“Who you gonna believe, me or your lyin’ eyes?”

Posted By on June 12, 2011

Luna’s Folger Library Display of STC 2106.

Sometimes Marx  — Groucho I mean — is the best authority.

In the early days of the internet (1994-2000) there was much authorship discussion on various listserves and EBBs like the Usenet Shakespeare Authorship discussion forum, now a Google group that in the age of blogging has become a virtual wasteland.

The Google group archives do, however, contain some intriguing exchanges albeit somewhat sanitized by the leading Stratfordian ideologues who participated in those days before cleaning up the record of their most egregious errors and  almost to a man slinking off to “other more important things.”

Back in that day there was a lot of sarcasm and abuse heaped upon anyone who dared to say that the de Vere Bible contained anything of consequence.

Particularly contentious were certain passages that, as I acknowledged in my PhD dissertation, were heavily faded so that the original underlining was almost impossible see except under close inspection or with high resolution photography.  Some posters went so far as to sarcastically insinuate that I must have made up the annotation because it was not readily visible to them from their exalted position of clairvoyant knowledge on Usenet.

Sometime early in my study I asked the Folger if it would permit special photography to make the faded underlining show more clearly. Like the request for ink testing, this request was summarily refused.

Over the years, however, a great deal has changed. By 2011 the Folger is perhaps somewhat more enlightened as an institution than it once was, and certainly it is  more eager to take advantage of technology to fulfill its sacred mission to engage in an intellectual conversation with the general public, not just hold specialized seminars for a few privileged selection of elite scholars who are afraid of public discourse because it may happen to inadvertently challenge their unexamined assumptions.

One sign of this enlightenment is the effort the library has made via Luna technology to democratize access to some of its more spectacular holdings, including the de Vere Bible Geneva Bible.

I’d known about these attempts to make Folger holdings accessible through the  for a couple of years but never been able to access or work very well with the de Vere Bible STC 2106 materials. Richard Waugaman, who has conducted his own exciting corroborative research on the de Vere Bible annotations (some of it published in Notes and Queries), first alerted me to the Folger’s foray into virtual librarianship.

But it just wasn’t working for me. I struggled to locate and manipulate the document and understand Luna’s specialized vocabulary and resource applications with little success.

I think it probably wasn’t working, at least completely, for the Folger either, since getting going with these new technologies and working out all the bugs can be a trying experience, as anyone with even a little experience using cutting edge online software knows.

Then a couple of weeks ago Steve Galbraith, the Folger’s new (well, relatively!) Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Rare Books (2008–2011), and now Curator of the Folger’s Cary Graphic Arts Collection, mailed me the direct link to the holding.

Check it out!

This is truly awesome.

It more or less makes my entire color slide collection of de Vere Bible annotations (not to mention my black and white microfilm of the entire book!) irrelevant.

Now ANYONE can see for her or himself (yes, folks, anyone, as I keep telling my students with Sisyphean patience, is singular!) what these annotations look like or don’t look like.

So this shout out goes out to Dr. Galbraith and all the other Folger staff who were involved in this. In future posts I’ll be making use of the Luna images to illustrate some important points, but for now, they are there for anyone. So gape and ogle all you want and send me your questions….



About the author

Roger Stritmatter is a native liberal humorist who lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Contrary to rumor, he does not live on North Avenue. He does, however, work on North Avenue. A pacifist by inclination, one of his heroes is John Brown. But he thinks that Fredrick Douglass, another of his heroes, made the right decision. Stritmatter's primary areas of interest include the nature of paradigm shifts, the history of ideas, forensic literary studies, MS studies, renaissance literature, and the history of the Shakespearean question, the latter a field in which he has published extensively.


2 Responses to ““Who you gonna believe, me or your lyin’ eyes?””

  1. richard waugaman says:

    This is truly exciting, Roger. I’m delighted you’re spreading the word about this stupendous resource being available worldwide through the internet now. As you know, I first learned about your work in The New York Times in 2002. It was your landmark, paradigm-changing research with de Vere’s Geneva Bible that got me so heavily involved in Shakespeare studies during the last nine years. I will always be indebted to you for that, and for all your support and guidance. May this go viral!

    Richard Waugaman

  2. Roger Stritmatter says:

    Thanks so much Richard. I couldn’t be more pleased that the Folger is finally getting behind disseminating this information instead of hiding its candle under a bushel. It seems like at least a few people there, no doubt in part to your own emissary work, are waking up to the reality that the authorship question is real and the “handwriting is on the wall” for de Vere.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

  • Categories

  • Archives

In "From Crackpot to Mainstream"Keir Cutler, PhD, takes down the recent Shakespeare Beyond Doubt (OUP, 2013)

Criticism of Cutler's "Is Shakespeare Dead?": "A magnificently witty performance!" (Winnipeg Sun). "Highly entertaining and engrossing!" (EYE Weekly). "Is Shakespeare Dead? marshals startling facts into an elegant and often tenacious argument that floats on a current of delicious irony" (Montreal Gazette).