Discovered on the property of the Verulam home in 1909 were eight quartos of Shakespeare plays: Titus Andronicus, Richard the Third, Richard the Second, King Lear, King John, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and Henry the IV. The quartos were found wrapped up in brown paper and stashed behind some bookshelves. When the old Bacon home belongings were transferred back in 1754, the quartos were overlooked and were laying dormant for over 155 years! The originals were kept there until 1923 when the Bodleian Library stepped in to look after them and slow their deterioration.
Examining the facsimiles one can see a winged head image on
the front page of Titus Andronicus. Two of the plays had no
name associated on it. The implications of these quartos on Bacon's
property are enormous. These rare plays were difficult to own during
that time as well due to the printing costs and one had to be very,
very closely associated with the playwright to be in possession of
them. There is no record of them being purchased. If something like
this was discovered in Stratford it would have made international
headlines even in 1909, the same year Mark Twain published his book
on the authorship issue. Why wasn't a big fuss made at the time of
the discovery? Little has been written on the discovery. Jean Overton
Fuller in her bio on Francis Bacon wrote of "The Gorhambury Quartos"
and associated the dates with the Shakespeare Quartos:
Fuller states, "It is not known how they came to be there. The
present family of Verulams think they must have formed part of
Bacon's library, simply because they cannot think of anybody else who
lived in that house who would have been likely to bring in
Shakespeare Quartos. The binding could have been done by a more
recent occupant, who thought good to secure together things of
"The likelihood of Shakespeare Quartos being acquired casually recedes with distance from the time in which they were produced. There are so few of them altogether, it is rather odd that seven should have as their provenance that house." Fuller adds in a footnote, "as the dates of the Hamlet Quarto are generally given as 1602, the "bad Quarto," and 1604, the "good Quarto," the 1605 puzzled me and I wrote about it to the Bodleian; the Keeper of Printed Books, Dr. R.T. Roberts, replied to me, "There are seven known copies of the second or "good" quarto of Hamlet. Of these, three bear the date 1604 and four the date of 1605. The Verulam copy is one of the latter. The texts are otherwise identical and the reason for the change of date is unknown. There is, I suppose, a possibility that the title-pages were printed about the turn of the year."
I wish to thank the Bodelian Library for these photocopies, made from microfilm of the original documents.
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