Re-posting No. 22 of 100 Reasons Why Shake-speare was Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford: His Geneva Bible

Ecclesiasticus 28.1-5, as marked by Edward de Vere in his Geneva Bible

A great irony of the authorship movement is that Henry Clay Folger, founder of the Folger Shakespeare Library, was very likely an Oxfordian sympathizer. He took such keen interest in J. T. Looney’s 1920 identification of Oxford that, in 1925, he bought the Geneva Bible that the earl himself had purchased three and a half centuries earlier in 1570.

Henry Clay Folger (1857 – 1930)

De Vere’s copy was quietly ensconced in the Library when it opened in 1932, two years after Folger’s death.  There it remained, unheralded, until 1992, when two Oxfordian researchers, Dr. Paul Nelson and Isabel Holden, learned it was being guarded by folks with powerful reasons to keep its contents under wraps. Those contents were explosive: more than a thousand marked and/or underlined verses, apparently in Oxford’s own hand, with plenty of links to the Shakespeare works.

Enter Roger Stritmatter, who would pore over the handwritten annotations in Oxford’s bible (often in partnership with Mark Anderson) for the next eight years, eventually earning his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Dr. Stritmatter’s 2000 dissertation, The Marginalia of Edward de Vere’s Geneva Bible, stands as both a remarkable achievement in scholarship and a landmark event in the history of Shakespearean authorship studies. It is also a powerful demonstration of insights and connections that become possible when the correct biography of “Shakespeare” is brought into alignment with historical documents.

Dr. Roger Stritmatter’s Dissertation on Oxford’s Geneva Bible: a Landmark in Oxford-Shakespeare Scholarship

When de Vere obtained his Geneva Bible he was still a ward of Queen Elizabeth in William Cecil’s custody.  In his documentary life of Oxford in 1928, B.M. Ward reports finding an account book with “Payments made by John Hart, Chester Herald, on behalf of the Earl of Oxford” during 1570, with entries such as:  “To William Seres, stationer, for a Geneva Bible gilt, a Chaucer, Plutarch’s works in French, with other books and papers – … Tully’s and Plato’s works in folio, with other books …”  

“The first edition of that bible was published in 1560 in Geneva,” Stritmatter reports. “Due to its incendiary implied criticisms of Catholicism, it remained a popular unauthorized translation throughout the reign of Elizabeth I … Over a hundred years of scholarship has made it clear that the Geneva Bible was the translation most familiar to Shakespeare.”

Among the approximately 1,043 underlined or marked verses in Oxford’s bible, 147 are cited by previous scholars as having influenced Shakespeare.  Twenty marked verses contain language “at least as close” to other language already identified as Shakespearean influences – and so on, not to mention cases where Stritmatter found connections to the works of Shakespeare that previously had gone unnoticed.  The earl’s copy also contains some thirty-two short notes that have been verified through independent forensic paleography to be in his handwriting. Many themes reflected in the marked passages “can be traced directly to known biographical facts of Oxford’s life,” Stritmatter writes, confirming that “not only was Oxford the original owner of the book,” which had his de Vere crest on the cover, “but it was he who made the annotations.”

Stritmatter began to perceive a series of “patterned relations” narrating a “spiritual story,” one that we can begin to see once de Vere is perceived as Shakespeare. It is a story about “secret works” by an annotator whose name is removed from the historical record but who, nonetheless, re-emerges as the man who gave the world the greatest works of the English language. For example, Oxford marked and partially underlined Micha 9.7:

“I will bear the wrath of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause and execute judgment for me; then will bring me forth to the light…”

“Shakespeare” wrote in Lucrece:

Time’s glory is to calm contending Kings,

To unmask falsehood, and bring truth to light

And Oxford wrote under his own name to Robert Cecil in 1602:

“Now time, and truth, have unmasked all difficulties.”

POSTSCRIPT

In 1929 Esther Singleton published Shakespearian Fantasias: Adventures in the Fourth Dimension, with stories based on characters in Shakespeare’s comedies. Having apparently read Shakespeare Identified by Looney, she introduced Oxford as Berowne of Love’s Labour’s Lost, Jacques of As You Like It and Benedick of Much Ado About Nothing.  Folger found these tales so delightful that he bought at least twenty copies of the book to give to friends; just before he died, he also negotiated with Singleton to buy her original manuscript. Singleton died only two weeks later, but her heirs eventually presented the manuscript to the Folger Library in her memory. Folger’s interest in the possibility of Oxford’s authorship was kept secret for decades.

(This reason has become no. 19 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford, edited by Alex McNeil.)

 

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. In the mid-1970’s, Folger’s had a traveling exhibit of some of its major Shakespearean finds, and I saw the Geneva Bible in Kansas City. Imagine my pleasure, after I had become an Oxfordian, to know that I had seen the original @ 15 years earlier.

  2. I would add to this the “weaver’s beam” allusion to the David and Goliath story…which appears in a Shakes-speare play (I forget which, just at the moment–cite, Hank?), and is underlined in Oxford’s Geneva Bible. The odds of this being mere coincidence are astronomical, and for me, is as near to a ‘smoking gun’ as any man might believe, beyond a reasonable doubt.

  3. Hank, have you had a chance to read the new academic book, “A Brief Discourse of Rebellion and Rebels by George North: A newly uncovered manuscript source for Shakespeare’s Plays,” by Dennis McCarthy and June Schlueter?

    I ask here because in it they suggest that, to quote: “In terms of the number of plays, scenes, and passages affected, the scope of the manuscript’s influence likely exceeds all other known Shakespearean sources, excepting only the Chronicles of Hall and Holinshed and Thomas North’s Plutarch’s Lives”.

    That assertion gave me pause on a number of levels and I’m curious as to your thoughts about it.

    Cordially,

    Laird Williams
    Little Rock, AR
    ___________________
    Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1843844885/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_0wCIAbJWCRA73


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