• <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Abraham Lincoln, Emancipation Proclamation by the President of the United States, pamphlet, 1862. Sold May 7 for $11,875.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Family papers of the distinguished Ruby-Jackson family, Portland, Maine, 1853-1961. Sold May 7 for $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> E. Simms Campbell, A Night-Club Map of Harlem, in inaugural issue of Manhattan, 1933. Sold May 7 for $27,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Papers of the comedian Nipsey Russell, including a letter from MLK, 1929-2000. Sold May 7 for $17,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Edmonia Lewis, prominent sculptor, carte-de-visite by Henry Rocher, c. 1866-71. Sold May 7 for $5,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> The Black Panther: Black Community News Service, 44 issues, San Francisco, 1967-1971. Sold May 7 for $6,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Withers, I Am A Man, Sanitation Workers Strike, silver print, 1968. Sold May 7 for $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> March For Freedom Now!, poster for a protest on the 1960 Republican Convention. Sold May 7 for $17,500.
  • <b>Gonnelli:</b> Books & Graphics 26th – 27th – 28th May 2020.
    <b>Gonnelli:</b> May 27th, Travel and exploration.
    <b>Gonnelli:</b> May 27th, Musical books, autographs & printed music.
    <b>Gonnelli:</b> May 26th, A collection of Piranesi’s etchings. € 50 to € 16000.
    <b>Gonnelli:</b> May 28th, Books from XV to XX Century.
    <b>Gonnelli:</b> May 28th, Hansel and Gretel and other stories by the brothers Grimm illustrated by Kay Nielsen. € 1000.
    <b>Gonnelli:</b> May 28th, Artists’ books from Dalì, Marini & others.
  • <center><b>Hindman Auctions<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts<br>Including Americana<br>Live and Online<br>June 23, 2020</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Jun. 23:</b> [SUPREME COURT JUSTICES]. A very extensive collection of 203 letters, documents and signatures. A COMPLETE COLLECTION OF THE SUPREME COURT JUSTICES, JOHN JAY THROUGH WILLIAM REHNQUIST. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Jun. 23:</b> ZATTA, Antonio. <i>Atlante Novissimo.</i> Venice: Antonio Zatta, 1775-1785. ONE OF THE FINEST WORLD ATLASES issued in Italy in the 18th century. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Jun. 23:</b> [CHICAGO HISTORY] -- [COLUMBUS, Christopher]. Monumental historiated and embroidered panel of the MADE FOR THE 1893 COLUMBIAN EXHIBITION IN CHICAGO. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <center><b>Hindman Auctions<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts<br>Including Americana<br>Live and Online<br>June 23, 2020</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Jun. 23:</b> [MONASTERY HILL BINDING]. AINSWORTH, William Harrison. <i>Historical Romances.</i> Philadelphia, n.d. A fine early exhibition binding by the Monastery Hill Bindery. $6,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Jun. 23:</b> [ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM]. New York: Tiber Press, [1960]. 4 volumes. LIMITED EDITION, number 119 of 200 COPIES, EACH SIGNED BY THE POET AND ARTIST. $6,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Jun. 23:</b> GRATIANUS, the Canonist. <i>Decretum.</i> Venedig: Petrus de Plasiis, 25 January 1483. Second quarto edition. FIRST PAGE ILLUMINATED BY A CONTEMPORARY ARTIST. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <center><b>Hindman Auctions<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts<br>Including Americana<br>Live and Online<br>June 23, 2020</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Jun. 23:</b> [ABOLITIONISTS]. <i>William Lloyd Garrison. The Story of his Life.</i> New York, 1885. ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS FROM SEVERAL NOTABLE ABOLITIONISTS neatly bound in throughout. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Jun. 23:</b> ANSON, George. <i>A Voyage round the World, In the Years 1740... 1744.</i> London: John and Paul Knapton for the author, 1748. FIRST EDITION. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Jun. 23:</b> Blank railroad ledger, "Compagnie des Chemins de fer de l'Ouest" (spine title). N.p., 1909. A MONUMENTAL 20th-CENTURY ART NOUVEAU BINDING. $1,000 to $1,500.
    <center><b>Hindman Auctions<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts<br>Including Americana<br>Live and Online<br>June 23, 2020</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Jun. 23:</b> [MINIATURE ROOM] -- [FLEMING, John (1910-1987)]. Miniature of his 57th Street Library and Gallery. JOHN F. FLEMING'S BARONIAL 57TH STREET GALLERY. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Jun. 23:</b> [SANGORSKI & SUTCLIFFE BINDING]. CHESTERTON, G.K. <i>Five Types: A Book of Essays.</i> London, 1910. LIMITED EDITION, number 3 of 30 copies on vellum SIGNED BY GEORGE SUTCLIFFE. $400 to $500.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Jun. 23:</b> [KELMSCOTT PRESS]. <i>When Adam Delved and Eve Span....</i> [Ancoats Brotherhood, 1894-5]. LIMITED EDITION, one of 250 copies printed. $500 to $700.

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

  • <center><b>Morphy Auctions</b><br>Founders & Patriots: Arms, Militaria, Documents, Artwork & Rare Imprints from the Era of the American Revolution & the War of 1812<br><b>May 27, 2020</b>
    <b>Morphy Auctions, May 27:</b> Extremely rare, signature of Patrick Ferguson, famed rifle inventor and British officer. $20,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Morphy Auctions, May 27:</b> 1776 Battle of Sullivan's Island watercolor, attributed to James Peale. 11 1/2 x 17 3/16. $10,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Morphy Auctions, May 27:</b> John Hancock-signed commission of Ensign Aaron Butler, 1777. $8,000 to $16,000.
    <center><b>Morphy Auctions</b><br>Founders & Patriots: Arms, Militaria, Documents, Artwork & Rare Imprints from the Era of the American Revolution & the War of 1812<br><b>May 27, 2020</b>
    <b>Morphy Auctions, May 27:</b> A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston, Perpetrated in the Evening of the Fifth Day of March 1770… London, [1770]. $7,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Morphy Auctions, May 27:</b> Original manuscript of 1761 Massachusetts Bay Tax Act. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Morphy Auctions, May 27:</b> Wine receipt for Washington's Council of War, May 24, 1778, leading to Monmouth Battle. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <center><b>Morphy Auctions</b><br>Founders & Patriots: Arms, Militaria, Documents, Artwork & Rare Imprints from the Era of the American Revolution & the War of 1812<br><b>May 27, 2020</b>
    <b>Morphy Auctions, May 27:</b> [Siege of Boston]. “A Muster Roll of The Company Under the Command of Captain Josiah King in Colonel David Brewer’s Regiment, to the First of August, 1775.” $5,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Morphy Auctions, May 27:</b> Congressman Brigham describes George Washington's Mount Vernon estate and its slaves. $3,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Morphy Auctions, May 27:</b> [British Army. Uniforms and Organizaton] "Gen[era]l. Disposition of The King’s Troops with the Number, Uniform and Colonel [of Each Regiment, 1763]. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <center><b>Morphy Auctions</b><br>Founders & Patriots: Arms, Militaria, Documents, Artwork & Rare Imprints from the Era of the American Revolution & the War of 1812<br><b>May 27, 2020</b>
    <b>Morphy Auctions, May 27:</b> Revolutionary era paper money, continental and state (lot of 55). $2,500 to $5,500.
    <b>Morphy Auctions, May 27:</b> Rare 1782 loyalist military passport from Charleston, SC. $1,500 to $3,000.
    <b>Morphy Auctions, May 27:</b> [Stamp Act.] Rare 1765 stamp for 2 shillings and 6 pence. $1,250 to $2,500.
  • <center><b>ABAA Virtual Book Fair</b><br>Join your favorite booksellers<br>June 4-7, 2020
    <center><b>ABAA Virtual Book Fair</b><br>Join your favorite booksellers<br>June 4-7, 2020
    <center><b>ABAA Virtual Book Fair</b><br>Join your favorite booksellers<br>June 4-7, 2020
    <center><b>ABAA Virtual Book Fair</b><br>Join your favorite booksellers<br>June 4-7, 2020
    <center><b>ABAA Virtual Book Fair</b><br>Join your favorite booksellers<br>June 4-7, 2020
    <center><b>ABAA Virtual Book Fair</b><br>Join your favorite booksellers<br>June 4-7, 2020
    <center><b>ABAA Virtual Book Fair</b><br>Join your favorite booksellers<br>June 4-7, 2020
    <center><b>ABAA Virtual Book Fair</b><br>Join your favorite booksellers<br>June 4-7, 2020
    <center><b>ABAA Virtual Book Fair</b><br>Join your favorite booksellers<br>June 4-7, 2020
    <center><b>ABAA Virtual Book Fair</b><br>Join your favorite booksellers<br>June 4-7, 2020
    <center><b>ABAA Virtual Book Fair</b><br>Join your favorite booksellers<br>June 4-7, 2020
    <center><b>ABAA Virtual Book Fair</b><br>Join your favorite booksellers<br>June 4-7, 2020
  • <b>Koller International Auctions: Books [and] Manuscripts & Autographs. June 15, 2020</b>
    <b>Koller, Jun. 15:</b> INCUNABULA -Fridolin, Stephan. <i>Schatzbehalter.</i> With 96 (including 5 repeated) full-page text woodcuts. Nürnberg, 1491.<br>€ 39 470 / 57 020
    <b>Koller, Jun. 15:</b> Kokoschka, Oskar. <i>Die Träumenden Knaben (The Dreaming Boys).</i> With 11 original lithographs. Vienne, 1908.<br>€ 35 090 / 52 630
    <b>Koller, Jun. 15:</b> Third Bessarion Master (active in Lombard in the third quarter of the 15th century). Leaf from a gradual, 1455-60.<br>€ 21 930 / 30 700
    <b>Koller, Jun. 15:</b> Picasso, Pablo - Delgado, José alias Pepe Illo. <i>La Tauromaquia o arte de torear.</i> With 26 original aquatints and 1 original etching by Picasso.<br>€ 21 930 / 35 090
    <b>Koller International Auctions: Books [and] Manuscripts & Autographs. June 15, 2020</b>
    <b>Koller, Jun. 15:</b> Linschoten, Jan Huygen van. <i>Itinerario, Voyage ofte Schipvaert naer Oost ofte Portugaels Indien…</i> Amsterdam, 1595.<br>€ 17 540 / 26 320
    <b>Koller, Jun. 15:</b> CHILDREN’S BOOKS - Meggendorfer, Lothar. <i>Nah und Fern. Ein Tierbilderbuch zum Ziehen.</i> With 8 coloured, lithographed plates.<br>€ 530 / 790
    <b>Koller, Jun. 15:</b> DANSE MACABRE - Bille, Edmond. <i>Une Danse macabre.</i> With 20 coloured woodcuts. Lausanne, 1919. Large folio.<br>€ 610 / 880
    <b>Koller, Jun. 15:</b> Dexel, Walter. A collection of 7 invitation cards from the Kunstverein Jena, each typographically designed by W. Dexel. Jena, 1924-1928. Each 10.5 x 14.8 cm.<br>€ 530 / 790

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions