Oh Put Me In Thy Bookes

· 5 July 2016 ·

[My visit with a couple of noteworthy old books written about me]

Pet. I sweare Ile cuffe you, if you strike againe.
Kat. So may you loose your armes,
If you strike me, you are no Gentleman,
And if no Gentleman, why then no armes.
Pet. A Herald Kate? Oh put me in thy bookes.
Kat. What is your Crest, a Coxcombe?
Pet. A comblesse Cocke, so Kate will be my Hen.
Kat. No Cocke of mine, you crow too like a craven

I did know how to sling a pun. Drove Tilney up the wall, but Bess loved them. The randier the better.

The excerpt above, from The Taming of the Shrew in the First Folio, was already in my drafts folder prior to some heraldic ‘news’ a couple of days ago. If you’re not up on the latest hallucination from Warwickshire by way of a Folger Library curator (quelle surprise) and The New York Times, then both the DeVere Society and the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship have posted fine responses that explain and refute. I’m not going to write a separate post. The whole thing is just vested-interest mendacity, misdirection, and mistakes, as always. It’s not even new.

Below are the books I was writing about, before I was interrupted by dubious bookes of armes.


I have been spending some time recently with a pair of books that I haven’t seen in a while. So I thought I’d share a few photos, and some biographical bibliography.

160703-01-tops-of-spines-800x600Two of my earliest 20th-century partisans: Tom (J Thomas Looney) and the Captain (Bernard M Ward). Tom wore Oxfordian Badge #001, for all modern intents and purposes. His book was published in 1920, and Ward’s followed in 1928. These are both first editions, although the Looney is from the American publisher and has been rebound. The Ward still has its original pink cloth cover, with a badly faded spine. Years spent on a sunlit bookshelf perhaps, or poor fabric dye.


160703-02-looney-welbeck+titlepg-800x600Always a bit odd to see my youthful face staring back at me. Looney’s printed reproduction is of the 17th-century copy shown below. It’s known as the Welbeck portrait, and it has become my default image because no one can argue that it’s not me – my personal details were painted right onto the canvas, at the top.

The original painting, for which I sat in early 1575 while I was travelling on the Continent, is long lost. But if you want to see me as I looked in my salad days – not quite like Jamie Campbell Bower in the movie, but squint a little and it works – well, here you go.

160703-EDV-WELBECK-1575-LBS-975x1200The description below Looney’s reproduction says:

Edward de Vere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford
— Age 25 —

from the Portrait at Welbeck Abbey.
Reproduced by 
Permission of
His Grace the Duke of Portland.

Since 1964 it has been on loan to the National Portrait Gallery.

Many of the pages in the book are loose, taped, or in dire need of tape. Imagine what the old cover looked like before it was rebound. This is what the original American cover looks like, and the British cover.

The handwriting on the title page reads Arthur R. Tunsun, New York – Mar – 1923. He’d have a low badge number as well.


160703-03-looney-1sted-1920-800x600The copyright page and some of the preface. In pencil at upper left, the Dewey Decimal number. More about that below.


160703-04-ward-welbeck+titlepg-800x600Another reproduction of the Welbeck portrait, opposite Ward’s title page.

His description says:

17th EARL OF OXFORD, Age 25
Probably painted by a Flemish Artist in Paris

He’s probably right.


160703-06-ward-cover-orig-800x600Ward’s unfaded front cover. It’s less purple than the photo makes it look. The actual size of the stamped design is about 6 cm x 5 cm. Note that the molet (star) in the escutcheon is stamped from silver leaf, while the rest of the achievement is in gold. Two separate stampings. If you’re into book publication (I’m talking to you, Cow Eye Press), this represents an increase in the cost and time needed to produce the cover, just for accuracy in a detail that few people would notice. But I noticed. Worth every penny.

Note also how the shield is somewhat worn, and there are ink smears. Not bad for eighty-eight years old, but still. There’s also perspective distortion in my photo, you can tell by the the slanting vertical lines in the cloth. It’s hard to shoot from directly overhead without casting shadows, unless you have a camera stand and special lighting. I don’t.


Here’s what I did with that photo during the breaks I took from reading about myself. I already know the ending.
If you’re an Oxfordian who would like to save that image for use elsewhere, please be my guest. All I ask is that you don’t erase my website and Twitter addresses from under the motto. Fair’s fair, I did the work with my own armes. Make your own joke about me asking for credit for something I’ve done.


As for looking at what’s inside the covers of these books, I can set down the one half of my commission.

“Shakespeare” Identified is in the public domain. It is available at the Internet Archive in several on-screen and downloadable formats, in both the London and New York original editions (probably reprints too). If you’d rather use ears than eyes, there are also audio files which you can download or stream right from the web page. Isn’t the internet just the most amazing thing. Seriously.

Ward’s biography is more problematic due to its copyright status, which is hard to determine definitively since different countries have different rules. Postlife is too short for some tasks. But the original London publisher appears to have issued a facsimile reprint in 1979, which would indicate that it is still in copyright in both the UK and the US. That would explain the absence of a free digital version. On the other hand, one source I found said that the reprint was unauthorised, so who really knows: not I. You can’t imagine what investigating copyrights would do to my blood pressure, if I had any. Blood pressure. Or copyrights.

I found a limited text search at hathitrust.org, which returns the page numbers and totals for text matches, but without letting you see the actual text. So very helpful. Used copies, even of the reprint, do not flood the resale market. If you managed to track one down you’d probably have to sell a couple of manors to pay for it. Your best bet may be to see if there’s a good library within an acceptable radius that has a copy you can borrow. At least you’d get to read it.


Half a year after I wrote this post, a copy of the 1928 edition of Ward’s biography was uploaded to the Internet Archive. I only discovered it after a further year, because it’s listed with the title “The Seventeenth Earl of Exford”. Carelessness? Camouflage? Contempt? Whatever.

It’s a weird scan with pages trimmed to differing sizes, but it might be your best chance to see what’s in the book, if you’re interested. I recommend that you download the PDF, as the browser reader doesn’t display some of the oddball pages very well.

I also found some contemporaneous reviews.

These two tear Ward into tatters. Not unexpected, and some of the criticism is warranted. You’ll need a JSTOR login (or too much cash) to view the first one, but the second can be read online if you register.

Review of English Studies, Vol. 5, No. 17 (Jan. 1929) pp. 92-103
reviewed by G C Moore Smith

Modern Language Review, Vol. 24, No. 2 (Apr. 1929) pp. 216-221
reviewed by W W Greg

Don’t despair though, there’s a much nicer review at unz.org, and this one is free to view and download.

Saturday Review of Literature, July 21, 1928, p. 1049
reviewed by Esther Singleton

Public Service Announcement, especially for Americans: If you’ve never heard of Ron Unz (he’s from California), go to Wikipedia after you’re done here, read his entry, then take care not to confuse unz.org with unz.com. You’ll know right away if you land on the wrong one.


Last February I posted a poser to Twitter, in the form of an automobile number plate. (The EU flag has become something of an amusement now.) The less-participatory-than-I-had-hoped-for conversation went like this:

Fact: I am the only author in history with his very own Dewey Decimal classification number. You guessed it: 822.33. Yes, the entry is mislabeled under the name of William Shakespeare, but never mind that.

As for classifying the book “Shakespeare” Identified, it gets more specific:

(click to see the PDF from which this bit was taken)

A for Authorship, top of the list. So Looney’s Dewey number, as you can verify in the photo where it’s pencilled on the page, is:

Alo       (lo for the author’s surname, for alphabetizing on the shelf)

Now for Doris’s number. That’s the US Library of Congress classification system. Dewey is older, but as to pros v cons between these two, again, ask a librarian. But a Google Books lookup takes you right to this:


There’s her number, and it’s specific to me as opposed to those other misbegotten alternatives, so now I want that number on my plate instead of the Dewey number. Even 822.33A isn’t as good as PR2947.O9. Though I still don’t have a car.


Ward’s book, on the other hand, doesn’t have anything at all to do with Shakespeare in the eyes of standard-issue librarians, because it’s just a biography of the seventeenth Earl of Oxford (I need a drink). In fact, while writing the book, Ward was expressly prohibited by his publisher from making any connection between the Earl and the Author within the main text. He was only permitted to describe my literary and dramatic activities in interstitial sections called Quarantines Interludes. Even in these, no connecting-the-dots was allowed. Can you imagine, trying to write my life with these restrictions. If only the Captain had had a blog.

In case you were wondering, the titles of the Interludes are:

• “The Crown of Bays”, 1576 (pertaining to A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres)
• Lord Oxford’s Euphuists. 1579-1588
• Lord Oxford’s Actors. 1580-1602
• William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby. 1595-1599 (my son-in-law)


Unless you collect old books or Oxfordiana, there’s a better alternative to losing your mind or money over these two works. They’re both decent reads for understanding the history of the authorship question, but while Looney is available (as an ebook), free, interesting, and still relevant, I’d only suggest Ward if you were familiar with my life from other sources. Even if the book was easy to find, it wouldn’t be the go-to reference. It’s too close to hagiography – and I say that as the hagiographee.

Instead: Mark Anderson has written an excellent biography, which compared to Ward’s is hot off the press. The hardback edition of “Shakespeare” By Another Name was published in 2005, the paperback in 2006, and the ebook (including some updating) came out in 2011. There’s also an audiobook, although note that it’s an abridgment.

Even if I wasn’t the subject, I’d still encourage you to read it.

Head on over to Mr Anderson’s website, and there you’ll find all the details you need to order a copy in whatever format you prefer.



Enjoy thy bookes. And don’t believe everything you read in The New York Times.