§3. Misprinting or the signature (in English)


Scrutinizing the First Folio (1623) the author of the chapter has found three strange evidences: 1) the inappropriate word "severall" (on the place of needed "all") in the title of the content-page; 2) unusual misprinting on the last page of the volume (the 993 instead of the 399); 3) 25 pages in the book without pagination at all. The researcher comes to the conclusion, that these evidences are deeply intertwined. Severall is the anagram, which means E. Ver's all, 993 — the Edward De Vere's number, ciphered by the rather simple code and the pages without numbers is explained by the necessity to compose the bloc of the third pagination in 399 pages to mask the 993 as misprinting. And in the Second Folio (1632) there is another hint-misprinting — 399 instead of the correct number 389.

The author of the article accord a thank to the Miami University Libraries for a Digital Collection of The First Four Folios from Walter Havinghurst Special Collections.

All images provided by Miami University Libraries, Oxford, OH © Miami University. All rights reserved.

Almost everybody knows, that there are some problems with the authorship of Shakespeare's plays, sonnets and poems, i.e. authorship-problem of all Shakespeare canon. In my mind some facts and their interpretations proposed below could remove the problems or even solve the problem at all. Let me formulate at once and outright: the decision will be oxfordian. But unlike the most of the oxfordian works this article will not regard either Eduard De Vere's biography's similarities to some plots of Shakespeare plays or stylistic and theme kinship of some poems signed by the 17th earl of Oxford to the chef-d'oeuvres of Shakespeare, but only obvious facts, received by close scrutiny of some pages of The First and Second Folio. And it is not a surprising way: if William Shakespeare is supposed to be a pseudonym, a researcher primary should be stroke by the thought that the real author had attempted to leave his very concrete marks in the first whole collected editions of his works. Never mind that this editions might be issued many years after his death. These very marks may be delivered by his last will and/or done by solicitude of his friends and/or heritors. One way or another it seems there are the very clear traces of the presupposed author in The First Folio.


It is not need to be reiterated that The First Folio contains the dedicative texts (first of all the texts ascribed by Ben Johnson) which would disseminate some doubts about the name of the author. It is much more interesting, however, that after these hints follow two leaves, which carry the definite information about the proper name of the author (at least we can read this true or false massage). There are the content-page and the page with the list of actors. The latter serves the secondary but important enough role of the background, to be more accurate, the role of the foil for the next leaf, book contents or, as it is printed in The 1st Folio, "A CATALOGVE"... Here I will stop citing, because this very place is less for citing but more for seeing. Perusing from the very beginning it is hardly possible not to notice the contradiction between the title of the page and its content: several comedies, histories and tragedies, on the one hand, and the list of all (at least in intention) works of Shakespeare, on the other hand. To be sure in this publisher's intention it is enough to turn over the page back to the previous one:

All is all, it is not the slightest doubt. But what does the word "several", more precisely seuerall, mean on the next page, the word, which was silently changed to "all" in the second edition of the book? Of course you may regard it as a bad wording or a strange meaning, but one has the real possibility to see in this word the anagram or a logogriph. To guess a riddle one needs simply shift the very first letter on the four signs forward: seuerall → euersall. Now, please, put the drop after the first "e", the apostrophe before "s", change the pair of minuscule letters to the capital ones and the desirable result will be achieved: E. Ver's all (or even shifting the "e" the three signs forward: Vere's all). And if one writes the first name completely the whole title can be read as follows: A CATALOGUE of the Edward De Vere's all Comedies, Histories and Tragedies contained in this Volume. In the simple corresponding with the previous page the formula of the pseudonym is composed without will: Edward De Vere = William Shakespeare. In other words, William Shakespeare is the pseudonym of Edward De Vere, the 17th earl of Oxenford.

Of course this simple evidence exists only if one sees the anagram in the strange word "seuerall". But if you prefer not to see the anagram here, try to explain in another way the strangeness of the word in this context.


Let us throw the last glance to the catalogue page, which opens the canon of Shakespeare. This is the starting point. Then the text of plays follows. Of course the anagram is not enough. The reader may think that it is a mere fortuity. And the author has done another step, which in any case does not seem a mere fortuity. The publishers have constructed the issue system, including the First and the Second Folios. The signature of the proper author besides the name in the very beginning (the anagram mentioned above) is supposed to be in the end of the book. Before going there let us give a farewell glance to the catalogue-page: we have known, that the last play of the volume (the tragedy "Cymbeline, king of Britain") starts on the page 369 of the third pagination.

Then we open the last page of "Cymbeline", i.e. the last page of the volume. There we face at once a surprising fact (certainly known to the specialists) — the last folio (page number) is 993. A usual typo? One can see the previous page and breathe freely: of course they misprinted, because the number of the previous page is 398. Thus correct folio at the last page should be 399. Surely, there is a mere misprinting.

But I have not believed that. Because I can not imagine the technology of typesetting, which results in such a strange misprinting. The single possibility was to typeset from right to left — 99 and then something takes the attention of the galley slave and he sets the "3" not leftward from 99 but rightward. A very fantastic scenario but we concede it. However, in this case the type page must move to the one sign to the right comparatively to the previous odd pages. But, it is no such matter. This leads us to the assumption that the number 993 is not a typo, but only pretends to be a misprint. Later we'll sift why it has been done so.

Anyway it is not bad to understand, what does the number 993 mean or can mean. I hope that nobody doubts that the numbers can possess meanings. The popular example is 666, the number of a beast in Book of Revelation. What beast is it? — the question, which does not have a unique answer. Another solution can be achieved depending on the code, i.e. the way to show how the letters of the definite alphabet correspond to the numbers. The principles of the corresponding letters to the numbers and the further operations with the sums received by summarizing numerical equivalents of the letters composing a word is called gematria (initially doctrine of antiquity especially of Semitic nations). Gematria was rather popular in England in 16—17 centuries. Using gematria principles one could chose a code and cipher any word (and of course any name). One of the simplest ways to translate a word or word-group into cipher was connected with using the Latin (adopted for English) alphabet. The rather simple correlation might be as follows:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
a b c d e f g h i k l m
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 20 30
13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
n o p q r s t v x y(u) z
40 50 60 70 80 90 100 200 300 400 500

The first line of the table is the serial number of the letter, the third is its' code-number. The obvious next step is to compose the number of the assumed author's name: Edward De Vere (see the table below).

e d w(v+v) a r d d e v(u) e r e sum
5 4 400 1 80 4 4 5 200 5 80 5 793
(400) (993)

There is some complicacy with the letter "u". And it was the objective complicacy with this letter in that period of the English language history. The letters "v" and "u" were used in additional distribution: usually "V" was used as a capital letter and "u" as a low case. In our code table "u" is in the 22nd position as an equivalent to "y", and it can be explained with the help of the history of Latin, where "y" proceeded from Greek "o" (upsilon). Upsilon also was the source for Russian "y" and English "u" (both being equal to the same phoneme [u]). Although these explanations carry additional, psychological character (because table-code is a rather conditional thing), the author should take into account the psychology and a possible background of the man, who would try to decode the entire system. In any case, vanishing and appearing "u" plays a significant role in ciphering.

Of course, as the name "Edward De Vere" is very closely associated with the number 993 we could draw a line here. But I did not stop there and had found that the code system was much wider and had a very high degree of reliability.

First of all, it is the appropriate moment to remember the starting result of our regarding — the anagram seuerall with the "u" in the original word. Thus, we could write the name of the earl in two variants and make some gematria operations with the numbers:

Edward De Vere 793. 7+9+3=19. 1+9=10

Edward De Uere 993. 9+9+3=21. 2+1=3

The next name as a candidate for the calculation is, of course, "William Shakespeare".

William 400+9+20+20+9+1+30=489. 4+8+9=21

Shakespeare 90+8+1+10+5+90+60+5+1+80+5=355. 3+5+5=13

Then if we sum two variants of the 17th earl of Oxford name (10+3) we will have a result in Shakespeare's final sum — 13.

Let us try to count the earl name of De Vere:

Oxenford = 50+300+5+40+6+50+80+4 = 535; 5+3+5=13. Compare with:

Shakespeare 355. 3+5+5=13

Besides the fact that sums is equal (13), all figures of Oxenford (535) and Shakespeare (355) numbers are the same: pair of fives and three.

Some more arithmetic:

William Shaksper



And two possible conclusions: 1) William Shaksper (the man from Stratford) ≠ Shakespeare, but 2) had some connection with him (14 follows 13), because the numbers neighbor in the natural sequence. 14 is like a shadow for 13. If a sun is shining from number 1. That is the gematria contribution to the concept of alive mask: the shadow playing the role of pseudonym.

3. The special number

Thus, 993 is not mere misprinting. In addition, a suspicion arouses that it is not simply the sign of De Vere's authorship, it is the entrance to the system of the hidden information about the author and his circle and may be about that epoch at all, contained in The First Folio. But along with the suspicion the trouble question arouses: if the number 993 is so important for the book and if it was not less important for publishers to mask this number as mere misprinting, how could it be possible? To compose all the tragedies of Shakespeare strictly in 399 pages! It simply seems to be quite impossible technically. (I would say that in our days it was almost unreal to do as far back as 20 years.) Of course they could vary the entire amount in the limits of 2—3 pages (plus or minus). I have found some devices that could help to achieve it. But to compose all the tragedies even roughly in 399 — the task, that could be solved only with the help of Fortune. But they solve it without the help of Fortune... and in a very simple manner.

First of all the 399 pages in folio are too much even for Shakespeare tragedies and the composers easily add 100 pages for counting, not in reality: Hamlet starts the scene with the Gost (1.4. in the later scene division) on the page 156, and finished it on the page 257. Then the page 258 follows and so on. Thus a hundred pages have been added. But yet in the result it was issued more than necessary counted pages, a pair dozens more than 399. And they should apply another device to cut this "a pip out".

Let's turn our attention back to the catalogue page, starting point of our regarding. The part of tragedies includes the 11 units and the total number of the plays in the volume has achieved the 35. But specialists in fact told us that in The First Folio there are 36 plays including 12 tragedies. But where is the twelfth one? First of all, there is no place for it in the page-index of table of contents. We need to check the book and to look for the play flipping through its leaves in succession. And of course we'll find the hidden play, as anybody who would start looking for it. Leaving behind 76 pages we have found (between "Romeo and Juliet" and "Timon of Athens") the tragedy "Troilus and Cressida". With this tragedy we also have took the device, with the help of which they finished to compose the block of third pagination pages in 399 ones: 25 pages of the hidden tragedy do not mark a pagination at all! After page 80 there are no folios — only black fields instead.

It was the fifth page of the tragedy. And then we can see the last 29th page of "Troilus and Cressida", the other twenty three between them also have no pagination.

Indeed it is a good way to have as many counting pages in the book as you like! Do you need 399 pages in the last pagination? Please, there you go. A customer's will is the master's law. We will hide 25 pages, make the last page formally 399th and in its place put the number 993 as the usual misprinting, although misprinting in folios is the most unusual thing: it is connected with the technology of printing. But readers have believed in this typo for 387 years. Certainly most of them did not pay attention to these numbers at all.

However, some Shakespeareans pay attention to these strange facts1. It would be even more amazingly if nobody noticed the absence of the pagination of the most of Troilus and Cressida's pages, but presumably the last touch of this question gives us such an assumption:

"The plays were 17 of the 18 published in Shakespeare's lifetime (Pericles was omitted — and Troilus and Cressida nearly was, with licence to include it only being obtained at the last minute, after the whole book had been printed off, which accounts for the absence of the play from the contents list)"2.

I do not know what the base of this assumption is. If it is only "the absence of the play from the contents list" then it is a very week base. The "Troilus and Cressida" can not be included in the Folio "after the whole book had been printed off", because in that case all the text of the tragedy should have his own pagination or the play should be without pagination at all. The subtlety is in the fact, that the first 2 pages was counted without folios, the next 2 pages of the play have got the folios (79—80) and the last 25 pages do not have them. And the next play again starts from the 80th page-number, so in The First Folio there are two pages, marked as 80. Of course it is not enough to deny the cited assumption, but to confirm it it is necessary at least, that the previous play was finished on the page 79. Thus the last page of "Romeo and Juliet" should be 79 or the first page of "Timon of Athens" should be 77 — it is the only possibility for "the whole book had been printed off' in advance. But the existence of the gap — three page-numbers — converts the assumption in the category of lie statements. More than that: if we accept the almost impossible hypothesis, that for some unusual reason the book at first was printed with the three pages gap, all the same that starting presumption fails because the "delaying" tragedy is finished on the odd page and on the other side of the same leaf the next play begins ("Timon of Athens"). So the printing process was practically simultaneous for both tragedies.

Thus, the task of such a strange composing did not connect with a "licence", "obtained at the last minute" but connected with the more important reasons, mentioned above, that is to carry the code for solving the authorship problem. And false misprinting 993 is the key to that code.

Besides all these facts and interpretations there exists one more (or may be more than one but it is not noticed yet) indication to this very number in The Second Folio. When we open there the starting page of the last tragedy ("Cymbeline") we see 399 in the folio! It is a new misprinting, because the previous page marked as 388. The issue of 1632 reminds us that the last page of the First Folio had the disappeared number 399, instead of which the number 993 stamps the code of the author.


1. Robert Kimbrough, 'The Origins of Troilus and Cressida: Stage, Quarto, and Folio', PMLA, 78 (June, 1962): 194—99 (197). 15. Shakespeare Studies, 15 (1982).

2. Jonathan Bate, The case for the Folio, p. 7. (See: http://www.rscshakespeare.co.uk/pdfs/Case_for_Folio.pdf)

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