Is Edward de Vere’s coronet signature in Shakespeare’s First Folio?

Was the First Folio woodcut at the top of Ben Jonson’s “To my beloved” meant to resemble Oxford’s coronet signature?


This woodcut is used at the top of Jonson’s poem and at the beginning of twelve of the plays (Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Henry VIII,  Richard III, Henry IV Part 1, Henry IV Part 2, Merry Wives of Windsor, King John, Much Ado about Nothing, Twelfth Night, Midsummer Nights Dream, and As You Like It)

Was it intended as an homage to the Earl who signed his name with a similar flourish, seen by some to resemble an earl’s coronet?


The woodcut in the First Folio resembles the earl’s coronet on the de Vere coat of arms, shown here on an engraving and on the cover of de Vere’s Geneva Bible:

A closer view of all three:

coat close up1

bible close up



Was it the intention of the compilers of the First Folio to give the Author Earl a discreet way to “sign” his works?


I am currently keeping an eye out for recurrences of this woodcut in other literature of the era.  Some of the other woodcuts in the First Folio seem to have been commonly used, but have yet to discover this one elsewhere.


UPDATE (July 7, 2016):

Since this original post, I have found this woodcut on two other works published by William Jaggard:

1622 Vincent, Augustine. A discoverie of errours in the first edition of the catalogue of nobility


1623 Favyn, André. Theatre of Honour

to the right honorable

This isn’t to say that the woodcut wasn’t chosen because of its resemblance to an earl’s coronet and de Vere’s signature, but that it does appear to have been in current use, at least by Jaggard, and not created solely for the First Folio.


More on the signature: “Oxford’s signature would more appropriately be called the “coronet signature,” because it depicts spikes topped with little balls, emanating from the headband, signifying the coronet of earldom”




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4 responses to “Is Edward de Vere’s coronet signature in Shakespeare’s First Folio?

  1. Mystikel

    This is very possible. The crown can look more like a W or M which is why I suspect it was used as a Marian Mark. Yet the most carefully drawn example does clearly depict a zigzag or three contiguous v shapes. I am still trying to match the signatures to individual letters so I don’t know whether it was earlier or later, but you might want to add the clear “zigzag” example. I couldn’t imbed it but here’s a link.

  2. drferris68

    Daphne Pearson states Edward de Vere signed his work: “Edouarde Oxenforde” many times. This claim appears to be an error on her part–is/are there any document(s) bearing this signature?

    Also, I can find (probably my poor search skills) no reference any where, either by Oxford or anyone (during his lifetime) that refers to him as either the Seventeenth /17th Earl of Oxford (ie., spelled or presented numerically). Ordinals were used during this time period to refer to kings (Henry III, Edward VI, and so on)–but not for the Oxford earls–that I can find.

    Can anyone help with this?

    • You may want to try and contact Pearson directly with the first question.
      I have added a post referencing Gervase Markham’s “Honour in His Perfection” where he uses the numbering, though this was printed in 1624 and Oxford died in 1604, so it wasn’t during his lifetime, but during his son Henry’s.

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