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Was Stratford upon Avon a town without books?

During the course of a high-school skit presented at the conclusion of the Edward de Vere Conference at Concordia University, Portland, Oregon, on 14 April 2002, one of the young actors asked, in the character of an Oxfordian, whether it could be possible for a man to have been the author of Shakespeare who came from "a town which had no books."

Is this what high school students are being taught by their Oxfordian mentors?

It is probably correct to say that Stratford had no local book-seller. But individuals living in Stratford certainly owned books. To take just one example, the vicar John Bretchgirdle, M.A., of Christ Church [college] Oxford, owned numerous books, some twenty-five of which are identified in his will of 1565. One of these, a dictionary, he left to Stratford's grammar school. Bretchgirdle's will, with its books, is published by Edgar I. Fripp, Shakespeare Studies, Biographical and Literary (1930), pp. 23-31.

Every successive vicar and schoolmaster would necessarily have owned and had access to books. The church was required to own and display books, including the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, and Fox's Book of Martyrs. Grammar schools gave instruction from printed books, from the standard A shorte introduction of grammar and An introduction of the eyght partes of speche by William Lily, to printed texts of standard Latin authors.

Similarly, every university graduate living in or near Stratford would probably have owned books.

It is a historical falsehood to represent Stratford upon Avon as a town without books.

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