We have taken the liberty of reproducing large chunks of Diana Price’s article which seems to be rebutting the content of our own Hand D pages (which she does without referring to them or linking to them). You can download the whole article here.

Obviously we cannot reproduce and annotate the whole article, but nor can we annotate what isn't there. So this article has republished just the extracts about which we need to protest. This isn‘t optimal but we want to remain within the definition of Fair Use. And we have quite a lot to say. There's such a lot to protest about.

We've chosen this moment for a rebuttal of Price's work as it forms a part of a review into the issue of handwriting and more especially, what it reveals. Handwriting is an attribution tool that had a secure place in forensic science before DNA succeded everything as the forensic analysis tool of first choice. There may well be enough DNA still around on these documents and handwriting samples from 400 years ago to disappoint every doubter on the planet. But as the new articles on Oxford's handwriting demonstrate, we don't need it.

It is necessary, however, to deal with the aery persiflage with which Oxfordians try to dismiss the solid claims of Hand D to Shakespearean authenticity. The curators of the manuscript, The British Library, are satisified. The Faculty is satisfied. The acting profession is satisified. We are satisified that we can compare Oxford's hand to Shakespeare's and draw conclusions.

The only people who aren't satisfied are self-styled 'sceptics' and contrarians like Diana Price.

For whom it spells d-o-o-m.

Her essay, and others like it from other contrarians, attempts to dismiss Hand D as Shakespeare's by casting aspersions on the analysis of serious palaeographers, both literary and historical, replacing accurate analysis with their own imaginary expertise. They attack the probability analysis with pseudo-science or the work of partisan amateurs. They abuse scientific and mathematical vocabulary and clutch at the flimsiest straws imaginable. There's no light to be found, though. It's not even Wilberforcian misconception.

To illuminate their thoughts on handwriting, they are relying on anti-Shakespearean Christmas tree lights in which every bulb is broken and all the copper wire has been removed. Or they simply pretend none of it matters.

Well, it matters. There's no detailed analysis of Oxford's undisputed poetry and prose in Oxfordland. So it's just as well we're here to take care of it. This time it's not a nail in the coffin. Handwriting can drive a stake through the heart of the Earl's claim.

Please allow up to 15 seconds for the hybrid annotations page to load and highlight the relevant items of text. Clicking on the yellow highlights will pop up the related annotation or a list. Complete essay Hand D and Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Literary Paper Trail


The biography of William Shakespeare exerts an influence on various areas of research related to Shakespeare, including textual, bibliographical, and attribution studies. A case in point is the theory that Shakespeare wrote the Hand D Additions in the Sir Thomas More manuscript. That theory is now part of received scholarship, even though many of the assumptions and arguments first published in 1923 have been challenged …  Supporting arguments for the Hand D attribution, in particular those based on orthography, prove vulnerable to challenge.

Keywords: Forensic, ‘Foul Papers’, Hand D, Handwriting Shakespeare, Sir Thomas More


…  have been designated as Hands A, B, C, D, E, S, and that of the Master of the Revels Edmund Tylney. It is Hand D that is of interest since many, perhaps most, biographers and editors today accept it as Shakespeare’s. This claim has never been front page news. Instead, it has been gradually advanced since 1923, threading its way into the fabric of Shakespearean biography, editions, and studies.

Without the three pages written by Hand D, Shakespeare’s biographical documentation does not include any literary paper trails; that is, he left behind no hard evidence during his lifetime that could support the statement that his occupation was writing. In an exchange concerning his review of my Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography (2001), Prof. Stanley Wells acknowledges that the first piece of evidence identifying the man from Stratford as a writer was indeed posthumous. In other words, Shakespeare is the only alleged writer from the time period for whom one must rely on posthumous evidence to support his professional activities as a writer.

In the early 1920s, Alfred W. Pollard recruited a group of scholars to contribute essays identifying Hand D as Shakespeare’s. The collection was published in 1923 under the title Shakespeare’s Hand in the Play of ‘Sir Thomas More’…


… Pollard was attempting to fill the documentary void and put an end to the authorship question. In the early part of the twentieth century, the controversy was gaining momentum. Anti-Stratfordian challenges were coming from J. Thomas Looney and Sir George Greenwood in England, and Mark Twain was popularizing the case in the United States. In his preface, Pollard explained that if it is proved that Shakespeare wrote the Hand D portion of Sir Thomas More, then the theories proposing Oxford, Derby, or Bacon as the author come ‘crashing to the ground’ (1923a, v). There’s his agenda, but the subtext is just as significant. If Pollard thought that Hand D could settle the authorship question once and for all, then he was acknowledging that Shakespeare left behind no evidence during his lifetime that proves he was a writer by profession. Otherwise, Pollard would not have needed Hand D to settle the debate.

These authorship-driven pressures continue today. Hugh Craig describes it:
“In many respects attribution of the Hand D passages provide for once a link between ‘Shakespeare’ texts and William Shakespeare of Stratford. (2012, 17)”

That ‘link’ is the putative literary paper trail, Shakespeare’s handwritten manuscript, that proves he was a writer. A …

…manuscripts, letters, and inscriptions, as well as signatures. Thompson is trying to lower his readers’ expectations concerning Shakespeare’s literary remains, the evidence that I refer to as literary paper trails. …

…The deficiency is unique to Shakespeare’s literary biography. That deficiency brings the traditional attribution into question, which is why, in his own words, Pollard led the charge to establish Hand D as Shakespeare’s.

Handwriting and FDE

Since 1923, the claims that the Hand D Additions were composed …

The primary argument for identifying Hand D as Shakespeare’s is Sir Edward Maunde Thompson’s case based on palaeography. Thompson compares D’s handwriting with the extant samples of Shakespeare’s penmanship, the six signatures. Thompson was the first Director of the British Museum and a preeminent palaeographer of his time. Harmopn and Holman define palaeography as ‘the study of old forms of handwriting, important to textual studies for establishing texts and deciding authorship’ (1992, 340). Other resources describe palaeography as concerned with ‘ancient’ forms of handwriting. The English secretary hand is certainly an ‘old’ form of handwriting no longer in everyday use, although it is not generally characterized as ‘ancient,’ as are hieroglyphics or Tibetan scripts. However, as I explored Thompson’s palaeographic case, I began to learn about a newer discipline: forensic document examination.

The relevance of the forensic document examiner’s (FDE’s) methods to Thompson’s case for Shakespeare’s handwriting first becomes apparent in the footnotes of Samuel A. Tannenbaum. Tannenbaum was one of the first to challenge Thompson’s palaeographic case, and he cites Albert S. Osborn’s Questioned Documents as, for one example, the ‘authoritative work on the subject’ (1925, 135n.; see also 1927, 8n.).

Forensic document examination as a discipline began to emerge in the late 1800s. In 1894 William E. Hagan published Disputed Handwriting, and in 1901 Persifor Frazer published Bibliotics or the Study of Documents. Osborn’s 1910 Questioned Documents continues to be quoted today as a founding text by FDE resources, both in print and online. By definition, the forensic document examiner is concerned with handwriting from the standpoint of providing testimony and evidence in a court of law, but scientific methods are common to both FDEs and palaeographers, involving, as they do, criteria and procedures that can be tested and replicated by others.1

Tannenbaum did not identify himself as a palaeographer. Instead, he adopted Frazer’s term of ‘bibliotics’, considering himself a practitioner of the science of the ‘study of documents and the determination of the individual character of handwriting’ (1925, 135). The term ‘bibliotics’ never really caught on; it is not found in the OED

…not himself pen the Hand D Additions raises no ethical or criminal issues. Nevertheless, legal standards of proof are relevant to several scholars with respect to Hand D. In 2013, Douglas Bruster proposed that Shakespeare wrote revisions for the 1601 quarto of The Spanish Tragedy. His argument inferring manuscript idiosyncrasies is based on the assumption that Shakespeare wrote the Hand D Additions. In his essay on ‘Authorship’, Hugh Craig mentions both theories:
“There is reason to believe there are two surviving plays to which Shakespeare added passages some time after their original performance: The Spanish Tragedy, more speculatively, and Sir Thomas More, now beyond reasonable doubt. (2012, 23)”

The phrase ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ implies that the case for Hand D as Shakespeare’s could meet the standard of evidence required to obtain a conviction. At some level, Gary Taylor is aware of the weakness of the case, admitting that the case for Hand D as Shakespeare’s might not hold up in criminal court (1989, 102). He is preceded by Pollard:

If we think of the use which might be made of Sir E. M. Thompson’s arguments in a trial at law it is obvious that they are much more valuable for defence than for attack. Let it be granted that if an estate were being claimed on the evidence adduced to show that the two hands are identical, a jury would probably refuse to award it. (1923b, 13-14)

Palaeography and bibliotics are two of seven distinct ‘auxiliary sciences’ that Haselden incorporated into his study of manuscripts (Haselden 1935, 1-4).2

The signatures

In the ensuing decades, scholars studying various types of historical manuscripts integrated into their ‘new palaeographic approach’ the basic practices of ‘forensic handwriting analysis and how [they] may be applied outside the courtroom’ (Dalton, et al. 2007; see also Stokes 2007-2008). Yet most of the Hand D literature continues to refer only to the early palaeographic case, without comparing Thompson’s methods and standards to those of the FDE.

Fig. 1 – Signature n. 1 on the Mountjoy affidavit (1612)

At the beginning of his 1923 essay, Thompson identifies some obvious problems in conducting a palaeographic analysis, including the paucity of specimens available for comparison, that is, the control sample; the degrees to which the signatures vary in formations and method of writing; the interval of up to twenty or more years separating the penning of Hand D and the signatures; and the supposed illness of the testator affecting at least three of the signatures (71-72). Thompson references his earlier essay in Shakespeare’s England in which he further explains why the three signatures on the will comprise unlikely exemplars:

In addition, as L.L. Schücking observes, the B in the word ‘By’ is unlike the majuscule Bs in D’s Additions (1925, 41). Thompson excuses the ‘malformed’ capital B as ‘owing to [Shakespeare’s] infirmity’ (1923, 105). To this layperson, it does not necessarily look ‘malformed’, perhaps just differently formed. Roy A. Huber notes that the letters h, p, and s of the signatures are formed differently in the Additions. He also points out that none of the letters i in the signatures are dotted, whereas D consistently dots his i’s (1961, 62, 64). These are some of the dissimilarities that make a decisive identification difficult.

Four of the letters in the signatures (i, l, r, and y) are insufficient in Thompson’s view to ‘afford criteria’ for comparison with Hand D (1916a, 57). While this decision is surely a good one (the y occurs only in By, some letters are replaced with marks of contraction), it has the unfortunate result of further shrinking the control sample. Missing letters would seem to present an impediment to a meaningful comparison, as defined in a FDE textbook:

With few exceptions, such discriminants are not available for comparison with D’s Additions. The opportunities available to Thompson for comparing combinations of letters in D’s Additions are obviously limited to those found in the signatures, such as the pe in n. 1 with peace or speake in the Additions, and ha with that or chartered. D’s words makst and forsaks allow for a slightly longer string for comparative purposes. However, these limited letter combinations do not inspire confidence in the fulfilment of Huber’s and Headrick’s injunctions.

… Tannenbaum cannot be sure whether it is Wilm or Willu and Shakper or Shaksper (1925, 157).

These palaeographers are basing their transcriptions on a difficult-to-read script so it is not surprising that they propose different spellings. What undermines a meaningful handwriting comparison is the uncertainty concerning the presence or absence of certain letters since, as we have seen, handwriting analyses include the comparison of combinations of letters in both the control and in the questioned document.3 Uncertain combinations include ll, ks, aks, and pe.

Too much care cannot be exercised in the examination of the signatures produced as standards from which to make the comparison as to their character … the time at which they purport to have been written as compared with the date of the contested signature; and where there are several standards presented for comparison they should be by analysis determined as the writing of the same person before comparing them with the contested writing. (1894, 83-84)

It is surely legitimate to question the origin of the words By me William.

Again, from Handwriting Identification:

Handwriting comparisons require samples of writing from those individuals who are considered to be potential authors, that … are sufficient in number to exhibit normal writing habits in executing the questioned text or parts thereof, and to portray the consistency with which particular habits are executed. (Huber and Headrick 1999, 247)

Are Shakespeare’s signatures ‘sufficient in number’ to ‘exhibit normal writing habits’? One authority recommends that ‘five or six pages of continuous writing should be adequate for comparison with questioned extended writings, and twenty or more separate signatures should be adequate for comparison with questioned signatures. Others have suggested less, perhaps only half those numbers’ (249).5 Even by the latter measure, six signatures are insufficient in quantity to comprise a control sample that can ‘exhibit normal writing habits’.
It was not until Wallace discovered the Mountjoy signature (Fig. n. 1), which he described as ‘rapid, abbreviated’ (1910, 502), that a signature by Shakespeare exhibited any fluency. Thompson thinks the signature is the best written of the six, as it was ‘inscribed with freedom’ and ‘devoid of [the] hesitation or restraint’ found in the other five signatures (1923, 61; 1916a, 1, 9-10).

And so the task of identifying suitable controls becomes yet more difficult, as Shakespeare’s signatures are not likely to be described as ‘skillful’, not even the one exhibiting some fluency.

There is yet another impediment to Thompson’s case. Following B.A.P. Van Dam and L.L. Schücking, Gerald E. Downs questions an underlying assumption on which Thompson’s case for ‘Hand D’ is based: that D’s Additions are authorial, representing original composition. Downs identifies characteristics in the handwriting, including eyeskip (at lines 127, 130) and mistaken anticipation (the deleted and at line 85),6 both of which are consistent with scribal transcription (2000, 5, 8-9). Hand C, an unnamed playhouse scribe, was transcribing, not composing, and Michael L. Hays reconsiders the possibility that Hands C and D are one and the same (1975b, 69; see also McMillin 1987, 153-154). In addition, if the Hand D Additions are Shakespeare’s so-called ‘foul papers’, they are unique specimens in the More manuscript; other portions of the play are fair copy, whether authorial or scribal.

It is not necessary to prove that Hand D was copying his own composition or that of another. If there is a possibility that Hand D was copying, rather than composing, then there can be no case for Hand D as Shakespeare’s in the throes of composition. As Hays points out, if D’s Additions are fair copy, then ‘paleographic distinctions reflecting changes in the creative process evaporate’ (1975a, 247). In addition, if D’s Additions could be scribal copy, then the field of candidates necessarily expands to other mostly unknown hands, Hand C being a possible exception. An argument that D’s Additions are in Shakespeare’s hand in the act of copying (as proposed by, e.g., Grace Ioppolo 2012, 94) whether his own or somebody else’s work, is still dependent on a valid control sample of his handwriting.

W.W. Greg dealt with the problem of the time interval by employing a double standard, as his method of identification of Hand E illustrates. Hand E, who wrote some additions to Sir Thomas More, has been identified as that of playwright Thomas Dekker. A number of writing samples by Dekker survive, including a 1616 letter addressed to the actor Edward Alleyn (Greg, et al. 1925­1932, §IX, §X). Greg placed the date of composition of the Additions somewhere between 1593 and 1597. Therefore, Greg did not use Dekker’s letter of 1616 as a basis for comparison to the Hand E Additions, because it was written at least nineteen years later, or, in Greg’s own words, ‘too late for useful comparison’ (Greg 1923a, 53; on time intervals, see Osborn 1910, 145). To use it would violate one of the palaeographer’s rules. However, the first three words of signature n. 6 on Shakespeare’s will, penned in the same year as Dekker’s letter, are admitted to the control as, evidently, not too late for useful comparison. Signatures n. 1 and n. 2 are likewise separated from D’s Additions by an interval only three to four years fewer.

To summarize, the handwriting analysis is impeded by a control sample that is insufficient in quantity and quality to exhibit ‘normal writing habits’ for comparative purposes. The signatures were written ‘too late for useful comparison’. Signatures belong to a different species than dramatic manuscripts. Thompson’s palaeographic arguments do not fare well when considered alongside the methods and rules imposed by others in his field and those in the then-emerging field of FDEs. Yet the Hand D Additions have been tacitly or explicitly elevated to full status as a literary paper trail, and D’s writing is cited to explain how Shakespeare wrote.

3. Analysis by an FDE (an [unsuccessful] attempt to disqualify Maunde Thompson)

In 1961, Roy A. Huber published a paper about Hand D that was first delivered at a Shakespeare Seminar in Canada…The challenge to Huber was to re-examine Thompson’s case. Huber qualifies his findings, especially since he did not have an opportunity to examine the original manuscript – a serious drawback. He also gives due deference to the palaeographer’s jurisdiction, so to speak, over a case involving the comparison of secretary hands, yet he also hopes that his contribution might ‘suggest areas for further consideration and study’ (1961, 55). Such further study could revisit not only questions about Hand D but also the case for Thomas Heywood as Hand B and the theory that Hands C and D are the same.

In the past thirty years, reviews of the problem have offered balanced summaries of both paleographic and literary considerations, generally implying that the weaknesses of the one are remedied by the strengths of the other … This strategy is, however, somewhat disingenuous. First of all, nonpaleographic arguments may reach the same conclusion as paleographic ones, but they cannot strengthen the paleographic arguments themselves. (1975a, 241-242)

Even if arguments based on style or linguistics turn out to be 100 percent correct and the author of Hamlet can be proven to have composed the Hand D Additions (and possibly the 21-line soliloquy in C’s hand), there is no way to identify the penman, whether author or scribe. As Eric Rasmussen points out in connection with the attribution of the manuscript of The Second Maiden’s Tragedy, ‘whether or not Middleton’s handwriting appears in the manuscript has no bearing on his authorship of the play’ (1989, 8, n. 24). In other words, the case for Shakespeare’s authorship of the Hand D Additions is independent of the case based on handwriting. Despite the various ‘cumulative’ arguments, only handwriting tests can prove or disprove that Shakespeare inscribed the Hand D Additions, and the only specimens available as controls are inadequate for the purpose.

Metz marginalizes Huber’s analysis as ‘inconclusive’ (17). What Huber actually concludes is that ‘the evidence is not sufficiently strong to justify a positive identification’ of Shakespeare as D (66). In this case, his ‘inconclusive finding’ contradicts Thompson’s attempt at a positive identification (Thompson 1923, 71). Any conclusion finding a degree of probability lower than 100 percent constitutes an ‘inconclusive’ finding, and not in the sense of an inadequate argument.8 Huber stated up front that a positive identification is ‘of necessity a matter of probability’

Yet, perhaps Huber should have declined the assignment altogether. According to Osborn, ‘many errors in the examination of questioned writing are due to the fact that an adequate amount of standard writing is not obtained before a final decision is given. The competent examiner will decline to give any opinion until a satisfactory basis for such an opinion is available’ (1910, 19).

‘Foul Papers’ (a pointless diversion)

Many biographers of Shakespeare describe the Hand D Additions as simply part of a play in his handwriting, without further specifying the nature of the manuscript. However, in 1931 W.W. Greg categorized the Additions as ‘foul papers’ (1969, 200).
In his 2013 book-length study of early English playhouse manuscripts, Paul Werstine traces the genesis of Greg’s concept of ‘foul papers’ and its influence on Shakespeare studies. The term is found in at least two Jacobean records. In 1613, the playwright Robert Daborne refers to sending along to Philip Henslowe his ‘foule sheet’ instead of ‘yefayr I was wrighting’ (quoted in Chambers 1963, 1:96). In an annotation ca. 1619-1624 concerning John Fletcher’s play Bonduca, Edward Knight, who copied the play, wrote that ‘this hath beene transcrib’d from the fowle papers of the Authors wch were found’ (quoted in Greg 1925, 152).

The Hand D Additions are part of a manuscript intended for use in the playhouse, not in the print shop, and they contain characteristics consistent with a scribal transcript. They do not contain the principal features enumerated by Greg in his hypothetical definition of ‘foul papers’. The penman’s identity cannot be proven on the available evidence. In the meantime, many editors continue to accept D’s Additions to More as Shakespeare’s ‘foul papers,’ and many biographers continue to accept them as a literary paper trail in Shakespeare’s handwriting.

Orthography (a contorted fairground mirror)

In the case for Shakespeare as D, a significant part of the ‘force of cumulative evidence’ argument is the demonstration of ‘Shakespearean’ spellings. The case based on orthography was introduced in 1923 by John Dover Wilson. Wilson could barely contain his excitement when he discovered that Scilens, a rare spelling for ‘Silence’, appears in both Q 2 Henry IV (1600) and in the Hand D manuscript (128-129). The spelling of Scilens was clearly, in Wilson’s view, an authorial choice, because Scilens is the name of a Shakespearean character, ergo a sacrosanct designation, not just an idiosyncratic spelling for a common word. But Q offers Wilson no support that Scilens is an authorial choice. The name of the silly Justice occurs in Q forty times (including in the cancelled leaves). In dialogue, as a speech prefix or in a stage direction, the Justice’s name is spelled Scilens eighteen times, Silence three times, and Silens nineteen times (as well as in abbreviated form in the cancelled leaves). The variations mean that a particular preference of spelling cannot be argued, regardless of whose supposed ‘preference’ it might represent – author’s, scribe’s, compositor’s, or editor’s.

In the Hand D Additions, the word scilens at line 59 is an interjection, not a proper name, and the word ‘silenced’ at line 78 is spelled by D as sylenct. Similar but not identical variations are found in the 1611 manuscript of The Second Maiden’s Tragedy, which contains four instances of silence and three instances of scilence.

The editors of the Revels edition of the play gloss the word as a spelling ‘found also eighteen times in 2HIV, and nowhere else in Elizabethan texts’ (Melchiori and Gabrieli 1990, 98, n.; see also Schoenbaum 1966, 105; Jowett 2007, 13; Jowett 2011, 442). It is surely significant, however, that the spelling occurs nowhere else in Shakespearean texts, either. The word ‘silence’ occurs dozens of times in the Shakespeare corpus, but in no other instance is it spelled scilens. Other texts supposedly set from Shakespeare’s ‘foul papers’ and containing the spelling silence include Q A Midsummer Night’s Dream (six instances), Q Much Ado About Nothing (two instances) and Q Merchant of Venice (five instances). In essence, to identify this ‘Shakespearean’ spelling, scholars are comparing a rare spelling of a character’s name, found multiple times amongst two other spellings of the same word, in a quarto produced by compositors using unknown printer’s copy, with a single instance of the rare spelling found in a manuscript penned by a (possibly authorial) scribe.

Further, if a particular preferred spelling of a character’s name is a hallmark of Shakespeare’s authorship, as Wilson suggests, then Hand D fails as Shakespearean. D usually spells the title character’s name as ‘moor’, but he also spells it ‘moore’, ‘more’, and ‘moo’. Greg acknowledges that speech prefixes in the Hand D Additions were omitted on the penman’s first pass, and that the speech prefixes subsequently added by D are ‘perfunctory’ in nature (1923b, 229)…Even while identifying possible phonetic error in Q2 Romeo and Juliet (2013, 98), Arden editor René Weis’ argument goes back to Shakespeare’s spelling preferences as found in D’s Additions:

As we know from Sir Thomas More and other foul papers using words ending in –ce, Shakespeare’s spelling practice is to drop the final e, hence ‘obedyenc’ (6.47), ‘obedienc’ (at 107 and 129), ‘insolenc’ (92), ‘offyc’ (112) and frraunc (143) in Sir Thomas More. (100) …However, other spellings in the Hand D Additions of words ending in ce (with the final e) include audience (47), elevenpence (2), and violence (132). Other texts presumably based on ‘foul papers’ with final e spellings include Q A Midsummer Night’s Dream (obedience; disobedience), Q1 Lear (France, offence; notice; office); and Q 2 Henry IV (office, obedience, Prince).…A similar argument is advanced by an Oxford editor of A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

There is more than enough evidence, according to the canons of bibliographical proof, to show that the copy for Q1 was autograph ‘foul papers’ … While Elizabethan compositors often varied the spelling of words, a number of the more unusual spellings in Q1 agree with the spellings used by Hand D in the manuscript of the play of Sir Thomas More, a handwriting usually held to be Shakespeare’s own. In particular Hand D and Q1 share a preference for using ‘oo’ (in, for instance: prooue, hoord, boorde, shooes, mooue). (Holland 2008, 11, 114)

Q1 Lear contains thirteen instances of prove or proves, none spelled with the ‘oo’. Q2 Romeo contains seventeen instances of move and seven instances of prove, none spelled with the ‘oo’. Other supposedly ‘Shakespearean’ spellings such as deules (devils) or Iarman (German) are as easily disproved .

No one can know how many agents intervened between an author’s manuscript and the printed text. Honigmann explains that an editor ‘wants to know how many scribes and compositors copied and set the text’ since they ‘normally changed spelling and punctuation’; even straightforward reprints introduced spelling changes in the printing house (1998, 353). Arguments concerning ‘Shakespearean’ spellings cannot be sustained when spellings in all texts supposedly based on ‘foul papers’ are tabulated.

6. Conclusions (of the false variety)

Shakespeare’s handwritten leaves in the Sir Thomas More manuscript would fill an evidentiary vacuum: If Hand D is a written specimen of Shakespeare’s, he not only left behind a literary paper trail, he left one of the highest quality, a manuscript in his handwriting, whether ‘foul papers’ or authorial fair copy. However, the evidence and the arguments based on handwriting, spellings, and assumptions about ‘foul papers’ do not support such conclusions.

The handwriting case for Shakespeare as D cannot be made on the available evidence: the control sample is inadequate in quantity and quality, signatures and dramatic compositions belong to different classes or species, and the years between the penning of D’s Additions and the signatures render comparisons less useful. The related case that Hand D is an example of ‘foul papers’ relies on a term that is variously defined without reference to any surviving manuscript that served as printer’s copy and without reference to Greg’s original conception; the term remains open to interpretation. ‘Shakespearean’ spellings are based on selective comparisons. With the exception of arguments and data based on stylistics, such as collocations of words and imagery (which are independent of the handwriting analysis), the ‘force of cumulative evidence’ argument is instead comprised of disproved, unproven, or unprovable assumptions.

In the years since 1923, many scholars, editors, and critics have claimed Hand D as Shakespeare’s, and the mere repetition of that claim has bestowed on it a misplaced legitimacy. David Hackett Fischer identifies the logical fallacy as ‘proof by repetition’ (1970, 302-303). Yet despite deficient evidence and faulty arguments, the case for Hand D not only has survived, as of 2015, it is thriving beyond Pollard’s wildest dreams.

Works Cited

ABT Jeffrey…more than 50…, Cambridge University Press, 113-141. Woudhuysen H.R., ed. (1998), Love’s Labour’s Lost, Stoke-on-Trent, The Arden Shakespeare.

Works spectacularly left uncited

Everything of importance written on Hand D, including the now unequivocal attribution by The British Library, with the exception of Pollard's 1923 collection of essays. Also previous Oxfordian work on Hand D, probably now thought dangerously ridiculous.

Hand D
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