It is well known that Shakespeare was a huge influence on Milton. From learning how to write nature poetry to creating charismatic villains, Milton’s debt to his forebear continues to fascinate experts. The younger poet once praised the ‘wonder and astonishment’ that this ‘great heir of fame’ conjured up in his readers.
But now, Jason Scott-Warren from Cambridge’s English Faculty believes he has identified even more tangible evidence of this connection. The realisation began when Scott-Warren read an article by Professor Claire Bourne about an anonymous annotator of a Shakespeare First Folio housed in the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Rare Book Department.
Bourne dated the annotator to the mid-17th century and shared images of the handwritten notes. These include suggested corrections, cross-references to other works and the addition of material such as the prologue to Romeo and Juliet. Studying these, Scott-Warren was struck by how closely they resembled known examples of Milton’s handwriting and after identifying numerous compelling similarities, he decided to share his theory in a blog post for Cambridge’s Centre for Material Texts, of which he is Director.
Milton is known to have made similarly intelligent and assiduous annotations in other books that survive from his library, but the evidence that Scott-Warren presents is strictly palaeographical.[…]