of 
these and other poor arguments only serve to make Tannenbaum look that 
much worse after his goofs in interpreting the photographs.

Given these preliminaries, two fundamental questions arise.  First, did 
Tannenbaum make any good arguments in his prosecution of the forgery 
case? Second, did Adams make any good arguments in defense of the 
Collier Leaf? I will give an incomplete answer to the first query before 
moving to the second.

Despite the terrific rebuttal Adams makes, he does not answer the whole 
of his opponent's case. For example, Tannenbaum notes of the 'f ' in 
'fondlie', the first word of the verso of the leaf: "The overhead loop 
terminates with a descending stroke to the left, as no Elizabethan ' f ' 
ever did." Adams does not comment on this, though it seems odd for the 
top of an 'f ' to be written backward.  If one is to examine the leaf 
anew, all such evidence must be given due weight.

As noted above, Tannenbaum offers as evidence of forgery this statement: 
"Collier's discoveries, when uncorroborated, and incapable of 
corroboration, are probably all forgeries" (186). Adams says this and 
related arguments are "without force, and therefore call for no 
comment." (467) Yet in the Foreword to Tannenbaum's _Scraps_, Adams 
comments:

    At any rate, one naturally suspects every document or
    manuscript entry that he first called attention to, or that
    at some time passed through his hands without having
    been previously recorded by a person of recognized
    integrity.

Adams's change of heart (or at least his differentiation between 
'naturally suspects every' and 'probably all' was perhaps necessitated 
by the surprise application of the suspicion to a document he thought 
genuine. Question of Collier's stories of provenance cannot be dismissed 
out of hand. When this failure to account for a manuscript can be shown 
to be typical of forgery (particularly of Collier forgery) and when the 
subject of the manuscript can be shown to be helpful to Collier's 
established opinion, then 'no provenance' may grow to the status of 
negative evidence.

Other of Tannenbaum's case should be considered when evaluating the 
evidence in its entirety, as I believe must be done anew. But now I'll 
examine the evidence Adams offers in support of the genuineness of the 
leaf, as opposed to his confutation of Tannenbaum's negative argument. 
At the outset we note that Adams's legacy is presented with a particular 
problem that is not addressed. He says:

    . . . it is difficult to believe that a contemporary transcriber
    would use for his purpose an awkwardly shaped scrap of
    paper, would write so carelessly, or would leave one side
    of the leaf partly blank. . . . It seems to me more likely that
    the manuscript is a preliminary draft . . ." (449)

All of Adams's argument is in support of the hypothesis that the leaf is 
an example of an authorial draft, and therefore in Marlowe's hand. He 
was unaware of the single Marlowe signature discovered in 1939 that 
effectively denies identity of the leaf penman with the playwright. The 
relevance of this fact may be discounted if the authorship of The 
Massacre is called into question, but the point is that Adams geared his 
paper to his theory and he did not attempt a description of the leaf  as 
anything other than a "foul sheet."

Adams repeatedly refers to the leaf as "carelessly" written.  This 
judgment may too readily explain some features of the penmanship and 
could therefore be a reflection of bias. An adept forger may simulate 
nonchalance and may even strive to that end. Further, the leaf may 
exhibit on examination an overall attempt write carefully.

A notable feature of photographs of the leaf is the paleness of some 
letters and the subject may be of some importance.  (In the Collier Leaf 
Universe, that is). Adams remarks:

    Indeed, it is easy to tell when the writer 'dipped', and the
    regular sequence of gradually fading and suddenly darker
    words gives excellent testimony to the fluency with which
    he wrote. ((454)

It seems to me that a pen would run out of ink in the same way, whether 
the writing was fluent or not. Adams describes the penman in a manner 
that would seem to differentiate him from a forger, without exactly 
saying why:

    The scribe was not a copy-book artist, but he wrote with
    fluency and speed, and employed throughout a consistent
    style, showing marked individuality. There are, to be sure,
    instances where he corrected single letters (inserted in
    error, or poorly made) . . . (457).

A forger may show marked individuality and consistent style. Even so, 
these traits are matters of both quality and quantity that may be 
reexamined. It also may be asked whether the writer's noted absence of 
linked letters shows fluency and speed, or the lack of each. Adams also 
says:

    honest corrections, made with no effort at concealment,
    they tend rather to guarantee the genuineness of the
    document than to convict it of forgery.

Yet a forger would not necessarily try to conceal corrections.  True, 
disguised corrections may be evidence of forgery. But a forger may guard 
against detection by more natural and straightforward touching up. This 
would certainly be true if the forger was adept and practiced in his 
style. It must be remembered that Collier (the only suspect) grew up 
using a quill pen, was a shorthand expert, knew more manuscripts and 
Elizabethan literature than most, was indefatigable, and a committed 
forger. Even Tannenbaum erred in supposing that a forger must be 
incompetent. Certainly if forgery is to be detected, anomalies are the 
clues, and unconcealed retouching must be evaluated as evidence in any case.

Adams repeats his theme, this time in defending an italic 'o ', formed 
by two semicircles: ' () ', "so obviously . . . without the smallest 
effort at deception, that we might regard the letter as evidence of 
genuineness rather than of crafty forgery." Again, an optional formation 
of an Italic form would not be limited to legitimate writers, nor would 
forgers necessarily be crafty at all times. Except for issues of 
photography and ink, these assertions are the only arguments Adams uses 
in defense of the leaf. To me they seem too subjective.

Adams caught Tannenbaum's serious misinterpretations of his photographs 
of the Collier Leaf. Tannenbaum had seen the original and the photos are 
clear and promise to be of use even to those who rely on the book. In a 
review, Van Dam says, "Of all these alleged forgeries beautiful 
facsimile plates are provided which enable anyone to check Dr. 
Tannenbaum's arguments." But Adams demonstrates that photographs can be 
deceptive, and he uses his examples to make a sweeping condemnation:

    As Professor Feuillerat once remarked to me . . . "A
    photograph is the greatest liar in the world !" . . . On the
    whole, if one has sharp eyes and the writing is of good
    size . . . one can more safely trust to an examination of
    the original . . . (458)

Despite its seeming force, the Feuillerat citation is not very helpful 
unless one is learning to spell 'Feuillerat'. Let's turn instead to a 
contemporary authority who seems much more reasonable. In _Questioned 
Documents_ (1940), Albert S Osborn makes the following statements:

    Photographs are useful in nearly every questioned document
    investigation . . . (39).

    Photographs often make clear what otherwise may be hidden
    or indistinct, and this fact alone is sufficient for their use (39).

    It is necessary that certain tangible things should be of a
    certain size before their presence is mentally recognized.
    This is the reason that enlarged photographs sometimes at
    first sight seem to be unfair and distorted when they are
    absolutely accurate. Their purpose is to make plain certain
    hidden or partly hidden things, and they do this so effectively
    that at first sight they are criticized as inaccurate. These
    attacks are the most eloquent of testimonials as to the value
    of the illustrations (41).

    Objections to the use of photographs in court are based
    upon the theory that they may be distorted and not true
    representations of the original, and it is often incorrectly
    asserted that the original affords the best means for study
    and comparisons and that no reproduction of it is necessary.
    It is true that photographs may be distorted and may be
    dishonest and if they cannot be properly proved or verified
    by comparison with the original they should be excluded (47).

Tannenbaum, who cites this authority, made a fundamental error by not 
comparing his photos (or having them compared by the Folger Library) to 
the original Collier Leaf.

    The real reason for most objections to photographs is
    that they do well just what it is intended they should do,
    that is, assist in showing the facts. (48)

    Skilled microscope specialists . . .are always careful that
    the degree of enlargement is appropriate to the most effective
   understanding of the thing to be seen. . . .To show retouching,
   disconnections, and a slow drawing movement, considerable
   enlargement may, however, be necessary. (55 & 59)

Thus a real authority seems not to agree that photography is useless. No 
examination of the Collier Leaf would be complete without extensive use 
of photographs. Tannenbaum used them wrongly, but that should not 
prejudice their future use. Another issue that Adams argues may relate 
to photography. Dr T made this statement:

    The ink is brown, conspicuously dark in some places and
    very pale in others. The contrast between the light and dark
    letters is very striking; some letters are so pale as to be
    almost invisible. It might be supposed that the pale writing
    was due to the pen's running dry, but, in view of the fact
    that lines 26 and 27 . . . are pale throughout their whole
    extent, this explanation cannot be right. It is also noticeable
    that in some places, as in line 23, there is a succession of
    four or five pale words without any indications of a failure
    on the pen's part to write. (179)

Adams denies these characteristics:

    In the original, the ink is not 'conspicuously' uneven in
    colour . . ., save where the quill began to run dry and the
    writer dipped his pen for a fresh supply. . . .[Lines 26&27]
    are not pale; . . . line 23 . . . contains no noticeably pale
    words. (455)

Tannenbaum doesn't speak to any inference based on the observed paleness 
of writing, but the implication is that something was fishy about the 
ink. Adams doesn't address that question, other than to quash it by 
implying that the ink is normal. What he does authoritatively is to 
contradict Tannenbaum in such a way as to further discredit him.

A little retrograde analysis suggests to me that Tannenbaum must have 
noticed some pale ink in the original, but arrived at his published 
evaluation by viewing the photographs, which seem even in the book 
plates to confirm his observations.  It is hard to conceive of any 
photographic error that would produce such variations of shading, so 
they are indicative of some difference in the ink not apparent (at least 
in extent) to the naked eye.

True, a pen runs out of ink and needs dipping. But unless something 
alters the delivery, the shading should not vary until the last moments, 
or until a spotty flow occurs. If the paleness revealed in the 
photographs is real, as it must be, this condition alone vindicates the 
use of photographs.

Petti backs Tannenbaum on this issue, perhaps after having seen the 
original; he doesn't say. But he is unequivocal in his pronouncement: 
"Tannenbaum was surely right to be uneasy about the continual unevenness 
of inking, and the occasional retracing of letters" (85). Petti doesn't 
speculate as to what the uneasiness should portend.

I have recently seen a photographic plate of a 16th Century formal 
document that exhibited an even more pronounced two-toned effect. If the 
scribe had seen the same variation he would not have approved his own 
work. It's safe to say the effect is not always noticeable and not 
unprecedented.

What causes a string of pale words? A quill draws ink by capillary 
action, as we observe a portion of a drink climb the inside of a straw. 
When the pen touches an absorbent material, gravity insures a flow. Ink 
comprising solvents such as water and alcohol may perhaps separate in a 
capillary, where the water and alcohol could carry more or less of the 
coloring. As the quill is used, the darker ink is used up until the 
lighter flows, though it may darker to the naked eye.

Whether this guess has merit or not, some phenomenon is at work to 
produce variant shading, and that must result from an ink that is not a 
homogeneous solution. By itself, finding the ink was anomalous would not 
certainly indicate forgery, but a list of the odd features of the leaf 
might be telling if it gets long enough. How unusual can a legitimate 
document be?

At any rate, Adams appears to be wrong to deny the fading of the ink, 
and to this he adds no argument except to defend some paleographic 
aspects of the leaf, and this he does well, especially when Tannenbaum 
is unobservant. Still, the issue of handwriting is by no means 
exhausted. For example, Petti says, "There is an incredibly large number 
of detached letters for a cursive script, and the slight tremulousness 
in the penstrokes, the blots and false starts may connote a forger's 
hesitancy. Also worrying is a lack of uniformity of character in the 
writing." (85) These are matters for the judgment of an unbiased 
paleographer.

To be continued in a last post. Gerald E Downs

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, 
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the 
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the 
editor assumes no responsibility for them.
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.