Hand D home


Hand D belongs to one of six different individuals, five authors and one scribe, who contributed to the manuscript of Sir Thomas More, now in the British Library. Today, aside from anti-Stratfordians, few scholars do not accept Hand D as genuinely Shakespeare's. The different strands of proof, forensic, orthographic and documentary, when taken together, are conclusive. In this extended article we pull together these strands and review the reasons why residual doubt has evaporated.

Sir Thomas More - text

An anonymous play of the sixteen century ascribed in part to William Shakespeare. First printed in 1844 and here re-edited from the Harleian MS. 7368 in the British Museum.

Modern spelling.
Hand D shown in red
Further possible addition shown in blue

An artist's hand

There are, contrary to popular belief, lots of other Elizabethan manuscripts lying around, though it seems to be the rule that the more popular the play, the less original matter survives. This isn't all that surprising. An unproduced play may exist only in a single bound copy as it awaits an impresario, a director, a cast and a theatre. It can survive, complete, in a drawer for hundreds of years, awaiting discovery.


Years ago, while working as a software publisher for a very large company, I was sent an unreleased graphology (handwriting analysis) app by a programmer looking for a publisher.

It was an example of what was then called an "Expert System". You answered a series of questions while looking at a paragraph of someone's handwriting alongside three of their signatures. After a garishly fanciful animation of computerised thought, it fed back guesses about the character of the author, some of them apparently accurate. If you wanted more, you could then put the samples in the post and get a detailed analysis by return. I tried this out with half a dozen colleagues and compared it to results from the widely used 16PF personality test. All the subjects agreed that the graphology results were better.

Thomas Bayes and Elliott–Valenza

Is “Hand D” of Sir Thomas More Shakespeare’s?

Thomas Bayes and the Elliott–Valenza Authorship Tests.

Macdonald P Jackson


Internal evidence

Although computerised stylometric analysis has advanced considerably, modern attribution techniques are not dependent on it. Nor does it disagree with more traditional methods.

Today, the whole of Early Modern English literature is online and available in a single addressable database for research and comparison. Modern scholars have access to new methods of 'big-data' analysis using immensely powerful hardware which has conveniently become cheap enough to sit on their desktop.

Still in its infancy, however, the science of stylometry has not replaced the gentler art of internal analysis. Scholars have long felt able to discern Shakespearean or Marlovian qualities in unattributed work and conversely, whether Will's hand is discernible in plays attributed to other playwrights. The subject is rising in importance in every English Faculty. Although it might appear to succour the doubters, who are indeed seeking to make capital out of the disagreements which inevitably ensue, they are doomed. Wherever you look, however hard, with whatever technology or approach, there isn't the smallest amount of support for the idea that the canon wasn't written by the man from Stratford we know as Will Shakespeare.