From the Hand of the Bard


Shakespeare's autographs

Some of the most beautiful and inspiring words in the English language have come from the hand of William Shakespeare. Over 1,700 words were added to English by his fertile and creative mind.

Interestingly enough, this master of the written word did not appear to pay much attention to his own name.

Shakespeare's autographs
Copies of the six surviving autographs of William Shakespeare.

Six of his signatures have survived to this day. All are connected with legal documents. No two specimens are spelled the same way.

The six signatures are affixed to four different documents:

  • a deposition in the Bellott v. Mountjoy case, dated May 11, 1612
  • the purchase of a house in Blackfriars, London, dated March 10, 1613
  • the mortgage of the same house, dated March 11, 1613
  • his Last Will and Testament, which contains three signatures, one on each page, dated March 25, 1616.

The signatures appear as follows:

  • Willm Shakp
  • William Shakspēr
  • Wm Shakspē
  • William Shakspere
  • Willm Shakspere
  • By me William Shakspeare

Given the rarity of surviving examples of his handwriting, it has been estimated that if a previously-undiscovered signature were to be discovered and be sold at auction, it would bring upward of $5 million. If affixed to a play written in his own hand, it could generate as much as $50 million. 

To see a story about the most valuable autograph ever purchased, check out this Commonplace post.

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