Description

The signature ‘Wm Shakspē’ appears on the first of four labels attached to this mortgage deed. It is one of six of William Shakespeare's signatures known to exist, the others appearing on the purchase-deed for the same house in Blackfriars dated 10 March 1612; a deposition as a witness dated 11 May 1612, and three more, one on each page of his will, executed in March 1615.

This mortgage for £60 is a joint agreement between 'William Shakespeare, of Stratford upon Avon in the countie of Warwick, gentleman', and others, to Henry Walker, 'citizein and Minstrell of London' for a dwelling-house in the precinct of 'the late Black Fryers'. This property, the Blackfriars Gate-House, was well known in the latter part of the 16th century as a centre of Catholic intrigue, and lay beside, and partly over, the great gate of what had been before the Dissolution the lodging of the Prior of Blackfriars; it probably stood to the north of, and over, the entrance to the present Ireland Yard, St. Andrew's Hill, EC4. Shakespeare and his associates had acquired the property from Walker the day before for £140, and this mortgage no doubt secured the balance of the purchase money. Of the original conveyance, one indenture is now in the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, USA, while the other (the counterpart, signed by Shakespeare) is in the Guildhall Library, London.

The four labels bear seals with the initials H.L., doubtless the initials of Henry Lawrence who, according to the endorsement, was the servant to the scrivener, or scribe, who prepared the deed.

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