First accurate image of fantasy author William Shakespeare discovered

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has unveiled what it says is the only authentic image of the prototypical fantasy/supernatural author in the English language, William Shakespeare.

(Don't think Shakespeare belongs on SCI FI Wire? Check it out: Hamlet features ghosts, Macbeth's got witches, and The Tempest has all sorts of supernatural creatures; the other plays also have fantasy and supernatural elements.)

Professor Stanley Wells, chairman of the trust and one of the world's leading experts on Shakespearean studies, unveiled the portrait on Monday and said it has remained for centuries in the possession of the same family, the Cobbes.

The portrait is reportedly the only surviving one painted while the writer was still alive, in about 1610, when Shakespeare was 46 years old.

Up to now, only two images have been accepted as authentic representations of what Shakespeare may have looked like. One is the engraving by Martin Droeshout published in the First Folio of 1623. The other is the portrait bust in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon; the monument is mentioned in the Folio and therefore must have been in place by 1623. Both are posthumous: Shakespeare died in 1616.