Learned Books

Yea the illiterate, that know not how
To cipher what is writ in learned books

The Rape of Lucrece, lines 861-62

Not everyone lived (or died) with books. I grew up, literally, under the roofs of the two finest libraries in England at the time, Thomas Smith’s and William Cecil’s. Since then I’ve owned or read books beyond counting. Here are a few that are worthy of mention.


  • Dating Shakespeare’s Plays: A Critical Review of the Evidence
  • · Edited by Kevin Gilvary
  • · Parapress, 2010, paperback, 520 pages

14 March 2019: This informative and thought-spawning reference is now available to download at no cost. Very generous of Mr Gilvary, the De Vere Society, and everyone else involved. See this post at the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship’s website for additional details. I also tweeted about it.

This book doesn’t mention my name, but it doesn’t need to if your brain knows how to think for itself. If you believe that the overlaps between what of Italy is in Shakespeare, and where I went and what I did during my residence there in 1575-76, are unrelated and ignorable – while Willy never put so much as a toe in salt water – then thanks for stopping by, and have fun in Warwickshire or Washington.

This isn’t one book, but a list of many that I used in my work – books that I owned or had private access to. Public access did not exist. Note in particular the list’s second section, Books that Shakespeare Read in Another Language. Indeed.

Python is the second-best thing this realm has ever produced.

  • “Shakespeare” Identified in Edward de Vere, the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford
  • · by J Thomas Looney
  • · Cecil Palmer, London, and Frederick A Stokes, New York, 1920, hardback, 551 pages
  • · reprinted by other American publishers in 1949 and 1975
  • · Centenary Edition, edited by James A Warren
  • · Forever Press, Somerville MA, 2018, paperback, 487 pages
  • · [Amazon UK | US]

SI was the first published work to connect my life with Shakespeare’s words, and to advocate the case for me as he. Looney (it’s LOW-nee, he was Manx) therefore holds pride of place in modern Oxfordianism. SI is not the smoothest read in terms of its style (oh those prolix Victorians), but it’s the book that opened the door to everything about me that has followed, including the blog you’re now reading.

The Centenary Edition has updated the original’s punctuation and formatting (though not its text), and Warren has added references and a bibliography for a great many of Looney’s sources. It’s a welcome alternative to the Internet Archive’s scans of the old book, though the scans win on cost, not having any. But spend the money if you can. Your eyes will thank you, and you can write in the margins.

  • The Mysterious William Shakespeare The Myth & the Reality
  • · by Charlton Ogburn (Jr), foreword by David McCullough
  • · 1st edition: Dodd, Mead & Co, New York (1984), hardback, 892 pages
  • · 2nd edition: EPM Publications, McLean VA (1992), hardback, 892 pages
  • · new and used copies readily available

Dauntingly comprehensive study that brought my case up to date. Even dyed-in-the-wool Stratfordians can learn a lot about the Author from this book, and it’s a must-read for any more-than-casual Oxfordian. Worth the effort.


  • “Shakespeare” By Another Name: The Life of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, the Man who was Shakespeare
  • · by Mark Anderson (@markawriter)
  • · Gotham Books/Penguin Group USA, 2005, hardback, 640 pages
  • · also paperback, audiobook, and ebook formats

I’d call this my standard biography now. Amazon [US | UK] has still-new copies in hardback and paper, used copies, and a Kindle version.

  • This Star of England“William Shake-speare” Man of the Renaissance
  • · by Dorothy and Charlton (Sr) Ogburn
  • · Coward-McCann, 1952, hardback, 1297 pages
  • · used copies at the usual suspects, varying condition and prices
  • · Online-readable at the HathiTrust Digital Library [hathitrust.org]. Single-page PDFs downloadable, whole-book PDF requires login
  • · First 50 chapters transcribed at sourcetext.com, with the remainder as raw page scans in downloadable chapter PDFs (presumably an unfinished project to transcribe the whole book)
  • The Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, 1550–1604
  • · by Bernard M Ward
  • · John Murray, London, 1928, hardback, 408 pages
  • · used 1928 copies or 1979 reprints are hard to find, and very expensive
  • · the Internet Archive has a downloadable copy

See also Oh Put Me In Thy Bookes, which discusses the Ward and Looney books in detail.



This interesting book takes a nonconformist position and states it with vehemence. Breight may be the only person alive whose view of my father-in-law is more jaundiced than mine. But though a historical contrarian, Breight remains an unenlightened, pedestrian English professor. His references to Shakespeare are insightful, yet his assumptions are predictably, lazily orthodox. He thereby misses much that would have been useful to his argument. My absence from the book paradoxically supports his thesis of the extent of Cecilian power. He himself is its unwitting victim, after more than four centuries.

I had to put a sticky note over Burghley’s head on the dust jacket. The look on his face was just too bloody familiar. And be warned, even the ebook costs half a goodly manor.


  • Cow Country [coweyepress.com]
  • · by Adrian Jones Pearson
  • · Cow Eye Press, 2015, hardback, 540 pages
  • · also paperback, audiobook, and ebook formats
  • A Confederacy of Dunces [wikipedia.com]
  • · by John Kennedy Toole
  • · Louisiana State University Press, 1980 (written in 1963)
  • · numerous reprint editions and formats available at the usual sources

Ignatius J Reilly is the nearest thing I’ve seen to a modern Falstaff.


  • My Bible – It belongs to me. I want it back.
  • · printed by John Crispin, Geneva
  • · MDLXX (1570)
  • · immured at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC, USA

photos courtesy of the FSLEO-bible-revelation-14-13-738x719I underlined Revelation 14:13 for a reason.