The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0471  Friday, 13 July 2007

From: 		Joseph Egert <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Thursday, 12 Jul 2007 13:42:46 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 	Flying Leaf

[Editor’s Note: The Note below refers to Figures, some of which were transcribed by Joseph Egert. These figures were part of a pdf document that was attached to the submission. Since I cannot distribute pdf figures using the listserv software, I suggest that anyone interested in obtaining a copy with pdf figures go to:




or, for a later version with flyleaf facsimile, to:


 http://www.ericmillerworks.com/images/pdf_files/JE%20FINAL%202-18-2012-final.pdf  ]   -HMC]

GUTMAN: These are facts, historical facts, not schoolbook history, not 
Mr. Wells's history, but history nevertheless.

Fellow resolutes, attend a tale of two copies and their flying leaf.

In his 1988 SQ piece (v.39, p.60, mis-cited in SHAKSPER SHK 17.0187 as 
RENAISSANCE QUARTERLY) Robert Evans notes three ink epitaphs written in 
secretary hand on what is now a rear endleaf of Folger First Folio #26, 
the Amherst copy (Lee #70/ West #84). Dr. Evans transcribes the 
unreported "Heere Shakespeare lyes" epitaph, sandwiched between the 
familiar Stratford Holy Trinity chancel monument ("Stay passenger") and 
gravestone ("Good frend") inscriptions. Shakespearians David Kathman, 
Terry Ross, and Tom Reedy were quick to seize upon this middle epitaph 
as early evidence of Shakespeare's posthumous reputation among his 
countrymen as world-class poet.

A century earlier, Ralph N. James, in a Jan 28, 1888 N&Q note (p.62) 
transcribed three handwritten epitaphs from a First Folio "end 
fly-leaf"---the middle one, suspiciously similar to the one reported by 
Evans (see Fig. 1 for both notes). James concludes his Jan 1888 note: 
"The book [i.e, First Folio] will be sold by Messrs. Christie in the 
ensuing season." In 1905, Latham Davis used James' middle epitaph 
transcription, substantially unaltered, as an epigraph for "The Phoenix 
Analyzed" section (p.249) of his SHAKE-SPEARE ENGLAND'S ULYSSES[...] in 
an effort to prove Essex the true author of HAMLET (see Fig.2). Davis 
footnotes this epitaph as being found "On a fly-leaf of a copy of the 
1623 Folio, owned by the Messrs. Christie in 1888."

The Christie's auction house, as far as I could determine, handled no 
Shakespeare First Folio sale in 1888 or 1889 other than the March 1888 
sale of the Aylesford copy (West #202; Lee #85; Meisei #2) and the June 
1888 sale of the William Lee copy (later untraced). Yet I could find no 
mention of epitaphs in the ads, notices, or auction catalogue entries 
related to these two First Folio sales, nor to subsequent sales or 
exhibitions of the Aylesford copy, which currently resides at Meisei 
University in Japan as Meisei #2.

The next independent attestation of the handwritten epitaphs, after the 
1888 James note, appears in Sidney Lee's 1902 CENSUS OF EXTANT COPIES, 
but now describing the Amherst copy (Lee #70; West #84; Folger #26). The 
entry reads in part: "There are, in 17th century handwriting on blank 
end-leaf, three epitaphs on Shakespeare, two respectively from the 
gravestone and monument in Stratford-on-Avon Church, the third being 
unknown elsewhere."

The epitaphs are again noted in Seymour de Ricci's 1906 "Hand-list" of 
Lord Amherst of Hackney's book and manuscript collection, as the "second 
copy (Sidney Lee, no. LXX)" of Item #806, which reads in part: "Bound 
about 1700 in panelled calf. On the fly-leaf at the end are written in 
an early hand three epitaphs on Shakespeare, one being unknown from any 
other source."

Finally, the Sotheby catalogue for the March 1909 Amherst library 
auction describes the Lee #70 Folio epitaphs in Lot #851 as follows: "On 
a fly-leaf at end in this copy are written in a nearly contemporary hand 
three epitaphs on Shakespeare, one being unknown from any other source." 
That same year Folger acquired the Amherst copy where it has since found 
a home along with its epitaph leaf as Folger First Folio #26 (Lee #70; 
West #84).

On June 18, 2007, I examined with my inexpert amateur's eye Folger Folio 
26 and its epitaph leaf at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, 
DC, kindly assisted by the Folger staff. Inside the Folio's front cover, 
a penciled notation, possibly by a dealer, in a cursive hand of late 
19th-early 20th C. reads (according to Folger's Curator of Manuscripts, 
Dr Heather Wolfe):

          From MS epitaphs at end in a handwriting of the time about 1625
          "When the last trumpet doth unclose his eyes
            The wittiest poet in the world shall rise!"

The epitaphs themselves currently appear on the recto side of the first 
of two rear non-conjugate loose endleaves, in an early 17th C. secretary 
hand using a quill pen. The ink's fading to brown is similarly 
consistent with this date range. So far so good.

The handwriting, however, appears tentative and halting in spots to Dr 
Wolfe, which may argue against its authenticity. Also, the leaf's chain 
lines are horizontal rather than the expected vertical chain lines of a 
folio format. While the handwriting may yet be authentic, further 
investigation is warranted, i.e., comparing it to known forgeries like 
Collier's, etc.

The epitaph leaf shows a distinctive watermark: a two-handled pot or 
vase with five circlet "flowers" emerging, all topped by a crescent (see 
Figure 3 drawing). The first letter on the body of the pot is a "P", but 
the second letter is obscured. I was unable to find an exact match with 
any watermark in standard references (Briquet; Heawood; Churchill; 
etc.). Dr Geogianna Ziegler, Folger's Head of Reference, nonetheless 
believes its resemblance to certain of these watermarks indicates the 
paper is of 1586-1600 French manufacture. Dr Ziegler could not find this 
watermark on other Folio 26 leaves from the end and the beginning, a 
fact related perhaps to the book's rebinding. Similarly, Dr Noriko 
Sumimoto at Meisei in Japan found no such watermark on any leaf of the 
Aylesford copy (Meisei #2) now at Meisei (personal communications from 
Dr Ziegler and Dr Sumimoto).

Figure 3 carries my transcription (not a facsimile) of all three 
handwritten leaf epitaphs, as I believe an early 17th C reader might 
interpret them. I am solely responsible for any errors or deficiencies 
in the rendering. The erased portion beneath the three appears on the 
leaf and represents to my view (confirmed by Dr Wolfe) a different later 
hand's rendering of the "Stay passenger" line, immediately erased after 
writing--the smudging being indicative of fresh undried ink.

Figure 4 represents my transcription (not a facsimile) of the actual 
Stratford Holy Trinity chancel monument and gravestone inscriptions, 
based on pre-1974 photos and rubbings.

For ease of comparison, Figure 5 matches each personally transcribed 
line of the leaf epitaph with its James N&Q twin underneath, and below 
that, where applicable, with its actual monument or gravestone confrere. 
It should be obvious by now, I believe Ralph James in 1888, Robert Evans 
in 1988, and Joseph Egert in 2007, were looking at the same epitaph 
leaf, and that any discrepancies in James' note derived from his 
misreading the epitaphs. The leaf appears to have flown from copy to 
copy, directed by an unseen hand, in an effort, perhaps, to beautify 
with its inky feathers any Folio up for sale.

Despite doubts surrounding its transmission, the middle epitaph itself 
may still be genuine. If so, who might the author be? Could it be it Ben 
Jonson (1572-1637), likely sire of the "Stay passenger" monument 
inscription? Is it John Fletcher (1579-1625), successor to Shakespeare 
as King's Men lead playwright? Or his cousin Giles Fletcher (1588-1623), 
who uses the singularly rare phrase "wittiest poet" in his CHRIST'S 
VICTORIE (1610)? Or the Countess of Pembroke (1561-1621), Mary Sidney 
Herbert, who uses "doth unclose" in her 1592 poem "Antonius"? Her 
literary circle included water poet John Taylor (1580-1653), Sir John 
Davies (1569-1620), Samuel Daniel (1562-1619), and Michael Drayton 
(1561-1621), who also uses "doth unclose" in "The Third Song" of 

Perhaps, Shakespeare's likely friend, the writing master and prolific 
poet John Davies of Hereford (1565-1618), authored the poem shortly 
after the Bard's death and not long before his own. Is Shakespeare 
drumming up blueblood business for his friend Davies, when he has Hamlet 
remark (Act V, Sc 2): "I once did hold it as our statists do,/ A 
baseness to write fair, and labored much/ How to forget that learning, 
but sir, now/ It did me yeoman's service."

Brian Vickers, what say ye?

   Or, is the poem itself the stuff that dreams are made of?

           GUTMAN: "Yes, it's the Russian's hand. There's no doubt about 

   Whose hand?
   Joe Egert

(I wish to thank for their invaluable assistance Anthony James West; 
Robert Evans; Eric Rasmussen; and the patient staffs at the Bodley 
Library, British Library, Christie's, Claremont College Library, Johns 
Hopkins Libraries, Meisei U., Newcastle U. Library, Rarebooks 
(Quaritch), Sotheby's, and especially the Folger Shakespeare Library.)

S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email 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.


Subscribe to Our Feeds


Make a Gift to SHAKSPER

Consider making a gift to support SHAKSPER.