Double Spaced Essay Handwritten Signature

William Shakespeare's handwriting is known from six surviving signatures, all of which appear on legal documents. It is also generally believed[1][2] that three pages of the handwritten manuscript of the play Sir Thomas More are in Shakespeare's hand.


Shakespeare wrote in the style known as the Secretary hand. It was native and common in England at the time, and was the cursive style taught in schools. It is not the italic script, which was encroaching as an alternate form (and which is more familiar to readers of today). Shakespeare’s handwriting shows a freedom to make variances in style depending on the mood or the composition being written. The three page additions to Sir Thomas More are written in a fluid manner, by a skillful and experienced writer. The writing begins with indications of speed, in the manner of a scrivener, with a practiced sense of uniformity. Then the writing style changes over to a more deliberate and heavier style, as can be seen, for example, in the speeches of Thomas More, which require greater thought and choice of words. Throughout, the writing shows a disposition to play with the pen, to exaggerate certain curves, to use heavier downstrokes, and to finish some final letters with a small flourish. These characteristics are more evident in the slower, deliberate sections.[4]

The secretary hand was popular with authors. It was used by Christopher Marlowe and Francis Bacon. It could be written with ease and swiftness, it was conducive to the use of abbreviations, and it had a beauty in its curves as it swept across the page. As it was taught in the schools and by tutors, it allowed for great diversity — each writer could choose a style for each letter. To the untrained eye, the secretary hand can at first appear to be indecipherable.[5]

Shakespeare wrote with a quill in his right hand. A quill would need to be prepared and sharpened. Black ink would be derived from “oak apples” (small lumps in oak trees caused by insects), with vinegar and gum arabic added.[6]

John Heminges and Henry Condell, who edited the First Folio in 1623, wrote that Shakespeare’s “mind and hand went together, and what he thought he uttered with that easiness that we have scare received from him a blot in his papers.” In his posthumously published essay, Timber: Or, Discoveries, Ben Jonson wrote:

I remember the players have often mentioned it as an honor to Shakespeare, that in his writing, whatsoever he penned, he never blotted out a line. My answer hath been, ‘Would he hath blotted a thousand,’ which they thought a malevolent speech. I had not told posterity this but for their ignorance, who chose that circumstance to commend their friend by wherein he most faulted; and to justify mine own candor, for I loved the man, and do honor his memory on this side idolatry as much as any. He was, indeed, honest, and of an open and free nature; had an excellent fancy, brave notions, and gentle expressions, wherein he flowed with that facility that sometime it was necessary he should be stopped.[7][8]


Serious study of Shakespeare's handwriting began in the 18th century with scholars Edmond Malone and George Steevens. By the late nineteenth century paleographers began to make detailed study of the evidence in the hope of identifying Shakespeare's handwriting in other surviving documents. In those cases when the actual handwriting is not extant, the study of the published texts has yielded indirect evidence of his handwriting quirks through reading and apparent misreadings by compositors. To give one example of this, in the early published versions of Shakespeare’s plays there occurs a recurrence of an upper case letter “C” when the lower case is called for. This might indicate that Shakespeare was fond of such a usage in his handwriting, and that the compositors (working from the handwriting) followed the usage. When trying to determine who the author is of either a printed work or a pen-and-ink manuscript, this is one possible method of discovering such indications.[9]

Shakespeare's signatures[edit]

There are six surviving signatures, attached to four legal documents, that are generally recognised as authentic:

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

The signatures appear as follows:

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

In addition, it should be noted that the first signature also includes a short horizontal stroke above the letter “m”, and a horizontal stroke or flourish in the stem of the letter “p”, which may be read as “per” or, less likely, as an indication of abbreviation. The fifth signature also contains a horizontal stroke above the letter “m”. All of his signatures are written in his native English script, which he would have learned as a young boy in school. He used the long Italian cursive letter “s” in the center of his surname, a concession to the new style, except for the fifth signature, in which he reverts to the native English long “s”.[10]

Three of these signatures are abbreviated versions of the surname, using breviographic conventions of the time, which was common practice. For example, Edmund Spenser sometimes wrote his name out in full (spelling his first name Edmund or Edmond), but often used the abbreviated forms "Ed: spser" or "Edm: spser".[11] The signatures on the Blackfriar's document may have been abbreviated because they had to be squeezed into the small space provided by the seal-tag, which they were legally authenticating.

The three signatures on the will were first reproduced by the 18th-century scholar George Steevens, who copied them as accurately as he could by hand and then had his drawings engraved. The facsimiles were first printed in the 1778 edition of Shakespeare's plays, edited by Steevens and Samuel Johnson.[12] The publication of the signatures led to a controversy about the proper spelling of Shakespeare's name. The paleographer Edward Maunde Thompson later criticised the Steevens transcriptions, arguing that his original drawings were inaccurate.[13]

The two signatures relating to the house sale were identified in 1768 and acquired by David Garrick, who presented them to Steevens' colleague Edmond Malone. By the later nineteenth century the signatures had been photographed. Photographs of these five signatures were published by Sidney Lee.[14]

The final signature, on the Bellott v. Mountjoy deposition, was discovered by 1909 by Charles William Wallace.[15] It was first published by him in the March 1910 issue of Harper's Magazine and reprinted in the October 1910 issue of Nebraska University Studies.

Handwriting analysis[edit]

Although some scholars took note of, and reproduced, Shakespeare’s handwriting as early as the 18th century,[13] the paleographer Sir Edward Maunde Thompson wrote in 1916 that the subject of Shakespeare’s handwriting had “never been subjected to a thorough and systematic study.” One reason for this neglect is that the only examples of Shakespeare’s handwriting that were known to earlier scholars were five authentic signatures.[16] A further difficulty was that three of the known signatures were written in the last weeks of Shakespeare’s life, when he may have been suffering from a tremor or otherwise enfeebled by illness, and the other two had been written under conditions that restrained free movement of the hand. Those signed to the Blackfrairs mortgage had to be squeezed into the narrow space of the seal.[17]

Under the circumstances, with evidence limited to those five signatures, an attempt to reconstitute the handwriting that Shakespeare actually used might have been considered impossible. But then in 1910, the discovery of the sixth signature on the Bellott v. Mountjoy deposition changed all this. This signature was written with a free hand, and it was the key to an important part of the problem. Thompson identified distinctive characteristics in Shakespeare's hand, which include delicate introductory upstrokes of the pen, the use of the Italian long “s” in the middle of his surname in his signatures, an unusual form of the letter “k”, and a number of other personal variations.[18][19]

The first time it was suggested that the three-page addition to the play Sir Thomas More was composed and also written out by William Shakespeare was in a correspondence to the publication Notes and Queries in July 1871 by Richard Simpson, who was not an expert in handwriting.[20] Simpson’s note was titled: “Are there any extant MSS in Shakespeare’s handwriting?” His idea received little serious attention for a few decades.[21] After more than a year James Spedding wrote to the same publication in support of that particular suggestion by Simpson, saying that the handwriting found in Sir Thomas More "agrees with [Shakespeare’s] signature, which is a simple one, and written in the ordinary character of the time.”[22]

After a detailed study of the More script, which included analysing every letter formation, and then comparing it to the signatures, Thompson concluded that “sufficient close resemblances have been detected to bring the two handwritings together and to identify them as coming from one and the same hand,” and that “in this addition to the play of Sir Thomas More we have indeed the handwriting of William Shakespeare.”[23][24]

Thompson believed that the first two pages of the script were written quickly, using writing techniques that indicate Shakespeare had received “a more thorough training as a scribe than had been thought probable". These pages contain abbreviations and contractions of words which were “in common use among lawyers and trained secretaries of the day.” These pages show more of the characteristics of “the scrivener”, but the third page, having been written with slower deliberation, reveal more of Shakespeare's own quirks, or, as he put it, “more of the hand of the author”. In addition there are in the three pages suggestions of a “tendency to formality and ornamental calligraphy.”[25]

Editor’s interpretations[edit]

The problems editors or compositors can face when transforming the handwritten manuscript into the printed page are demonstrated in the printed edition of Sir Thomas More, edited in 1990 by Gabrieli and Melchiori. In the following line spoken by More addressing the mob: “This is the strangers’ case, and this your mountanish inhumanity,” the reading of the word “mountanish” is supported by references in Twelfth Night and Cymbeline. However, in the handwritten manuscript by Hand D, the “un” in the word has only three strokes, or minims, which makes it look like an “m”: as “momtanish”. So the word has been read by modern editors as “moritanish” (referring to the inhabitants of Mauritania), or as "momtanish" (a contraction of “Mohamadanish” - referring to the followers of Mohammad), or as “mountainish” (suggesting huge and uncivil), as well as other readings and spellings.[26]

Handwriting thought by some to be Shakespeare's[edit]

A possible seventh signature on the book Archaionomia[edit]

In the late 1930s a putative seventh Shakespeare signature was found in the Folger Library copy of William Lambarde's Archaionomia (1568), a collection of Anglo-Saxon laws. In 1942, Giles Dawson published a report cautiously concluding that the signature was genuine, and 30 years later he concluded that there was "an overwhelming probability that the writer of all seven signatures was the same person, William Shakespeare."[28] Nicholas Knight published a book-length study a year later with the same conclusion.[29]Samuel Schoenbaum considered that the signature was more likely to be genuine than not with "a better claim to authenticity than any other pretended Shakespeare autograph," while also writing that "it is premature ... to classify it as the poet's seventh signature."[30] Stanley Wells notes that the authenticity of both the Montaigne and Lambarde signatures have had strong support,[31] but the ascription has not gained wide academic attention nor any overwhelming consensus.

In 2012, University of Mississippi English professor Gregory Heyworth and his students used a 50-megapixel multispectral digital imaging system to enhance the signature as a first step in their authentication process.[32][33]

The body of Shakespeare’s last will and testament[edit]

The first person to claim that the body of Shakespeare’s last will and testament was written in Shakespeare’s own handwriting was John Cordy Jeaffreson, who compared the letters in the will and in the signature, and then expressed his findings in a letter to Athenaeum (1882). He suggests that the will was intended to be a rough draft, and that the progressively deteriorating script indicates an enfeebling illness, an illness which may have caused the “rough draft” to become the will itself.[34][35]

John Pym Yeatman is another who considered that the body of the will is in Shakespeare’s handwriting. In his book, Is William Shakespeare’s Will Holographic? (1901), he argues against the often repeated idea that Francis Collins (or “Francis Collyns” as it is often spelled), Shakespeare’s lawyer, wrote the will. Among the evidence that Yeatman offers, is Collins' signature on the will itself. Collins’ name occurs three times in the will: twice in the body, and the third time when Collyns signs his name at the bottom of page three. The body of the will, along with Shakespeare’s own signature, are written in handwriting known as the secretary hand, whereas the signature by Collins, particularly the initial letters, is written in a modern hand. The difference between the two handwriting styles is primarily in the formations used for each letter of the alphabet. Yeatman then states that the last insertion regarding the second-best bed, is in a handwriting that “exactly corresponds with the signature below it.” This he adds, is “of the utmost value, in proof that one hand wrote them both.”[36]

In 1985 manuscript expert Charles Hamilton, compared the signatures, the handwritten additions to the play Sir Thomas More, and the body of the last will and testament. In his book In Search of Shakespeare he placed letters from each document side-by-side to demonstrate the similarities and his reasons for considering that they were written by the same hand.[37]

The handwriting in the body of Shakespeare’s last will and testament indicates that it is written all by one person in at least two sessions: First the entire will of three pages, then a revision on the lower half of the first page that runs over onto page 2, and finally the additions or bequests that are inserted between the lines. The lower half of page one, the part that was written later than page 2 and 3, shows a disintegration of the penmanship. This problem worsens until the last written line, leaving his second-best bed to his wife, is almost indecipherable. The ink used for the interlinear additions is different from the ink in the main body of the will, but it is the same ink that is used by the four witnesses that signed the will.[38][39]

Handwriting in a letter signed by the Earl of Southampton[edit]

The Shakespearean scholar, Eric Sams points to a letter written by the 20-year-old Earl of Southampton to a Mr. Hicks (or Hyckes) regarding Lord Burghley, at a time when Southampton had not yet agreed to marry Burghley’s granddaughter. The letter is signed by the Earl of Southampton, but the body of the letter was written by someone else. It is dated 26 June 1592, a year when it is thought that Shakespeare may have first encountered Southampton and had begun writing the sonnets. Sams notices that the handwriting in the body of the letter is literally a secretary hand, and it resembles the handwriting found in the addition to Sir Thomas More by Hand D. After close scrutiny of the letters and pen strokes in each, and referencing the detailed descriptions found in Edward Thompson’s Shakespeare's Handwriting: A Study, Sams finds that there are enough similarities to merit further consideration. This letter was written by Southampton regarding one of his houses that was in need of repair, and as Eric Sams points out, it was written at a time when Southampton was the recipient of sonnets written by Shakespeare that contained imagery suggesting the young lord might consider repairing his house: “Seeking that beauteous roof to ruinate/Which to repair should be thy chief desire.” (Sonnet 10, lines 7-8) And “who lets so fair a house fall to decay?” (Sonnet 13, line 9)[40][41][42][43][44][45]

A signature on a deed for the purchase of a house[edit]

On 4 December 1612 Shakespeare’s friends, Elizabeth and Adrian Quiney, sold a house to a man named William Mountford for 131 pounds. The deed of sale, written out apparently by a legal clerk, was witnessed and signed twice in different parts of the deed by William Shakespeare’s daughter, Judith, who used for her signature a squiggle with two loops in it. Judith's given name and surname were written out on either side of Judith’s marks, by someone who was not the clerk, or the witnesses or the signers. Paleographer Charles Hamilton studied this document and found that Judith’s surname as it is written out is so similar to the surname in Shakespeare’s own signature as it appears on other documents, that it may be reasonable to consider that Shakespeare could have been there at the signing of the deed, and assisted his daughter as she made her mark. Hamilton considers that there may be reasons for Shakespeare not witnessing the document himself. For example, he could have been involved in some way that would have precluded him from acting as witness, either in the drawing up of the deed or in advising the Quineys.[46][47][48]

The applications to grant a coat-of-arms to John Shakespeare[edit]

On 20 October 1596 a rough draft was drawn up for an application to the College of Heralds for Shakespeare’s father to be granted a coat-of-arms. This draft has numerous emendations and corrections, and it appears to have been written by someone “inexperienced in drawing up heraldic drafts.”[49] The script is written at a great speed, but with the fluid, easy character of one well practiced with a quill. The velocity of the writing is increased by shortcuts and abbreviations. Formalities of punctuation and consistent spelling are left behind, as words are pared down. Loops and tails are sheared, and letters are flattened for speed. The handwriting slows down only to produce a clearly legible italic script for proper nouns and family names. Later that day, the same person drew up a second rough draft based on the first one, incorporating the edits that were indicated in the previous draft. This application was ultimately successful, and the coat-of-arms was granted.

A third application was drafted three years later in 1599. This time it was applying to have impaled onto Shakespeare’s coat-of-arms, the arms of the Ardens of Wilmcote, Shakespeare’s mother’s family. All three drafts include a pen-and-ink sketch of the proposed coat-of-arms: a shield, with a spear, surmounted by a falcon standing on its left leg, grasping a spear with its right talon. The coat-of-arms is seen to be pictorially expressing Shakespeare’s name with the verb “shake” shown by the falcon with its fluttering wings grasping a “spear”.[50][51]

William Dethick is mentioned in all the application drafts, as the “Garter-Principal king of Arms in England”. It has been suggested that Dethick wrote the drafts,[52][53] but Dethick’s handwriting, a combination of secretary and italic scripts, appears to be quite different.[54] The idea that Shakespeare himself made out the applications, and that it is his handwriting on the rough drafts, was raised by Samuel A. Tannenbaum.[49] Paleantologist Charles Hamilton considering this, published illustrations for comparison by placing words and letters from the applications side-by-side with words and letters from the additions by Hand D in the play, Sir Thomas More, and other sources.[55]

Edward III[edit]

Though the playwright’s handwriting for Edward III has not survived, the text, as printed, has been analyzed in order to discover indications of characteristics that the handwriting might contain, in the same way that the First Folio and other printed texts have been scrutinized.[56]

This has led to findings that may support the attribution of this play to Shakespeare. For example, scholar Eric Sams, assuming that the pages by Hand D in the play, Sir Thomas More are indeed Shakespeare’s, points out that Hand D shows what scholar Alfred W. Pollard refers to as “excessive carelessness” in minim errors — that is, writing the wrong number of downstrokes in the letters i, m, n, and u.[57] This particular characteristic is indicated in numerous misreadings by the original compositor who set the printed type for Edward III. This is also found in the Good Quartos,[58] which are thought to be printed from Shakespeare’s handwritten manuscripts. For a second example, Hand D uses a short horizontal stroke above a letter to indicate contraction, but twice omits it. This characteristic is indicated by the compositor’s misreadings in a number of instances found in Edward III. And in another example, Hand D and the Good Quartos often show “the frequent and whimsical appearance of an initial capital C, in a way which shows that Shakespeare’s pen was fond of using this letter in place of the minuscule."[59] This characteristic occurs throughout both the Sonnets and Edward III.[56]


The Ireland Shakespeare forgeries[edit]

In London in the 1790s the author, Samuel Ireland, announced a great discovery of Shakespearean manuscripts, including four plays. This turned out to be a hoax created with great effort by his son, William Henry Ireland. It fooled many experts, caused great excitement, and a production of one of the plays was announced. Shakespearean scholar Edmond Malone was one who was not taken in. The forged handwriting and signatures bore little or no resemblance to Shakespeare’s. Malone said it was a clumsy fraud filled with errors and contradictions, and detailed his reasons. William Henry Ireland eventually confessed.[60]

A forged signature on a book by Montaigne[edit]

On a loose fly-leaf of a copy of John Florio’s translation of the works of Montaigne, is a signature that reads "Willm. Shakspere”. The signature is now widely recognized as a poor forgery, but it has taken in scholars in the past. The book’s first known owner was the Reverend Edward Patteson, who lived in the 1780s in Staffordshire, a few miles from Stratford-upon-Avon. The book was auctioned for a large amount (100 pounds) in 1838 to a London bookseller named Pickering, who then sold it to the British Museum. Frederic Madden accepted it as authentic in his pamphlet Observations on an Autograph of Shakspere and the Orthography of his name (1838),[61] and so did Samuel A. Tannenbaum in his essay “Reclaiming One of Shakspere’s Signatures” (1925).[62] Others, including John Louis Haney writing in 1906, were not taken in. A close consideration and analysis of the signature and each letter shows it to differ markedly from any of the authentic signatures.[63][64][65]


  1. ^Brown, Mark (March 15, 2016). "William Shakespeare's handwritten plea for refugees to go online". The Guardian. Retrieved March 19, 2016. 
  2. ^Adam, Karla (March 15, 2016). "More than 400 years ago, Shakespeare decried the 'mountainish inhumanity' that refugees had to face". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 19, 2016. 
  3. ^[1] Wolfe, Heather. Learning to Write the Alphabet. The Collation from the Folger Shakespeare Library.
  4. ^[2] Pollard, Alfred, editor. Shakespeare’s Hand in the Play of Sir Thomas More. Thompson, E. Maunde. “The Handwriting of the Three Pages Attributed to Shakespeare Compared with His Signatures”. page 67 - 70. Cambridge University Press (1923)
  5. ^Hamilton, Charles. In Search of Shakespeare. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. (1985) page 12
  6. ^Edmondson, Paul. Shakespeare: Ideas in Profile. Profile Books (2015). ISBN 9781782831037
  7. ^Edmondson, Paul. Shakespeare: Ideas in Profile. Profile Books (2015) ISBN 9781782831037
  8. ^[3] Masson, David. Essays Biographical and Critical: Chiefly on English Poets. Macmillan. (1856) page 7
  9. ^[4] Pollard, Alfred, editor. Shakespeare’s Hand in the Play of Sir Thomas More. Wison, J. Dover. “Bibliographical Links Between the Three Pages and the Good Quartos”. page 67 - 70. Cambridge University Press (1923)
  10. ^[5] Greg, W.W. editor. Shakespeare’s Hand in the Play of Sir Thomas More. Cambridge University Press, 2010. ISBN 9781108015356. pages 58 - 61
  11. ^Albert Charles Hamilton (ed), The Spenser Encyclopedia, University of Toronto Press, 1990, p. 346.
  12. ^Edward Maude Thompson, Shakespeare's Handwriting: A Study, Oxford, Clarendon, 1916. p. x.
  13. ^ ab[6] Thompson, Sir Edward Maunde. Shakespeare's Handwriting: A Study. Clarendon Press (1916) page x
  14. ^Sidney Lee, Shakespeare's Handwriting: Facsimiles of the Five Authentic Autograph Signatures, London, Smith Elder, 1899.
  15. ^Wallace, Charles William, "Shakespeare and his London Associates," Nebraska University Studies, October 1910.
  16. ^[7] Thompson, Sir Edward Maunde. Shakespeare's Handwriting: A Study. Clarendon Press (1916) page 1
  17. ^E.M. Thompson, Shakespeare's Handwriting: A Study, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1916, p. 6-7.
  18. ^S. Schoenbaum, A Documentary Life, Oxford University Press/Scolar Press, 1975 p.157.
  19. ^[8] Thompson, Sir Edward Maunde. Shakespeare's Handwriting: A Study. Clarendon Press (1916) page 29
  20. ^[9] Simpson, Richard. in a correspondence “Are there any extant MSS in Shakespeare’s handwriting?” written to Notes and Queries, 4th Series, volume viii, p. 1 (1 July 1871) Referenced and quoted in: Thompson, Sir Edward Maunde. Shakespeare's Handwriting: A Study. Clarendon Press (1916) pages xii & 38
  21. ^[10] Thompson, Sir Edward Maunde. Shakespeare's Handwriting: A Study. Clarendon Press (1916) page xii
  22. ^[11] Spedding, James. Notes and Queries, 4th Series, (21 September 1872) Referenced and quoted in: Thompson, Sir Edward Maunde. Shakespeare's Handwriting: A Study. Clarendon Press (1916) page 39
  23. ^[12] Thompson, Sir Edward Maunde. Shakespeare's Handwriting: A Study. Clarendon Press (1916) page 53
  24. ^Schoenbaum, A Documentary Life, p.158:'The cumulative evidence for Shakespeare's hand in the 'More' fragment may not be sufficient to shake away all doubts – but who else in this period formed an a with a horizontal spur, spelt silence as scilens, and had identical associative patterns of thought and image? All roads converge on Shakespeare'.
  25. ^[13] Thompson, Sir Edward Maunde. Shakespeare's Handwriting: A Study. Clarendon Press (1916) page 55-56
  26. ^Munday, Anthony and others. Gabrieli, Vittoria. Melchiori, Giorgio, editors. Sir Thomas More. Manchester University Press (1990). ISBN 0 7190 1544 8. page 104-105.
  27. ^[14] Easton, Roger L. jr. “Spectral Imaging of Shakespeare’s Seventh Signature”. The Collation; a Gathering of Scholarship from the Folger Shakespeare Library. March 19, 2012.
  28. ^Dawson, Giles. "A Seventh Signature for Shakespeare." Shakespeare Quarterly 43 (Spring 1992): 72–79, p. 79.
  29. ^Knight, W. Nicholas. Shakespeare's Hidden Life: Shakespeare at the Law 1585-1595. New York: Mason & Lipscomb, 1973.
  30. ^Schoenbaum, Samuel. William Shakespeare: Records and Images. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981, p. 109.
  31. ^Wells, Stanley (2001). "Shakespeare's signatures" in Dobson, Michael, and Stanley Wells, eds. Oxford Companion to Shakespeare. Oxford Companions to Literature. Oxford University Press. pp. 431. ISBN 978-0-19-811735-3.
  32. ^Pappas, Stephanie. "Restored Scribble May Be Shakespeare's Signature". Live Science. TechMediaNetwork. 14 April 2012.
  33. ^Hopkins, Curt. “50-megapixel digital imaging system uncovers Shakespeare signature”.Ars Technica website. April 4, 2014.
  34. ^[15] Elze, Karl. William Shakespeare: A Literary Biography. Publisher: G. Bell & Sons. (1888) page 509
  35. ^[16] Jeaffreson, John Cordy. A Book of Recollections, Volume 2. Hurst and Blackett (1894) Page 227
  36. ^[17] Yeatman, J. Pym. Is William Shakespeare’s Will Holographic? Published by the author. (1901) page 12
  37. ^Hamilton, Charles. In Search of Shakespeare: A Reconnaissance Into the Poet's Life and Handwriting. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (1985) ISBN 9780151445349
  38. ^Tannenbaum, Samuel A. Reclaiming One of Shakspere’s Signature. University of North Carolina Press (1925)
  39. ^Chambers, Edmund K. William Shakespeare: A study of Facts and Problems. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Volume 2, page 173 (1930)
  40. ^Sams, Eric. The Real Shakespeare; Retrieving the Early Years. Meridian. (1995) ISBN 0-300-07282-1 page 195.
  41. ^[18] Sams, Eric. "Handwriting in the British Library's Lansdowne MS 71” 14 April 1981
  42. ^[19] Hazlitt, William Carew. Shakespear, Himself and His Work: A Biographical Study. Published by B. Quaritch (1908) page 59. Location: Lansdown MS. 71 fol. 180
  43. ^[20] Printed by command of King George III. British Museum. Catalogue of the Lansdowne Manuscripts in the British Museum. (1819) page 136
  44. ^[21] Stopes, Charlotte Carmichael. The Life of Henry, Third Earl of Southampton: Shakespeare's Patron. The University Press (1922) Referencing: Lansdowne MS. LXXI. 72
  45. ^Greenblatt, Stephen. Will in the World. Pimlico. (2005) ISBN 0-7126-0098-1 page 228-229
  46. ^Hamilton, Charles. ‘’In Search of Shakespeare: A Reconnaissance Into the Poet's Life and Handwriting’’. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (1985) ISBN 9780151445349 page 125
  47. ^Callaghan, Dympna. ‘’Who Was William Shakespeare: An Introduction to the Life and Works’’. John Wiley & Sons (2012) ISBN 9781118312278
  48. ^Schoenbaum, Samuel ‘’William Shakespeare: a Documentary Life’’. Oxford University Press (1975) page 241.
  49. ^ ab[22] Tannenbaum, Samuel, A. The Shakespeare Coat-of-Arms. The Tenny Press (1908) ISBN 978-0404063368
  50. ^[23] Tannenbaum, Samuel Aaron. The Shakespeare Coat-of-arms. The Tenny Press. (1908). page 19
  51. ^Furnivall, F. J. “On Shakespeare’s Signatures”. The Journal of the Society of Archivist and Autograph Collectors, No. 1. (1895).
  52. ^Lambert, D.H. Shakespeare Documents: Cartae Shakespeareanae (1904)
  53. ^Tucker, Stephen, editor. The Assignment of Arms to Shakespeare and Arden (1884)
  54. ^Hamilton, Charles. In Search of Shakespeare: A Reconnaissance Into the Poet's Life and Handwriting. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (1985) ISBN 9780151445349 page 137
  55. ^Hamilton, Charles. In Search of Shakespeare: A Reconnaissance Into the Poet's Life and Handwriting. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (1985) ISBN 9780151445349 page 144
  56. ^ ab[24] Sams, Eric. Shakespeare’s Edward III. Yale University Press. (1996) ISBN 9780300066265. page 192
  57. ^[25] Pollard, Alfred, editor. Shakespeare’s Hand in the Play of Sir Thomas More. Cambridge University Press (1923) page 117
  58. ^[26] Pollard, Alfred, editor. Shakespeare’s Hand in the Play of Sir Thomas More. Cambridge University Press (1923) page 117-118
  59. ^[27] Pollard, Alfred, editor. Shakespeare’s Hand in the Play of Sir Thomas More. Cambridge University Press (1923) page 115
  60. ^[28] Stewart, Doug. “To Be...Or Not: The Greatest Shakespeare Forgery” Smithsonian Magazine. June 2010.
  61. ^[29] Madden, Frederick. Observations on an autograph of Shakspere, and the orthography of his name. Oxford University (1838)
  62. ^Tannenbaum, Samuel A. “Reclaiming One of Shakspere’s Signatures” University of North Carolina Press (1925)
  63. ^Hamilton, Charles. In Search of Shakespeare: A Reconnaissance Into the Poet's Life and Handwriting. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (1985) ISBN 9780151445349 page 243
  64. ^John Louis Haney, The Name of William Shakespeare, Egerton, 1906, pp. 27–30.
  65. ^F. E. Halliday, A Shakespeare Companion, 1550–1950, Funk & Wagnalls, New York, 1952 pp. 209, 424.

External links[edit]

This secretary alphabet is in a penmanship book by Jehan de Beau-Chesne and John Baildon published in 1570, when Shakespeare would have been five or six years old. As a result, this may have been the edition he studied as a child in grammar school.[3]

Willm Shakp
Bellott v. Mountjoy deposition
12 June 1612

William Shakspēr
Blackfriars Gatehouse
10 March 1613

Wm Shakspē
Blackfriars mortgage
11 March 1613

William Shakspere
Page 1 of will
(from 1817 engraving)

Willm Shakspere
Page 2 of will

William Shakspeare
Last page of will
25 March 1616

Shakespeare's six surviving signatures are all from legal documents.
The Blackfriars signatures are fitted into the narrow space of the seal holder
Facsimile of a page written by 'Hand D', in all likelihood written by William Shakespeare
From the play, Sir Thomas More: "but chartered unto them, what would you think to be thus used, this is the strangers case and this your mountanish inhumanity"
Signature discovered on the title page of Lambarde's Archaionomia. This is a reversed photograph of the ink that seeped through to the verso side of the page, the image was reversed so that the signature reads in the legible direction.[27]
Above: The name of the lawyer "Francis Collins" as it appears in the body of the will. Below: Collins' signature on the will.
Judith Shakespeare’s mark, a squiggle with two loops. Her given name and surname were added on either side of her mark.
A pen-and-ink sketch of Shakespeare’s shield drawn on the first rough draft of the application to grant a coat-of-arms to John Shakespeare.
The alleged signature in Florio's translation of Montaigne.

10 Letters and Memorandums

10.01 Introduction

The underlying principle of all forms of communication, not just letter writing, is the following: say what you have to say clearly and succinctly (see Chapter 13 Plain Language, "Plain Language"). The layout of the document should be such that the reader can quickly determine who the sender and intended recipient are, when the document was written or sent, what it is about, and what follow-up, if any, is required of the recipient.

Since the first edition of The Canadian Style was written, the personal computer has replaced the typewriter. This has had an impact on not only formatting, layout and editing but also the method of communicating written information itself. Hence a section on Electronic Mail has been included at the end of this chapter.

10.02 Block style

Letters are laid out in two basic styles or variations thereof: the block style and the indent style. The one recommended by the Canadian government’s Treasury Board for administrative correspondence is the block style. (The Board recognizes that the full block style may not be suitable for all types of correspondence.) In it all lines begin flush with the left margin, including the sender’s address, the date, the complimentary close and the signature, as illustrated in the example found in section 10.26 Model letter.1


  • Back to the note1 The federal government authority for document layout is the Treasury Board, acting through the Federal Identity Program (FIP) in accordance with Chapter 470 of the Board’s Administrative Policy Manual. Guidelines on layout, paper and envelope size, and related items may be found in the FIP Manual. Any future recommendations and directives on document layout issued through the FIP will take precedence over recommendations made in this chapter.

10.03 Indent style

In the indent style the sender’s address, if not given in the letterhead, appears at the top right-hand corner with the date below it. The complimentary close and signature block are at the bottom right. The first line of each paragraph in the body of the letter is indented. Some feel that this style lends a more personal touch.

10.04 Margins

Margins may be adjusted to make a short letter appear longer or a long one look shorter. The left margin must be absolutely straight and the right one as straight as possible without splitting words too often. Do not justify the right margin; otherwise distortions in spacing may occur.

10.05 Spacing

While recognizing that it may not be appropriate for all correspondence, the FIP Manual recommends five vertical spaces between the recipient’s address and the salutation, two between the salutation and the body of the letter and five between the complimentary close and the sender’s name. Leave one blank line between paragraphs.

Do not carry over fewer than three lines of text to a new page.

Names of people, numbers and dates should stay on the same line:

  • Approval was given by Mr. Ranald A. Quail, Deputy Minister, Public Works and Government Services Canada.


  • As regards implementation, approval was given by Mr. Ranald A.
    Quail, Deputy Minister, Public Works and Government Services Canada.

  • Subject to the limitations clearly spelled out in section 92(1)(c)(i) of the Financial
    Administration Act, . . . .


  • Subject to the limitations (. . .) clearly spelled out in section 92(1)(c)
    (i) of the Financial Administration Act, . . . .

10.06 Length

A letter should generally not exceed two pages. If three or more pages are required, consider preparing a separate report for attachment to the letter.

If a letter contains two or more pages, use page numbering: an indicator (. . . /2) at the bottom of each preceding page, flushed right, and page numbers themselves, centred at the top of each page.

The maximum length of an address is six lines.

10.07 Punctuation

Punctuation must be consistent throughout the document and should be used only where clarity demands it. Enter a colon after the salutation (see 10.16 Attention line) and a comma after the complimentary close (see 10.20 Complimentary close).

10.08 Consistency

For uniformity and consistency, put the parts of the letter, as applicable, in the order in which they are presented below (see 10.09-10.25 Letterhead to Postscript). Each part will start two-to-five lines below the preceding part.

10.09 Letterhead

The heading or letterhead identifies the department or agency that produced the letter. The identification of federal organizations and position titles in the letterhead should be in accordance with FIP guidelines.

If the sender’s address appears in the letterhead, there is no need to repeat it elsewhere. Otherwise, include a return address below the letterhead or below the signature.

10.10 Date

See 5.14 Dates for the representation of dates.

The date appears at the left margin in full block style (see example 10.26 Model letter), but it can be placed on the right-hand side of the page to help fit in all the pieces of information required and make it easier to find correspondence filed by date.

10.11 Delivery (mailing) notation

The logical place for notations such as Personal, Confidential, Registered or Hand-delivered is at the left margin, just below the date line, where the reader would probably look first upon opening the letter. Such notations may be in capital letters or with an initial capital and boldface.

10.12 Reference line

The reference line, on the right-hand side of the page, will give the sender’s file number and the line below it the recipient’s file number, as shown in the example, 10.26 Model letter.

10.13 Inside address

Place the recipient’s address below the date and at the left margin, unless it must be moved to fit properly into a window envelope. Except in purely personal mail, the addressee’s full address must be used. Unless using a window envelope, follow these conventions:

  • There is no punctuation at the end of address lines.
  • The address should be single-spaced.
  • When both a street number and a post office box are provided, use only the box number.
  • When the terms east, west, north and south are used with street addresses, they are written with initial capital letters.
  • The postal code is the last item in the address; enter it two spaces after the symbol or name of the province or on a separate line below the names of the municipality and province:

    Ms. Vesna Souker
    Management Services
    Export Development Canada
    151 O’Connor St., Suite 901
    Ottawa, ON  K1A 1K3

    Mr. Jacob Devine
    Administration Branch
    Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
    664 Main Street
    Moncton, New Brunswick
    E1C 9J8

If using a window envelope, follow Canada Post’s guidelines1 for addresses appearing on envelopes and parcels:

  • Type the address entirely in capitals.
  • Do not use any punctuation (other than that required in a proper name: e.g. ST. JOHN’S).
  • Use the two-letter postal abbreviations for provinces and territories.
  • Place the postal code on the same line as the province (or territory), with two spaces between them.

    151 O’CONNOR ST SUITE 901
    OTTAWA ON  K1A 1K3

    664 MAIN ST


10.14 Official languages in addresses

Note the following points with regard to the use of official languages in addresses:

  • Generally, words indicating a type of public thoroughfare such as Street, rue, Avenue or avenue are translated into the other official language because they do not form part of the official name of the thoroughfare. However, note that according to Canada Post’s Addressing Guidelines for mailing addresses, only the terms Street (rue), Avenue (avenue) and Boulevard (boulevard) should be translated.
  • When the word is considered to be part of the official name of the thoroughfare, e.g.Avenue (1re, 2e,etc.), Chaussée, Chemin, Montée, Circle, Square, (Fifth, 25th, etc.) Avenue, do not translate it.
  • When an address such as 100, boulevard de Maisonneuve is translated, capitalize it in accordance with English usage:

    100 De Maisonneuve Boulevard

  • Enquiries concerning the official name of a thoroughfare should be directed to the appropriate municipality.
  • Names of government buildings and complexes that do not lend themselves easily to translation should not be translated, e.g.Les Terrasses de la Chaudière, Place du Portage, L’Esplanade Laurier.
  • The names of provinces and territories are translated. In English, a comma is used to set off a place name from that of the province or territory (see 7.20 Dates, geographical names and addresses), whereas in French parentheses enclose the name of the province or territory.

Note that an address can often be left untranslated.

See Chapter 15 Geographical Names, "Geographical Names," for further information on the translation and spelling of such names.

10.15 Name of person, title, name of organization

Put the person’s name on one line and his or her title and organization on the next line:

  • J. Doe
    Chief, Co-ordination Division

10.16 Attention line

This line begins with Attention of, Attention or Attn., ends with a colon and is placed flush with the left margin. It specifies the intended recipient within the organization when the letter is addressed to the organization or to the intended recipient’s superior.

10.17 Salutation or greeting

The salutation will vary depending upon the person addressed and the nature of the letter. The following are some appropriate salutations for various circumstances:

  • Sir or Dear Sir
    Madam or Dear Madam
    (for formal correspondence)
  • Dear Mr.orMrs.
    orMs. Jones
    (for a more personal letter)
  • Dear S. Jones
    (if sex of recipient is not known)
  • Dear Sir/Madam
    Dear Sir or Madam
    (where a title is used but the
    person’s name is not known)

If the person’s name or title is not known, the expression To whom it may concern may also be used. It is not recommended that Mr., Mrs. or Ms. be used with a title as a salutation, as in "Mr. Premier."

The salutation begins at the left margin. For capitalization in a salutation, see 4.35 The salutation and complimentary close; for punctuation, see 7.27 The Colon, Miscellaneous.

10.18 Subject line

A subject line specifying the topic of the letter, if included, comes between the salutation and the body of the letter. The introductory word Subject may be used, but is not essential. The terms Re and In re should be reserved for legal correspondence. The subject line is entered either wholly in upper case or in boldface. It may begin flush with the left margin or be centred for emphasis. It is not used in personal correspondence, where the subject is usually referred to in the first paragraph.

10.19 Body of the letter

The body of the letter contains the message. Here, more than anywhere else, the general principle of communication applies: say it clearly and succinctly, so that the reader will understand the message properly and quickly. Letters are normally single-spaced, with one blank line left between paragraphs. If a letter is very short, it may be double-spaced. When double spacing is used, the first line of each paragraph must be indented. Avoid writing paragraphs of more than ten lines. By the same token, do not divide a letter into many very short paragraphs.

10.20 Complimentary close

The complimentary close consists of such expressions as Yours truly or Yours sincerely. It is followed by a comma.

10.21 Signature

The handwritten or stamped signature comes first, followed by the title of the sender and of the organization. If someone else signs for the nominal sender, the order is as shown below:

  • J. Doe
    for F. Buck
    Chief, Publications Division


  • F. Buck
    Chief, Publications Division
    per J. Doe

10.22 Reference initials

The initials of the sender and of the transcriber are separated by a colon or oblique. The initials may be all in capital letters, all in small letters, or, most commonly, as follows:

The information is not always needed but may be useful at a later time.

10.23 Enclosure notation

The notations Enclosure(s), Encl., Attachment(s) and Att. indicate that the envelope contains one or more documents in addition to the letter or attached to the letter. The number of such documents, if there are more than one, should appear after the notation.

10.24 Carbon copy notation

Although carbon is now rarely used for copies, the convenient initials c.c.: (or cc:) followed by a colon and the names of the recipients of copies of the letter is still the preferred copy notation. An alternative is Copy to:. It corresponds to the distribution list of documents such as memorandums and minutes, and lets the recipient know who else is receiving the message.

10.25 Postscript

A postscript is useful if the writer wishes to emphasize some point in the letter or if a point worthy of mention arises after the letter has been written. The use of a postscript obviates the need to rewrite the letter. However, if the postscript sheds a completely new light on the message conveyed, the letter should probably be rewritten. Similarly, a postscript should not be used to attempt to compensate for a poorly organized letter. The notation PS: should be placed before the first word of the postscript and be indented if that is the letter format used. The postscript should begin on the second line below a carbon copy notation.

10.26 Model letter

10.27 Format

A memorandum is a short letter, note or report. The format most often used for memorandums within the federal public service is illustrated in the example (see 10.28 Model memorandum).

In the upper left part of the form appear the indications To, From and Subject. On the right are given the security classification (where applicable), the sender’s and receiver’s file references, if any, and the date.

If required, an indication of any attachments and a distribution list (Distribution or c.c.:) appear at the end of the document. This list can make communication more efficient because it tells the recipient who else is receiving the document.

10.28 Model memorandum

10.29 Introduction

With the widespread computerization of the workplace in the 1990s, more and more communications are being sent by electronic mail (often called e-mail). Given the advantages of this means of communication, its use is likely to increase, especially in administrative and business contexts.

In appearance an e-mail message is much like a memorandum, with a "From" field, a "To" field, and a "Subject" field, followed by the body of the message. Nevertheless, there are significant differences, which soon become evident when this form of sending messages is used.

10.30 Advantages


Communication by electronic mail takes much less time than writing and sending a letter or memorandum. E-mail can be delivered to all parts of the world in hours or even minutes. In addition, if you click on the "Receipt" or equivalent button, you will be automatically notified of the time your communication was read.


Messages can be sent to specific individuals or to predefined lists of recipients within a local area network—all in the same amount of time. Moreover, it is possible to send attachments with your message, including files, programs, graphics, and audio and video material.


Not only can electronic letters or memorandums be delivered more quickly, but they can also be processed by the recipient in a fraction of the time required to receive, read, answer and send correspondence on paper. Even telephone and fax communication can involve more time and money.

Data sharing

With the spread of local area networks, employees can make use of shared storage locations. With this arrangement, it is possible to have access on your computer screen to a file for reviewing, editing or consulting purposes. Keep in mind that, when you have opened a document stored at a shared location, other users cannot work on it.

10.31 Disadvantages

Electronic mail can be received only by those who are connected to the "electronic highway" through a local area network or an international network (such as the Internet).

Despite advances in ensuring the privacy of electronic communications, e-mail is still easy to intercept and to forge, especially when coming across another network. Not all messages received can be assumed to be genuine. Do not send confidential or sensitive messages by e-mail.

A basic level of computer literacy is required for people to take full advantage of the electronic medium.

E-mail is more impersonal than traditional correspondence. In situations where an office memorandum would not be appropriate (for example, to congratulate an employee on 25 years’ loyal service), do not use electronic communication.


When including attachments with your message, you should ensure that the recipient will be able to understand the format. It is also helpful if you specify in your communication the software and version that you have used (Ami Pro, WordPerfect, MS Word, etc.). This will ensure that it can be readily accessed.

10.32 Presentation

Subject (title)

All communications should have a subject. In choosing a subject line (a short one is usually best), bear in mind that it summarizes what the text is about. It may also determine whether your message will be read immediately or not.


Most e-mail programs impose certain standards for physical and data format. These govern, in particular, width (the number of characters per line) and the length of the document. If your lines are too long, there is a risk that they will be split into partial lines, which complicates reading of the message. Longer documents should be segmented into several shorter ones in a logical, topic-based manner to facilitate access to information.


Since documents may be viewed on a variety of systems, avoid using special characters and complex tables which cannot be viewed by all potential readers of your message. When in doubt, keep to ASCII characters. Be consistent in the use of fonts and typefaces. Do not send messages entirely in upper case.

10.33 Guidelines

Organizations usually have their own guidelines governing the sending of electronic mail. These concern such matters as the following:

  • the purposes for which e-mail may be used (no commercial or social notices, for example);
  • projection of the corporate image and logo;
  • languages to be used in official documents;
  • standard of language used (grammar and style);
  • legislative requirements (such as those of the Copyright Act, the Privacy Act and the Federal Identity Program, in the case of federal government documents);
  • obtaining the necessary approvals (in the case of widely distributed messages); and
  • avoidance of links to potentially controversial or politically sensitive sites, in the case of the Internet.

© Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2018
TERMIUM Plus®, the Government of Canada's terminology and linguistic data bank
Writing tools – The Canadian Style
A product of the Translation Bureau

Our reference

November 18, 1996

Your reference

Carol Robertson
Translation Studies
University of Ottawa
Ottawa, Ontario
K1N 6N5

Dear Ms. Robertson:

Thank you for your letter of October 15, 1996, concerning the possibility of the Translation Bureau accepting students from your program for spring practicums. It gives me pleasure to inform you that the Bureau will again be hosting students interested in one-to-three-month practicums in our organization.

I should point out, however, that owing to budgetary constraints, there may be
fewer places available this year.

To facilitate matters, I would ask you to have the attached forms filled in by candidates and to return them to me by February 21, 1997, either by fax (my number is 997-7743) or by mail.

Please do not hesitate to contact me by telephone at 819-997-7733 for further information.

Yours very truly,

Leopold Covacs
Linguistic Services Division
Translation Bureau
Public Works and Government Services Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0S5


c.c.: C. Dupont




Send toRecipient TOSimon Ferrand
Director, Information Technology
and Systems


January 3, 1999

Send fromSender FROMIrene Corrigan
Director General
Finance and Administration

 SUBJECTRenewal of agreement between Regional Operations and Administrative Services

Following discussions between representatives of Regional Operations and Administrative Services, senior management has decided that the above-mentioned agreement will be renewed.

I would therefore appreciate your providing me, by January 15, with full details on Regional Operations’ past use of Information Technology and Systems services. This information will enable us to project financial requirements under the agreement for the upcoming fiscal year.

Thank you for your co-operation.


R. Faintly
ADM (Regional Operations)

C. Forties
ADM (Administrative Services)

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