Don’t ask what’s in a name if it’s the Bard

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A priceless William Shakespeare signature is to go on display at an exhibition in London.

The 400-year-old scrawled autograph – at the foot of a deed manuscript for a £140 property in Blackfriars, dated March 10, 1613 – is one of only six known signatures penned by the bard, all of which vary according to the abbreviation conventions of the day.

It also bears the signature of William Johnson, who experts believe may be the same William Johnson who was the landlord of the famous Mermaid tavern in Cheapside, where Shakespeare and fellow playwright Christopher Marlowe are said to have drunk.

John Hemmyng (John Heminges), the actor, manager and editor of Shakespeare’s first folio, is also named as a trustee on the deed, but his signature is not on it.

The property, which was destroyed in the 1666 great fire of London, is believed to have been part of a gatehouse and, according to his will, Shakespeare let one of the rooms to a tenant.

Its location would have suited the Bard, because it was next door to the Blackfriars Theatre and just across the river from the Globe.

The document, which is cared for by the London Metropolitan Archives, will be the centrepiece of the Shakespeare and London exhibition at the LMA from May 28 to September 26.

The exhibition will also showcase a range of other documents, posters, prints and photos from the LMA collections dating from Shakespeare’s lifetime to the present day, illustrating how his plays and influence have lived on through London’s streets, performers, theatres and even through its pubs.