Shakespeare's curse-protected grave gets radar survey
Documentary filmmakers have radar scanned William Shakespeare's grave this year as Britain celebrates the 400th anniversary of the Bard's death.
The grave in the Holy Trinity Church in Shakespeare's birthplace of Stratford upon Avon is a place of pilgrimage for fans and has an inscription on it with a curse against anyone planning to tamper with it.
"Bleste be the man that spares these stones, And curst be he that moves my bones," the inscription reads.
The survey could help researchers learn more about Shakespeare's life and family, helping to detect unmarked or previously unknown graves and items buried within the coffins…
THE FIRST FOUR FOLIOS OF SHAKESPEARE’S COLLECTED WORKS
LED BY AN UNRECORDED FIRST FOLIO
Christie’s commemorates 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare (1564-1616) with a landmark sale of the first four folios, the first four editions of his collected works. The Folios will be offered in a four-lot auction celebrating the Shakespeare anniversary in London on Wednesday 25 May 2016. The sale is led by an unrecorded copy of the First Folio, the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays, widely considered the most important literary publication in the English language. The First Folio contains 36 plays, 18 of which had not previously been printed and would have otherwise been lost forever (estimate: £800,000-1.2 million, illustrated above). The plays of Shakespeare, preserved for posterity in these volumes, define our knowledge of Shakespeare the man, the playwright, the poet and the actor. The Four Folios will tour to New York from 1 to 8 April and go on public display in London from 20 to 28 April to celebrate Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary on 23 April; later being exhibited in the pre-sale view in May. The pre-sale exhibitions and auction provide a unique opportunity to view the complete set of Folios and experience first-hand the excitement arising from proximity to the earliest editions of the greatest playwright in history. The sale is expected to realise in excess of £1.3 million.
Margaret Ford, International Head of Books & Manuscripts, says: “The universality and timelessness of Shakespeare’s insight into human nature continues to engage and enthrall audiences the world over. Even four centuries after his death, his plays touch and transform lives and continue to be read and performed from Albania to Zambia. It is deeply moving to handle the first printed record of his collected plays and to be reminded of their tremendous impact. Especially exhilarating is bringing a newly recorded copy of the First Folio to public attention, and to be able to offer a set of the Four Folios in this important anniversary year.”
Published in 1623, the present copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio is one of the most desirable examples remaining in private hands. It was bought in 1800 by renowned book collector Sir George Augustus Shuckburgh-Evelyn (1751-1804) and has been hidden from public view for over two centuries. Even on publication in 1623, the First Folio was considered a privileged acquisition and would have taken pride of place on any bookshelf. Similarly today, ownership of the four Folios is considered the Holy Grail of book collecting. Without the First Folio 18 plays would have been lost forever, including: Macbeth, The Tempest, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Measure for Measure, A Comedy of Errors, As You Like It, The Taming of the Shrew, All’s Well That Ends Well, Twelfth Night, Winter’s Tale, King John, Henry VI part I, Henry VIII, Coriolanus, Timon of Athens, Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, and Cymbeline.
Also from the remarkable Shuckburgh Collection and appearing on the market for the first time in over two centuries are the Third Folio which was published in 1664 (estimate: £300,000-400,000) and the Fourth Folio which was published in 1685 (estimate: £15,000-20,000). The Third Folio includes Pericles for the first time and is beautifully illustrated with Shakespeare’s iconic portrait by English engraver Martin Droeshout. It is rarer than the Second Folio, due to copies being lost in the Great Fire of London (2-5 September, 1666), and the present copy is in very fine condition.
The First Folio was a commercial success and was followed only nine years later by the Second Folio, published in 1632 and providing a page-by-page reprint of the First. The present copy of the Second Folio also contains the iconic portrait of Shakespeare by Droeshout (estimate: £180,000-250,000). The Second Folio is celebrated as containing the first appearance in print of John Milton, whose epitaph on Shakespeare is included.
Science sheds new light on the life and death of medieval king Erik
The saint's legend speaks of a king who died a dramatic death in battle outside the church in Uppsala, Sweden, where he had just celebrated mass. But what can modern science tell us about his remains? A joint research project headed by Uppsala University now reveals more of the health condition of Saint Erik, what he looked like, where he lived and what the circumstances of his death were.
No contemporary sources mention Erik Jedvardsson, the Swedish king who was later sainted. The only account of his life is the saint's legend, in its preserved form written in the 1290's. Such legends are often unreliable. The Erik legend is, however, based on an older legend which has been lost, and this longer legend may have been much older.
The preserved legend says that Erik was chosen to be king, ruled fairly, was a devoted Christian, led a crusade against Finland, and supported the Church. He was killed in 1160, in his tenth year of rule, by a Danish claimant to the throne. His remains have rested in a reliquary since 1257.
A thorough analysis of the skeleton in the reliquary was conducted in 1946, but the availability of new methods of analysis motivated a new examination in 2014. On 23 April 2014, the reliquary was opened at a ceremony in Uppsala Cathedral. After this, researchers from several scientific disciplines set to work running tests on the remains in an attempt to learn more about the medieval king. Now, the first results of these examinations are made public.
The reliquary contains 23 bones, seemingly from the same individual. They are also accompanied by an unrelated shinbone. The radiocarbon values measured in the bones are consistent with a death in 1160. The osteological analysis shows that the bones belong to a man, 35-40 years old and 171 cm tall.
Examinations of the bones using computer tomography at the University Hospital in Uppsala found no discernible medical conditions. DXA- and pQCT measurements conducted at the same hospital found that Erik did not suffer from osteoporosis, or brittleness of the bones. Quite the opposite, as he had a bone density about 25 percent above that of the average young adult of today. King Erik was well-nourished, powerfully built and lived a physically active life.
The isotope analysis points to a diet rich in freshwater fish, which indicates that the king obeyed the church rules on fasts, i.e. days or period when the consumption of meat was forbidden. Stable isotopes also imply that he did not spend his last decade in the expected Uppsala area but rather in the province of Västergötland further south. These conclusions should however be considered very preliminary, as there are as of yet very few other studies to compare the isotope values to.
The opening of the reliquary also saw DNA samples taken. It is hoped that these will produce results that will shed new light on questions of genealogy. This analysis has not yet been completed, and is expected to take another year. The researchers can, however, reveal that the samples have yielded DNA information.
The cranium in the reliquary is dented by one or two healed wounds that may have been due to weapons. The legends say that Erik led a crusade against Finland, which is thought to be a possible explanation of the injuries.
The saint's legend says that in the king's final battle, the enemy swarmed him, and when he fell to the ground they gave him wound after wound until he lay half dead. They then taunted him and finally cut off his head. The remaining bones have at least nine cuts inflicted in connection with death, seven of them on the legs. No wounds have been found on the ribs or the remaining arm bone, which probably means that the king wore a hauberk but had less protected legs. Both shin bones have cuts inflicted from the direction of the feet, indicating that the victim lay on his front.
A neck vertebra has been cut through, which could not have been done without removing the hauberk, i.e. not during battle. This confirms that there was an interlude, as described by the taunting in the legend, between battle and decapitation. At no point do the documented wounds gainsay the account of the fight given by the much later legend.
Historical burial grounds are an enormous archaeological resource and have the potential to inform studies not only of demography or the history of disease and mortality, but also histories of the body, of religious and other beliefs about death, of changing social relationships, values and aspirations.
In the last decades, the intensive urban development and a widespread legal requirement to undertake archaeological excavation of historical sites has led to a massive increase in the number of post-medieval graveyards and burial places that have been subjected to archaeological investigation. The archaeology of the more recent periods, which are comparatively well documented, is no less interesting and important an area of study than prehistoric periods.
This volume (free: http://www.degruyter.com/view/product/458680?format=EBOK) offers a range of case studies and reflections on aspects of death and burial in post-medieval Europe. Looking at burial goods, the spatial aspects of cemetery organisation and the way that the living interact with the dead, contributors who have worked on sites from Central, North and West Europe present some of their evidence and ideas. The coherence of the volume is maintained by a substantial integrative introduction by the editor, Professor Sarah Tarlow.