UVic Torch -- Spring 2004
Spring 2004,
Volume 26, Number 1

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The Mystery Bard - Photograph by Don Pierce The Mystery Bard
A real head-scratcher: a unique bust of Shakespeare proves to be a puzzle for retired English Prof. David Thatcher and Shakespeareans worldwide.
Photography by DON PIERCE

HE HAS A FEW CRACKS HERE AND THERE BUT HE REALLY DOES LOOK QUITE good for his age, which is probably more than 100 years old. But no one can really say. Not yet, anyway.

That’s because ever since the life-size plaster cast of William Shakespeare showed up in the English department office the question of who made it and when has stumped the experts. It doesn’t display its sculptor’s name or a date.

The bust was a gift from the estate of Bernard George Franklin. His father brought it over from England in the early 1900s. The best guess is that the head is based on the famed Shakespeare memorial at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-on-Avon.

Retired English Prof. David Thatcher has been assigned to the case and after months in search of clues the best he can deduce is that the bust is rare, if not valuable.

But how valuable—particularly where insurance is concerned?

There doesn’t seem to be a duplicate in the vast realm of Shakespeare-abilia. Thatcher consulted the American scholar Louis Marder, holder of the world’s largest private collection of Shakespeare busts, but even he has never seen one exactly like it.

Similar enquiries to the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Victoria and Albert Museum have been inconclusive. One remaining option may be to send the bust to the Canadian Conservation Institute for analysis to possibly determine the date of production.

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