• Cowan's: American History. Timed Online Auction, Bidding Opens on October 15, 2015.
    <b>Cowan's Starts Oct 15th:</b> Abner Chapman, First Schoolteacher & Storekeeper in Union County, Ohio, Early 19th Century Store Ledger .... Est $250-$500.
    <b>Cowan's Starts Oct 15th:</b> Samuel Broadbent, Finely Hand-Painted Ivorytype of a Gentleman.<br>Est $750-$1000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Autographs
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Autograph letter signed by Confederate President Jefferson Davis to Senator John William Clark Watson, Richmond, 1865. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Autograph poem by John Quincy Adams from an album kept by Abby Smith, w. inscription signed by her grandfather, John Adams, 1820s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Typed letter signed by Theodore Roosevelt to assemblyman Michael A. Schapp, New York, 1913. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Autographs
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Autograph letter signed by Richard Wagner to Hofkapellmeister Max Seifriz, Zürich, 1853. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Photograph signed and inscribed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky to librettist Paul Collin, 1888. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> <i>Katalog der Wiener Kunstschau</i> signed and inscribed by Egon Schiele, 1916. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Autographs
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Letter signed by Mohandas K. Gandhi to Dr. John Haynes Holmes, Sevagram, 1940. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Photograph signed and inscribed by Marilyn Monroe to Dulce Brito, circa 1957. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 22:</b> Two typed letters signed by William Faulkner, Los Angeles, 1943. $4,000 to $6,000.
  • <b>19th Century Shop.</b> A patriot who fought with George Washington Superb Daguerreotype of Baltus<br>Stone at age 101 (1846).
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Edward Curtis portrait of Honovi, Walpi Snake Priest "Honovi was one of the author's principal informants" (1910).
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> The Execution of the Lincoln Assassination Conspirators by Alexander Gardner (1865).
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Harriet Beecher Stowe, Catharine Beecher, Henry Ward Beecher, and the other siblings with their father Lyman Beecher. By Mathew Brady (1850s).
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> From Slaves to World-Famous Entertainers Millie-Christine, "The Two-Headed Nightingale" (c. 1868-71)
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Goldfield, Nevada Photograph Collection Fabled Western Mining Boomtown (1905-1906)
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Tycoon-Collector Benjamin Richardson poses with his great-grandson as appeared in parade.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Alexander Gardner portrait of Lincoln the only known copy, ex-John Hay (1863).
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Magnificent Niagara Falls album with a strong provenance (1867).
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Spectacular American West Album From Yosemite to Salt Lake City to San Francisco.

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2014 Issue

Did Someone Find Shakespeare’s Personal Dictionary on eBay?


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>Sotheby's Paris, De la bibliothèque Stéphane Mallarmé, 15 October.</b>
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 163. Stéphane Mallarmé. An autograph manuscript for <i>Un coup de Dés jamais n'abolira le Hasard</i>. [Avril Ou Début MAI 1897]. Est. 500,000-800,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 109. Manet, Edouard - Edgar Allan Poe - Stéphane Mallarmé. <i>Le Corbeau. The Raven. 1875</i>. Est 80,000-120,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 152. Edgar Degas. <i>Portrait of Stéphane Mallarmé and Auguste Renoir</i>, [16 Décembre 1895]. Est. 40,000-60,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 15. Baudelaire, Charles. <i>Les Fleurs du Mal. Paris, Poulet-Malassis et De Broise, 1861.</i> <br>Est. 80,000 - 120,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris, De la bibliothèque Stéphane Mallarmé, 15 October.</b>
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 137. Mallarmé, Stéphane. Vers Sur un Galet D'Honfleur. [Eté 1892 OU Été 1894.] Est. 5,000-8,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 48. Gide, André - Maurice Denis. <i>Le Voyage d'Urien. Paris, Librairie de L’Art indépendant, 1893.</i> Est. 20,000-30,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 103. Mallarmé, Stéphane - Edgar Allan Poe. Manuscripts Autographs. [1870-1875 ET 1869]. Est. 80,000-120,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 107. [Revue - Stéphane Mallarmé] La Derniere Mode. Gazette du monde et de la famille. Est. 40,000-60,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris, De la bibliothèque Stéphane Mallarmé, 15 October.</b>
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 110. Mallarmé, Stéphane - Edouard Manet. <i>L’après midi d'un Faune. Églogue. Paris, 1876.</i> Est. 30,000-50,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 160. Mallarmé, Stéphane. Premier état D'un Un Coup De Dés Jamais N'Abolira Le Hasard. Manuscrit Autographe. [1897].<br>Est. 60,000-80,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 164. Mallarmé, Stephane. 6 jeux d’épreuves Pour un Coup De Dés Jamais N'Abolira Le Hasard De l’édition définitive chez Vollard. Est. 100,000-150,000 EUR.
    <b>Sotheby's Paris</b>: Lot 198. [Méry Laurent] <i>Liber Amicorum De Méry Laurent</i>. 1875-Fin Des Années 1890]. Est. 50,000-80,000 EUR.
  • <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 52. Charles Schulz, Original Peanuts Snoopy Baseball Strip, U.S.A, 1964. Starting price $16,000.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 6.<br>Maurice Sendak (1928-2012), 'Max, Where the Wild Things Are', Pen & Ink, 2012. Starting price $1,500.00.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 13.<br>Leo Rijn after Dr. Seuss, Cowfish Maquette, U.S.A, 1998. Signed on stand. Starting price $1,000.00.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 17.<br>Dr. Seuss, Untitled, Color Pen & Ink, C. 1940. Signed ‘Dr Seuss’ lower left. Starting price $4,000.00.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 19.<br>Dr. Seuss, ‘I wonder how I offended George…’ Pen & Ink, C. 1930. Starting price $7,500.00.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 29.<br>Disney Studios, 'Queen, Snow White', Concept Sketch, U.S.A., C. 1937. Starting price $3,000.00.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 30.<br>Marc Davis, 'Sleeping Beauty in a Meadow', Production Cel, 1959. Signed. Starting price $1,200.00.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 50.<br>Charles Schulz, Original Peanuts Daily Strip, USA, 1966. Signed 'Schulz'. Starting price $10,000.00.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 58.<br>Chuck Jones, Signed, hand-painted Production Cels from Duck Dodgers, 1952. Starting price $4,500.00.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 77.<br>Stan Lee, Marvel Studios, Bishop,<br>X-Men, Production Cel, C.1995. <br>Starting price $240.00.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 79.<br>Warner Bros, 'New Adventures of Superman', C. 2000. Production Cel. Starting price $300.00.
    <b>AUCTIONATA Oct 14th:</b> Lot 84.<br>Tim Burton, Mayor from Nightmare Before Christmas, C. 1993. Starting price $1,500.00.
  • <b>Bonhams September 21:</b> Lot 14. Darwin, Charles. 1809-1882. <i>On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection... 1859.</i>. US$ 60,000-80,000.
    <b>Bonhams September 21:</b> Lot 46. Smith, Adam. 1723-1790. <i>An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.</i> US$ 70,000-90,000.
    <b>Bonhams September 21:</b> Lot 224. CIVIL WAR. Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the War [1865-1866]. US$ 120,000-180,000.
    255 — add to caption: First Edition, Subscriber’s Copy
    <b>Bonhams September 21:</b> Lot 270. Serra, Junipero. 1713-1774, ET AL. Pangua, Francisco. Letter in Spanish, 1775. US$ 60,000-90,000.
    <b>Bonhams September 21:</b> Lot 77. Apple 1 Motherboard, with label "Apple Computer 1 / Palo Alto. Ca. Copyright 1976." US$ 300,000-500,000.
    <b>Bonhams September 21:</b> Lot 46. The 1934 Nobel Prize Medal for Physiology or Medicine. Presented to George Minot. US$ 200,000-300,000.
    <b>Bonhams September 21:</b> Lot 39. Darwin, Charles. 1809-1882. Autograph Letter Signed ("Ch. Darwin"). US$ 70,000-90,000.
    <b>Bonhams September 21:</b> Lot 4. Lubieniecki, Stanislaw. 1623-1675. <i>[Theatri Cometici pars posterior] Historia Cometarum...</i> US$ 25,000-35,000.
    <b>Bonhams September 21:</b> Lot 3. Vera rare George III mahogany and engraved brass orrery. US$ 200,000-250,000.

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