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:
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
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:
http://www.elizabethanreview.com/price.pdf “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”