• <b>Sotheby's NY May 25.</b> Thomas Lynch, Jr., Signer of the Declaration from South Carolina: Document signed in full ("Thomas Lynch Junr").
    <b>Sotheby's NY May 25.</b> Thomas Jefferson, letter signed as Secretary of State. ("TH: JEFFERSON").
    <b>Sotheby's NY May 25.</b> Thomas Jefferson, the first U.S. Naturalization Act, signed as Secretary of State.
    <b>Sotheby's NY May 25.</b> Miniature edition of the Emancipation Proclamation printed for distribution to Union troops.
    <b>Sotheby's NY May 25.</b> General George Meade’s statement on the victory at Gettysburg, printed on the battlefield. July 4, 1863.
    <b>Sotheby's NY May 25.</b> Abraham Lincoln, letter signed, seeking the counsel of Navy Secretary Welles on the appropriate response to the Fort Pillow Massacre.
  • <b>19th Century Shop.</b> DARWIN, CHARLES. Iconic signed Darwin photograph "I like this photograph much better than any other which ..."
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> DARWIN, CHARLES. <i>Autograph Letter Signed</i>. Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> WRIGHT, WILBUR. Experiments and Observations in Soaring Flight. Journal of the Western Society of Engineers 8, no. 4 (August, 1903).
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH. Signed and dated Oxford 1931.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> GARDNER, ALEXANDER. Antietam Bridge, Maryland. "One of the memorable spots in the history of the war."
  • Christie's London: SHAKESPEARE, William. <i>Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies</i>, Edited by John Heminger (D. 1630) and Henry Condell<br>(D. 1627). £800,000–£1,200,000
    Christie's London: SHAKESPEARE, William. <i>Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Published According to the True Orginal Copies.</i> The Second Impression. £180,000–£250,000
    Christie's London: SHAKESPEARE, William. <i>Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Published According to the True Orginal Copies. </i>The Third Impression. £300,000–£400,000.
    Christie's London: SHAKESPEARE, William. <i>Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Published According to the True Orginal Copies. </i> The Fourth Edition. £15,000–£20,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 26: Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books.</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 26:</b> Isaak de Graaf, manuscript map of Java, ink & watercolor on vellum, 1743. $180,000 to $220,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 26:</b> Maria Sibylla Merian, <i>Histoire générale des insectes de Surinam</i>,<br>72 hand-colored plates, Paris, 1771. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 26:</b> James Gillray, <i>The Plumb-pudding<br>in danger</i>, hand-colored etching, London, 1805. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 26: Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books.</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 26:</b> Visscher, Composite atlas with 73 maps in original hand-color in full, Amsterdam, after 1716.<br>$20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 26:</b> Mahmud Raif Efendi, <i>Cedid atlas tercümesi</i>, 25 hand-colored maps, Istanbul, 1803-1804.<br>$40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 26:</b> John James Audubon, <i>The Birds of America</i>, 7 volumes, 1839-44. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 26: Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books.</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 26:</b><br>A.B. Frost, <i>Shooting Pictures</i>, 12 chromolithographs, New York, 1895. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 26:</b> John Senex, <i>A New General Atlas</i>,<br>33 engraved maps & town plans, London, 1721. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 26:</b> Elihu Barker & Mathew Carey, <i>A Map of Kentucky from Actual Survey</i>, Philadelphia, circa 1794.<br>$10,000 to $15,000.

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2014 Issue

Did Someone Find Shakespeare’s Personal Dictionary on eBay?

A274d94b-02e9-481f-9346-fa002c9e2e19

Leaf at end of book is filled with annotations.

It would certainly be the literary find of the century if true. It would also be the greatest piece of advertising imaginable for eBay. A pair of New York booksellers see a 16th century annotated English dictionary for sale on eBay. Thoughts of whose copy it might have been race through their minds. The handwriting is described only as “contemporary” annotations. The writer is unknown. They decide to roll the dice, placing the winning bid, reportedly $4,300. Thus begins a six-year journey to discover the annotator, or perhaps more accurately, to confirm their wildest hopes and dreams. Their conclusion could indeed be described as “self-serving.” Then again, self-serving does not necessarily mean inaccurate. They may well have been trying to prove what they wanted to believe, rather than conducting an objective analysis. Under the circumstances, how could they not? Still, that does not make their conclusion wrong. That conclusion was, of course, that this dictionary was William Shakespeare’s personal annotated copy.

 

The book is question is John Baret’s Alvearie or Quadruple Dictionarie, published in London in 1580. Printed in four languages (hence quadruple), the timing is right for Shakespeare to have owned a copy. It is known that Shakespeare used various historical books to research his plays. It is certainly not a big step to imagine he used a dictionary. However, there is no record that he did, or this one in particular. That is mere conjecture, though logical enough.

 

The annotations that booksellers George Koppelman and Daniel Wechsler believe establish Shakespeare’s ownership are not lengthy. They consist of what the booksellers refer to as “spoken” and “mute” annotations. “Spoken” ones are words, “mute” ones markings, like underlines and dashes. There are no phrases like “to be or not to be,” or “Alas poor Yorick,” writings that would make it clear this was Shakespeare’s copy (or a deliberate forgery). There is no smoking gun. They have had to make many deductions from what they found, which in time will be seen as either outstanding research or flights of fantasy.

 

Of course, the nature of this book makes connections more difficult. A history book with notations about Richard III or Hamlet might imply something. While Shakespeare’s plays are undoubtedly filled with words in Baret’s dictionary, so is every other contemporary writing. It is hardly surprising that his writings would be filled with words found in a dictionary. So are mine. Koppelman and Wechsler have attempted to make a case that the uses of annotated words in his plays is such as to show a particular interest by Shakespeare in these particular ones. As to how strong is their case, that is something that will have to be left to scholars and experts. They have spent six years preparing their case, which was just released in book form a few days ago. We will undoubtedly see others now attempt to unravel it, leaving it to the objective to decide.

 

Unfortunately, some of the more obvious forms of identification are not available. The owner of this book never put his name to it. Handwriting would be an obvious source of comparison, but there are virtually no certain samples of Shakespeare’s handwriting, just a few signatures and a couple of pages whose authorship is uncertain. The paucity of such written material has encouraged people in the past to attempt to forge his work. There is not much that can be used to disprove the claims.

 

We don’t know whether testing has been done on the manuscript ink to determine whether it was contemporary to Shakespeare. That test could disprove, though not prove, a connection. It seems unlikely that someone added these annotations in an attempt to create value by pawning it off as Shakespeare’s copy. Such a forger would want to do something to better tie it to the Bard, perhaps writing the name “Hamlet” next to the word prince, not overly blatant, but something that would appear to make a connection. Besides, the price Koppelman and Wechsler paid for it on eBay does not suggest an elaborate forgery. It is likely an ancient dictionary, with very old annotations, but whose old annotations is not clear.

 

Some may be a bit troubled by the way the news has been presented. Koppelman and Wechsler conducted their own research, wrote a book about their find (which they are offering for sale on a website), and invited in a writer from the New Yorker Magazine for a lengthy interview. This is not exactly the academic/expert/library authentication route one might expect for scholarly research. Academics may not care for this. One might think that the owners would take this dictionary to the Folger Shakespeare Library for deeper research.

 

Still, it is understandable that a private owner might want an opportunity to conduct their own research first. Some academics will automatically try to knock it down. That’s just the way they are. They may be no more objective than the owners. Obviously, Koppelman and Wechsler aren’t objective observers. Their possession could be worth something less than $4,300, or some incredible number of millions of dollars. If this were my book, I know what I would be trying to prove. They are entitled to make their best case before letting the wolves at it. But now that the cat is out of the bag, the buzzards will begin circling. The dissecting will begin. In time, we will see whether their case can withstand such scrutiny. My own best guess is that neither side will be able to establish the authenticity, or lack thereof, beyond a doubt, but one side will be accepted as more likely than the other.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Skinner Fine Books & Manuscripts <i>online</i> | May 18-26 | skinnerinc.com</b>
    <b>Skinner Auction | May 18-26:</b> <br>Lot 1051: Keller, Helen (1880-1968) Autograph Letter Signed and Cabinet Card, est. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Skinner Auction | May 18-26:</b> <br>Lot 1108: Washington, George (1732-1799) Military Discharge Signed, Headquarters, Newburgh, New York, 7 June 1783, est. $7,000-9,000
    <b>Skinner Auction | May 18-26:</b> <br>Lot 1131: Bayes, Jessie (1876-1970) Illuminated Manuscript, <i>Six Poems from Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore</i>. London, 1917, est. $15,000-17,000
    <b>Skinner Fine Books & Manuscripts <i>online</i> | May 18-26 | skinnerinc.com</b>
    <b>Skinner Auction | May 18-26:</b> <br>Lot 1144: Darwin, Charles (1809-1882) <i>On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life</i>. London: Murray, 1859, est. $60,000-80,000
    <b>Skinner Auction | May 18-26:</b> <br>Lot 1170: Fossati, Giorgio (1706-1778) <i>Raccolta di Varie Favole Delineate, ed Incise in Rame</i>. Venice: Carlo Pecora, 1744, est. $5,000-7,000
    <b>Skinner Auction | May 18-26:</b> <br>Lot 1224: Nielsen, Kay (1886-1957) <i>East of the Sun and West of the Moon, Old Tales from the North</i>. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1914,<br> est. $5,000-7,000
    <b>Skinner Auction | May 18-26:</b> <br>Lot 1284: Audubon, John James (1785-1851) <i>American Flamingo</i>. [from] <i>The Birds of America</i>, New York: Bien, 1860, est. $10,000-15,000
  • <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Leaves from<br>George Washington's Own Draft <br>of His first Inaugural Address. An Extraordinary Rarity!
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Declaration of Independence: Benjamin Tyler 1818 - First Print with Facsimile Signatures.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Thomas Jefferson Signed Act of Contress Authorizing Alexander Hamilton to Complete Famous Portland Maine Lighthouse.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Emanuel Leutze. Silk Flag Banner designed by Leutze, created by Tiffany & Co., and presented to Gen. John A. Dix, 1864.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> The "greatest of early American maps … a masterpiece" (Corcoran). Thomas Holme.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Lincoln Summons His Cabinet for a Historic Meeting to Discuss Compensated Emancipation.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Albert Einstein. Autograph Letter Signed. Einstein Counsels His Son ... Meaning of Life.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Normal Rockwell. Painting/Drawing Signed. Rockwell's "Barbeshop Quartet", 1936.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Frederick Douglass. Autograph Letter Signed to unknown correspondent. Washington, D.C.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Harry Truman. Autograph Manuscript Notebook for Kansas City Law School Night Class.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Robert E. Lee. Autograph Letter Signed, June 11, 1782. Hours after the Battle of Culpeper Court House, Lee Escapes Again.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> George Washington. Letter Signed, as Commander-in-Chief, Continental Army, to Elias Dayton, Headquarters, [Newburgh, N.Y.], June 11, 1782.
  • <b>Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts, 8 June 2016, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams June 8:</b> Lot 1. ARISTOTLE. 384-322 B.C.E. De animalibus [De historia animalium. De partibus animalium. De generatione animalium.] US$ 300,000-500,000.
    <b>Bonhams June 8:</b> Lot 44. ARIOSTO, LUDOVICO. 1474-1533. Orlando Furioso in English Heroical Verse, by John Haringto[n]. [London: Richard Field, 1591.] US$ 70,000-90,000.
    <b>Bonhams June 8:</b> Lot 183. HARRISON, William Henry. Document Signed AS PRESIDENT ("W.H. Harrison"). US$ 40,000-60,000.
    <b>Bonhams June 8:</b> Lot 116. <br>ALI, MUHAMMAD. B.1942. U.S. Passport Signed ("Muhammad Ali") Twice, [Dublin, July 19, 1972].<br>US$ 25,000-35,000.
    <b>Bonhams June 8:</b> Lot 52. Bible In English. [Mearne, Samuel, binder.] The Holy Bible containing the bookes of the Old & New Testament. US$ 25,000-35,000.
    <b>Bonhams June 8:</b> Lot 130. EARHART, Amelia. 1897-1937. Archive of material on the purchase and outfitting of Earhart's Lockheed Electra 10e. US$ 15,000-20,000.
    <b>Bonhams June 8:</b> Lot 85. BURTON, Virginia Lee. 1909-1968. The Little House. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1942. US$ 15,000-20,000.
    <b>Bonhams London June 15.</b> Lot 68. CAMERON (Julia Margaret) Kate Keown [No. 5 Of Series of Twelve Lifesized Heads], [1866]. <br>£30,000-50,000.
    <b>Bonhams London June 15.</b> Lot 98. Karl Marx. Das Kapital. Kritik der politischen Oekonomie... Erster Band, FIRST EDITION, 1867.<br>£80,000-120,000.
    <b>Bonhams London June 15.</b> Lot 111. Isaac Newton Autograph manuscript, in English, headed "The Question stated about abstaining from blood". £50,000-70,000.
    <b>Bonhams London June 15.</b> Lot 112. Nobel Prize for discovering isotopes in stable elements, awarded to F.W. Aston in 1922. £200,000-400,000.
    <b>Bonhams London June 15.</b> Lot 140. Kay Nielsen (Prince Bismarck discovering the soldier), 1913. £15,000-20,000.

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