Lady Jane Grey’s Autograph For Sale?
 
 
 
 
     The continuing popularity of Lady Jane Grey as a historical figure is evidenced by the frequency with which various artifacts are today associated with her name. Portraits remain the favorite, but jewels, items of clothing, embroidery samplers, and letters also surface periodically. Now a supposed autograph can be added to the collection.

     A listing appeared on eBay on 10 June 2015 for a sixteenth-century printing of Homer’s Iliad in its original Greek. The listing was otherwise very remarkable, however, in that the seller noted the presence in the upper right hand corner of what appeared to be the autograph of Lady Jane Grey Dudley. And indeed, the handwriting is extremely similar to Jane’s autograph as it is found in her prayerbook, Harley Manuscript 2324. The seller, an experienced commercial dealer in antique books, stated in the original listing that the autograph “just seems to [sic] unusual to be a fake,” though he conceded that there was, in his opinion, “no way of knowing if [it is] genuine.”[1] The opening bid for the book was set by the seller at $24,999, presumably on the basis of the autograph.[2]

     Is this, in fact, a volume of Homer that actually passed through the hands of Lady Jane Grey Dudley and which she marked herself with her signature?
 
     
     
 
 
 
Signature on the title page of Homer’s Iliad
 
         
 
Title page of Homer’s Iliad printed in Greek by
Adrien Turnebe, Paris, 1554
 
Autograph of Lady Jane Grey Dudley as it appears in her former prayerbook,
British Library Harley Manuscript 2342, folio 77 recto
 
         
       
         
     
Second autograph of Lady Jane Dudley as it appears in the same prayerbook,
British Library Harley Manuscript 2342, folio 80 recto
 
         
         
 
     The title page reveals that the book was printed in Paris (Parisiis) in 1554 (M.D.LIIII) under the guidance of Adrien (Adr.) Turnèbe (Turnebus).[3] Since Jane died on 12 February 1554, it may seem possible to the casual observer that the book may truly have passed through her hands. Closer scrutiny dictates otherwise, however.

     The date of Jane’s death is generally expressed in the modern era as 12 February 1554. At the time of her death, however, New Years Day in the civil calendar fell on 25 March rather than 1 January. Thus in sixteenth-century terminology, Jane died on 12 February 1553, not 1554. The English continued to mark the beginning of the civil year as 25 March until 1752, though the French New Year was moved from 25 March to 1 January in 1564. Since the French printer dated this book 1554, it must have been printed after 25 March, fully six weeks after Jane Grey died. The back flyleaf confirms this. Original printing found there reads, “Excudebatur Lutetiæ Parisiorum M.D.LIIII III Cal. Jul.” The English translation is, “Printed at Lutetia Parisiorum 1554 3 Calends July.”[4] The month and day, 3 Calends July, is expressed in classical Roman terminology and equates to 29 June.[5] Thus the book was actually printed on 29 June 1554, fully four and a half moths after Jane’s death in February. It is therefore impossible for Jane Grey Dudley ever to have held the book in her hands, much less to have signed it. The autograph is a forgery, though a clever and skillful one.[6]
 
     
     
    J. Stephan Edwards, PhD
11 June 2015
 
       
       
 

 
     
 
The back flyleaf showing printing date.
 
     
     
  Update, November 2015:  
   
The book with its “autograph” has apparently failed to sell over the past five months, leading the dealer to reduce the price on 6 November to $6999.00, a discount of 72% off the original asking price. I have no idea what the value of the book itself may be as a collector’s item, but obviously the value of the “autograph” remains essentially zero. We will have to wait and see whether or not anyone buys it. Stay tuned .....
 
     
     
     
  NOTES:      
 
[1]
 
After I emailed the seller with my assessment of the autograph, the listing was immediately edited and the opening bid reduced.
 
 
 
 
 
[2]
 
Based on records of recent auction sales of other books printed under Adrien Turnèbe’s name, a more reasonable estimate for this book would be under US$ 5000, in my opinion.
 
         
 
[3]
 
The Frenchman Adrien Turnèbe (1512–1565), also known by the Latin name Ardianus Turnebus, was a noted scholar of ancient Greek and a Professor of Ancient Greek at the Collège Royal, Paris. From 1552 until his death, he held an official license from the French Crown to print ancient Greek texts, though the actual printing process was most probably carried out by a printing master contracted by Turnèbe for the purpose.
 
         
 
[4]
  Lutetia Parisiorum was the ancient Roman name for the small village on the Siene River (Latin: Sequana) in France that became known after 360 AD as simply Paris.  
         
 
[5]
 
The Roman month was not divided into weeks in the same way as is the modern month. Instead, it was divided according to the phases of the moon. The first day of the month originally corresponded to the new moon and was called Kalends (or Calends). The half moon typically fell on the ninth day of the month, called Nones, while Ides, or the fifteenth day of the month, corresponded to the full moon (Ides was on the thirteenth day for those months with 30 days or less). All other dates were commonly referred to with reference to the Kalends, the Nones, or the Ides of the month. Thus III Calends July was three days before the first day of July. The days were counted inclusively (1 July, 30 June, and 29 June constitute three days), so III Calends July was the equivalent of the 29th day of June.
 
         
 
[6]
 
The forgery is an old one. A cut-out from a nineteenth-century auction catalogue listing for this same book, still affixed to the inside of the front cover, indicates that the signature was already present at the time of that previous auction.
 
 
 
 
     
 
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