What did Shakespeare really look like?
Find out about the ‘True face of Shakespeare’ in the latest issue of Country Life magazine (May 20th), in which botanist and historian Mark Griffiths claims to have solved an “ingenious cipher” to identify the playwright in an engraving in a 16th-Century work by John Gerard (1545-1612), entitled The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes.
The copperplate engraving is full of very detailed decorative devices, flowers and symbols surrounding four male figures who had generally been assumed to be allegorical. However, Griffiths claims to have identified them all as influential Elizabethans, including the Bard of Avon himself.
The RAU library holds the very same book, though unfortunately (perhaps) it is a second edition copy dated 1633 that we have, rather than the first edition dated 1598. The engraving referred to in the story does not appear in the 2nd edition.
More details of this fascinating story can be found online at: