Bible FAQ

Folger Shelfmark 1427 (STC 2106): The 1570 de Vere Geneva Bible. After an original kindly provided by the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Folger Shelfmark 1427 (STC 2106): The 1570 de Vere Geneva Bible. After an original kindly provided by the Folger Shakespeare Library.

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What is the de Vere Geneva Bible?

A copy of the 1568-70 2nd edition of the Geneva Bible, purchased in 1925 by Henry Clay Folger for his Folger Shakespeare Library Collection, from Leicestershire bookseller Bernard Halliday. The receipt states – correctly — that the book bears the “arms of the Earl of Oxford.” The book will hereafter be referred to by its Folger shelfmark, 1427.

Can we be sure that the book was actually owned by the 17th Earl of Oxford?
Yes. Four independent lines of evidence converge to prove this point:

1) Shelfmark 1427  is bound in scarlet velvet with silver engraved armorial devices belonging the Earldom of Oxford. Given the publication date, the only Earl of Oxford for whom this binding can plausibly have been created is Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl (1550-1604).

2) Surprising as it may seem, the original bill of sale for shelfmark 1427 is still preserved in records for the Court of Wards from 1570, as reprinted in B.M. Ward’s 1928 biography of Oxford: “To William Seres, stationer, for a Geneva Bible gilt, a Chaucer, Plutarch’s works in French, and other books and papers…£2 7d 10p.”  The Folger 1427 volume, like the Geneva Bible described in the 1570 purchase order, has a gilded foredge.

3) The handwriting in shelfmark 1427 – which contains approximately 32 short handwritten notes (often of no more than one word) – has been verified through independent forensic paleography, to be that of the 17th Earl.  Board certified examiner Ms. Emily Will concluded  that “After thorough examination of the documents presented in this case, it is my expert opinion that it is highly probable that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, is the author of the Q1 questioned annotations. It is the limitations of the questioned materials, rather than any significant difference between the known and questioned writings, which prevents an unqualified opinion” (Will 2000).

4) As Dr. Stritmatter’s dissertation has  shown (55-59), many themes reflected in the marked passages of shelfmark 1427 can be traced directly to known biographical facts of Oxford’s life. This confirms the evidence of handwriting:  not only was Oxford the original owner of the book, but  it was he who made the annotations.

What is the Geneva Bible?

The Geneva Bible is the translation of the Bible prepared by William Whittingham and his Protestant associates in Geneva, Switzerland, during the period 1553 through 1560. The first edition was published in 1560 in Geneva; due to its incendiary implied criticisms of Catholicism, it remained a popular but unauthorized translation throughout the reign of Elizabeth I. In 1568 the Church of England published an alternative Protestant translation, the Bishop’s Bible, which remained the official English Bible until the King James edition appeared in 1611.

Over a hundred years of scholarship has made it clear that the Geneva Bible was the translation most familiar to Shakespeare; although he knew the Bishop’s and other translations, and sometimes prefers their variant wording, the version of the Bible which he recalled most spontaneously and frequently was the Genevan. This fact alone is enough to demonstrate the extreme unlikelihood of the recent revisionist view that Shakespeare was a recusant Catholic. To any Catholic the Geneva translation of the Bible would have been heretical and is the last version he would be likely to read or recall in his work.

Where was shelfmark 1427 between 1604 (when Oxford died) and 1925 (when Henry Clay Folger purchased it)?

We do not know. Presumably it was somewhere in Leicestershire during the early 20th century, since Folger’s bookseller was from that county. It has been suggested that it may have been deacquisitioned around 1925 from Kenilworth castle. Although this is a plausible scenario, at this time it cannot be supported with any known tangible evidence.

Have the  inks been tested to prove their authenticity as 16th century inks?

No. In 1995 Dr. Stritmatter and colleagues (specifically, Mark K. Anderson and George Anderson, a chemist) requested that the Folger library undertake such tests, and offered to help design protocols and arrange funding. These requests were refused.

Doesn’t the fact that the underlining is in several colors of ink mean that the book was annotated by multiple annotators?

No. Despite claims to the contrary by Professor James Shapiro in his Oxfordian-baiting book, Contested Will, which I reviewed here (generically) and here (with respect to his false claims about my dissertation), and here (with respect to the book’s bizarrely incompetent scholarship) annotations appear in all three major ink groups of the Bible. In several cases, annotations in orange ink (also used elsewhere to underline) are found in association with underlining in brown, and visa-versa.

By overwhelming preponderance the evidence suggests that the book was read and annotated over many years in several different colors of ink by the one individual for whom it was purchased and bound in 1570.

What is the evidence connecting the annotations of shelfmark 1427 to the works of Shakespeare?

The following claims are documented in Dr. Stritmatter’s dissertation or in follow up analysis by Dr. Richard Waugaman:

1) Of the approximately 1043 underlined or marked verses in shelfmark 1427, 147 are cited in previous authorities (Carter, 1905; Milward, 1984; Shaheen, 1987, 1989, 1993, 1999) as Shakespearean influences (Stritmatter 311-315).

2) 20 more marked verses contain language that is at least as close as that found in the verse identified by one or more of these authorities as a Shakespearean influence (Stritmatter 315).

3) 81 marked verses contain language that, although not cited by previous authorities as influencing Shakespeare, exhibit more or less definite traces of influence, documented in the dissertation (Stritmatter 316-318).

4) Of sixteen psalms marked in the Sternhold and Hopkins 1569 metrical psalms which is bound with the de Vere Bible, nine have been  cited in previous authorities as influencing Shakespeare. Subsequent work by R. Waugaman, published in Notes and Queries,  shows that the actual number of marked psalms significantly influencing Shakespeare is much greater than was known in 2001.

5) The more times a Shakespearean verse is cited by Shakespeare, the more likely it is to be marked in the de Vere Bible.

6) At least two marked verses as well as a number of underlined notes contain language reflected in Shakespeare that is found only in the Geneva Bible.

7) Of 81 Bible verses or groups of verses that Shakespeare alludes to four or more times (accounting for as many as 22.5% of all Shakespeare’s Bible references), no less than thirty are directly marked in the de Vere Bible (Stritmatter 78; 267-304).

Many of the annotations fall into one of several definite thematic emphases, all of them with implications for better understanding their relationship to the field of Shakespeare’s references to the Bible. These include:

1. The responsibilities of the rich and powerful.

2. The virtue of charity.

3. The evils of usury.

4. The nature of sin.

5. Prophecy.

6. The value of secret works.

7. The nature of providence in eschatological end times.

8. The nature of proper speech.

9. The discrepancy between truth and appearance.

Isn’t it true that the annotations of shelfmark 1427 were made before Oxford purchased it?

No. This is a rumor started by the Folger Shakespeare Library, in a 1993 pamphlet, Roasting the Swan of Avon, and later perpetuated by the Smithsonian Magazine. Despite being promulgated by such supposed authorities as the Folger library and Smithsonian, the argument, as Mark K. Anderson and Roger Stritmatter demonstrated in 1996, was based on erroneous facts and indefensible reasoning.

Doesn’t Berkeley Emeritus Professor Alan Nelson claim that the shelfmark 1427 annotations are not by Oxford?

That depends when you talk to him. Here is a partial chronology of Dr. Nelson’s opinions on the matter:

  • 6/3/95, personal communication to R. Stritmatter and Phaeton online discussion forum: “I am 99 and 44/100 percent certain that the annotating hand is Oxford’s; I am 100 percent sure (if its possible to be that) that the Bible is Oxford’s.”
  • 6/4/99, to the Chronicle of Higher Education: “The hand is simply not the same hand that wrote [the] letters. The people who claim this is clearly Oxford’s hand just don’t know their paleography.”

Why did Nelson change his mind?

In a 2000 conversation with William Boyle and Roger Stritmatter, Dr. Nelson explained his transformation this way: “Um…I wanted it to be Oxford’s handwriting….yes, that’s what I’m going to say.”

At the present time, this is the most complete explanation that Dr. Nelson has given for his remarkable “about face” on the fundamental question of the handwriting of the annotations. If you don’t find it to be thorough or convincing, perhaps you can ask Nelson yourselff….

How can I order a copy of the dissertation?

The de Vere Bible dissertation is available through the Shakespeare Fellowship shopping cart. While you are there, please make use of the Shakespeare Fellowship’s excellent online resources, and consider joining the Fellowship.

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67 Responses to “Bible FAQ”

  1. knitwitted says:

    Howdy Doc!!

    re *Woodstock*… With the Bible being one of Sh.’s two main sources, I think this an outstanding way to match this play to Sh. Especially if *Woodstock*’s prior sources contained biblical allusions and this play contains all new allusions as was Shax’s M.O. Excellent work!!

    As for Leir, just FYI per Shaheen “Unlike Sh’s play, the action of Leir takes place in a Christian world, and the play has strong Christian overtones…. The play also contains references to the Litany and the Magnificat Few of the sources that Sh. used for his plays contain so many biblical references and religious images. Leir contains some thirty clear biblical references, thirteen possible references or passages with strong biblical echoes, and many religious images.

    “Sh. borrowed none of Leir’s references. In a few instances Sh.’s references may have been suggested by a phrase or parallel situation in the old play. But for the most part, Sh.’s references are his own.”

  2. knitwitted says:

    To continue my last comment…. How did Shaheen know about these 30 clear, 13 possible, and many images in Leir? Did he find them on his own? Would he have kept notes?? I am really curious what those biblical references would be!!

    Certainly will keep you posted… It seems like Sh.’s play Lear was re-written during that Annesley Case 1603-4… Interesting how not only was Southampton’s step-father (IIRC) executor of Annesley’s estate, but he also married Annesley’s youngest daughter Cordell in 1607.

    You’ve really piqued my interest in all this Bible research!! Well-done!! : )

    Best wishes,
    Libby

  3. knitwitted says:

    O hey… Look what I found http://www.elizabethanauthors.org/king-leir-app1.htm

    There is a section on “Biblical/Religious References”… Nice!!

  4. knitwitted says:

    Hi Doc,

    Side note… I found your exceptionally thoughtful comment elsewhere re Marlowe which seems to be applicable generally to ALL authorship contenders that I’d like to repost in part here:

    “[T]he vast majority of early modern scholarship recognizes a clear set of diagnostic features that generally allow one to distinguish one writer from the other. These include or might include (I’m sure that others, were they here, could add much more to my paltry list);

    1) The relative scarcity of humor in Marlowe;
    2) The pattern of Biblical allusions (which is a subject upon which I am well informed);
    3) Marlowe’s theme of upward mobility (as distinguished from Shakespeare’s of downward mobility)
    4) Marlowe’s characterizations are relatively flat compared to Shakespeares;
    5) The great metrical simplicity (like unto a metronome!) of Marlowe’s characteristic “mighty line,” as juxtaposed to the extreme variety of metrical and phonological effects employed by Shakespeare

    “These are a few. Like I said, I’m no expert — I’m sure the experts would have much more thorough justification of why it is nearly impossible that the same man can have written the vast majority of both canons (there are a few touches in Marlowe, esp. in Edward II and Massacre at Paris, that read to me as possible collaborations between the two bards. But I have to conclude that there is a very different aesthetic vision at work in Tambourlaine, Jew, and Faustus, as well as Marlowe’s poetry and translations. He didn’t see the world from the same POV as Sh. did.”

    The entire can be found http://www.michaelshermer.com/2009/08/shakespeare-interrupted/#comment-3508

    Excellent, excellent comment!! Your “He didn’t see the world from the same POV as Sh. did.” Certainly this and your other points would be useful in futher validating *Woodstock*… and any other “juvenalia” as Shax’s.

  5. Roger Stritmatter says:

    Brilliant. : )

    I bet Shaheen’s list is among his papers probably at the University of Tennessee. To my knowledge he never published it. Robert Brazil (rip) did really incredible work, along with Barb Flues, on that website, and its great to see that it is still available and continuing to provide inspiration and provoke new inquiry.

  6. knitwitted says:

    O hai. I knew if I stayed around long enough, you’d say something “brilliant” : ) Exciting someone else has found another use for your research… I’m still convinced your research will have further interest beyond Oxford… Still working on finding the right group…

    Thanks for the tip re Shaheen’s papers… Am off for the summer but hope to pick back up later. In the meantime, could you email me any new Notes & Queries you come out with? Also, any updates on your Bible book!!

    Thanks as always for your help!!

    Enjoy your summer,
    L

  7. knitwitted says:

    Just wanted to park this here please… Hoping you might consider submitting your work on this to N&Q.

    ****
    B.C. Hackman wrote:
    At the beginning of Chap 8, Dr. Stritmatter offers what he calls a “particularly impressive instance of verification” based on the marking (by whom we really aren’t sure) of Num 20.7-8.

    7 And the Lord spake vnto Moses, saying,
    8 Take the rod and gather thou and thy brother Aaron and the Congregation together, and speake ye vnto the rocke before their eies, & it shal giue forthe its water, and thou shalt bring them water out of the rocke so thou shalt giue the Congregation, and their beastes drinke.

    An unqualified claim is then made that this is the source (not a source, but “the” source) for the line in “All’s Well that Ends Well,” in which Helena urges the King to accept her offer of healing mercy:

    Great floods have flown
    From simple sources, and great seas have dried
    When miracles have by the greatest been denied.
    (2.1.139-141)

    So let’s look for some common words. Floods? Nope. Flown? Nope. Simple sources? Nope. Great seas? Nope. Miracles? Nope. Anything being Denied? Nope. Beastes? Nope.

    There is almost zero verbal correspondence between Num 20:7-8 and Helena’s appeal. Not only do the words not match, but the sense is different. Numbers is good old fashioned OT “Behold the miracles of God.” Helena’s urging mercy is more complex and metaphorical, and probably refers to what happened to Pharoah (“the greatest” with a small g) denying God’s miracles and parting (and then unparting) of Red Sea, per my trusty Riverside. The source here is, of course, back in Exodus 14.

    But even worse, tucked away in fn 81 lies admission that the studies by Peter Milward (1973 93) and Nasseb Shaheen (1993 211-212) referenced in the text actually cited Exodus 17-6. I haven’t checked, but I can safely bet that neither Exodus 14 nor 17-6 is marked in the Oxford Bible, so we’ll just go on a fishing expedition until we find a verse with something wet in it, then tie it to a “correspondence” that someone else identified, once removed.

    So the words don’t match. The ideas don’t match. The contexts don’t match, and the supporting authorities were misrepresented. And this is a “particularly impressive instance of verification?”

    The only common link between the passages seems to be the occurrence of water: Numbers using the actual word for the water that will flow from the rock, and AW with its floods and seas. These are not such stuff as proofs are made of.

    END OF QUOTATION

    ****
    My response:
    Per Shaheen (1999, 2011 pp. 272-3): All’s Well That Ends Well 2.1.139-40: “Great floods have flown From simple sources.”
    —”A reference to Moses striking the rock at Horeb, causing water to gush forth. The same miracle was repeated at Kadesh.”
    —Exodus 17.6: “Behold, I will stande there before thee upon the rocke in Horeb, and thou shalt smite on the rocke, and water shal come out of it, that the people may drinke.”
    —Numbers 20.8-11: “Speake ye unto the rocke before their eyes, and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring them water out of the rocke. … Then Moses lift up his hande, and with his rod he smote the rocke twise, and the water came out aboundantly.”
    —See also Psalms 114.8.

    Per Stritmatter (3rd printing, p. 61): All’s Well That Ends Well 2.1.139-41: “Great floods have flown From simple sources, and great seas have dried When miracles have by the greatest been denied.”
    —Geneva Numbers 20.8 (marked in de Vere): “Take the (note “d”) rod, and gather thou and thy brother Aaron the Congregacion together, and speake ye unto the rocke before their eies, & it shal give forthe his water, and thou shalt bring them water out of the rocke: so thou shalt give the Congregacion, and their beastes drinke.” Note “d”: “Where with thou didest miracles in Egypt, and didest divide the Sea.”
    —Per the explanation in Appendix G (a listing of all marked verses), Geneva Exodus 17.6 (which has no note) does not mention the word “miracles”.

    B.C., Geneva Numbers 20.8 *is* the primary source for AWW 2.1.139-41. Based on Dr. S’s review of the Geneva note which references Moses’ other miracles, this is an excellent example of how the marked passages in the de Vere Bible can be used to find not only more but also clearer biblical allusions in Shakespeare than previously identified by scholars.

    For interest’s sake, Geneva Psalms 114.8: “Which (note “e”) turneth the rocke into water-pooles, & the flint into a fountaine of water.” Note “e”: “That is, caused miraculously water to come out of the rocke in moste abundance. Exod. 17.6.”

    ***END***

  8. Roger Stritmatter says:

    Thanks for setting this straight. This is the usual method of reasoning of Mr. Hackman & Co.

  9. knitwitted says:

    You’re welcome! Excellent, excellent job Roger!

  10. knitwitted says:

    Hi Doc,

    Any chance you’d write an essay regarding the differences in Bible usage between Marlowe, Bacon and Shax? AND get such study published mainstream?

    I’ve read your comments on Marlowe (as posted above) and on Bacon (at SF Forum) and think such comparison would absolutely be interesting and would definitely merit publication.

    I note you say “Bacon habitually draws from the Latin vulgate, Shakespeare almost always from the English, usually the Genevan, Bible. Nor can it be replied that this difference can be explained away by virtue of the different genres (learned essays vrs. popular plays) from which the two samples are derived. For the patterns don’t match when we factor out the issue of language, either. The two minds simply don’t function in the same “Bible grooves.” They don’t have the same habits of theological reflection or modes of processing information and ideas from the Bible.”

    This is just EXCELLENT!
    Best wishes,
    Knit

  11. Roger Stritmatter says:

    This is a good idea, but given all the other projects on my plate at the moment it is by no means a priority for me. Maybe its a project you would like to take on.

  12. knitwitted says:

    Hi Doc,

    Another “park here please”…

    Jonson owned a 1599 Latin edition of the Bible.

    Per *Habits of Mind: Evidence and Effects of Ben Jonson’s Reading* Robert C. Evans (1995, p. 47): “[M]any of the passages he highlights share common thematic concerns. Perhaps inevitably in the Hebrew scriptures, many of the marked passages deal with such matters as
    genealogy,
    familial strife,
    God’s personal grace,
    and especially divine punishments for sin.”

    Evans lists the passages marked in Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, and “the final mark” in I Maccabees. He does note the passages marked in Exodus and Deuteronomy are probably not Jonson’s.

  13. Roger Stritmatter says:

    Very interesting Knit. This deserves further inquiry and study. Unfortunately, at this point in time I am primarily interested in other books possibly or definitely annotated by Oxford. But it would indeed be fascinating to do a complete table of these marked passages. I wonder why he thinks those particular marked passages are not by Jonson? And does he think annotations and markings in other parts of the Bible *are* by Jonson?

  14. knitwitted says:

    Howdy Doc!

    Further on Jonson’s 1599 Latin Bible, per David McPherson, “Ben Jonson’s Library and Marginalia: An Annotated Catalogue”, *Studies in Philology*, 1974, pp. 30-31: The bible was a gift from Sir Thomas Strange in 1605. McPherson notes: “Very faint pencil marks beside Genesis 18:5, 19:6, and 20:3; vertical ink marks beside Exodus 12:27, 30-32. On Deuteronomy 17:8-18, someone has drawn a hand in ink pointing at verse 8 and vertical ink marks by the rest of the passage. A short vertical mark by Deuteronomy 20:6. None of these marks are especially characteristic of Jonson.”

    Back to Robert C. Evans: I don’t find where Evans identified the 1599 bible as being a gift in 1605.

    Evans’ (p. 47) comment on McPherson’s above “None of these marks…”: “However, further examination indicates not only that the marginal markings in the Pierpont Morgan Bible [i.e. Jonson’s 1599 Latin Bible] are almost certainly Jonson’s, but also that there are many more marginalia than the standard catalogue reports.”

    Further, Evans reports: “According to the standard catalogue, Jonson’s most typical marginal markings were distinctively drawn pointing hands and marginal flowers (or trefoils). Several such flowers, drawn in ink, do turn up in the Morgan text, and these are almost surely Jonson’s. A pointing hand in Deuteronomy–also ink-drawn–is less certainly his, but it is the other markings, made very faintly in pencil, that are of special interest. Exactly similar marks occur in other books associated with the poet…”

    HTH,
    Knit

    P.S. How’s your weather? I’m so excited!! We had a day of sleet last Fri which made the grass all crunchy and tomorrow we’re expecting a day of sleet and S-N-O-W !! Hooray for global warming : )

  15. Roger Stritmatter says:

    Thanks for the further details. The McPherson book is excellent; I have a photocopied version of it in my library. Note that in 1974 he identifies *206* books known from Ben Jonson’s library. My Huntington Library colleague informs me (about fifteen years past) that since then another 100 have been identified.

    How many books of “Shakespeare’s” do we have? 0.

    No wonder that some needs the Folger’s Lambarde volume to have an authentic “Shakespeare” signature.

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