Take a Virtual Tour of the Dictionary Shakespeare May Have Owned and Annotated


shakespeare dictionary

You sure­ly heard plen­ty about Shake­speare’s birth­day yes­ter­day. But did you hear about Shake­speare’s bee­hive? No, the Bard did­n’t moon­light as an api­arist, though in his main line of work as a poet and drama­tist he sure­ly had to con­sult his dic­tio­nary fair­ly often. The ques­tion of whether human­i­ty has an iden­ti­fi­able copy of such an illus­tri­ous ref­er­ence vol­ume gets explored in the new book Shake­speare’s Bee­hive: An Anno­tat­ed Eliz­a­bethan Dic­tio­nary Comes to Light by book­seller-schol­ars George Kop­pel­man and Daniel Wech­sler. In their study, they reveal that they may have come into pos­ses­sion of Shake­speare’s very own copy of Baret’s Alvearie, a pop­u­lar clas­si­cal quote-laden Eng­lish-Latin-Greek-French dic­tio­nary the man who wrote King Lear would have found “the per­fect tool, a hon­ey-combed bee­hive of pos­si­bil­i­ties that may not have formed his way of think­ing, but cer­tain­ly fed his appetite and nour­ished his selec­tion.” He would have, at least, if indeed he owned it. Some sol­id Shake­speare schol­ar­ship points toward his own­ing copy of Baret’s Alvearie, but did he own this one, the rich­ly anno­tat­ed one these guys found on eBay?

Experts haven’t exact­ly stepped for­ward in force to back up their claim. Plau­si­ble objec­tions include, as Adam Gop­nik puts it in a (sub­scribers-only) New York­er piece on this Alvearie in par­tic­u­lar and human­i­ty’s desire for Shake­speare­an arti­facts in gen­er­al: “the hand­writ­ing just does­n’t look like Shake­speare’s,” “since Shake­speare wrote Eliz­a­bethan Eng­lish, any work of Eliz­a­bethan Eng­lish is going to con­tain echoes of Shake­speare,” and, of all pos­si­ble anno­ta­tors of this par­tic­u­lar phys­i­cal book, Shake­speare “is a prime can­di­date only because we don’t know the names of all the oth­er bird-lov­ing, inquis­i­tive read­ers who also liked their dabchicks and their French verbs.” Still, in a strik­ing act of open­ness, Kop­pel­man and Wech­sler have made their — and Shake­speare’s? — Alvearie avail­able for your dig­i­tal perusal on their site. You have to reg­is­ter as a mem­ber first, but then you can draw your own con­clu­sions about Kop­pel­man and Weschler’s dis­cov­ery — or, as even they call it, their “leap of faith.” Over­en­thu­si­as­tic words, per­haps, but sel­dom do either suc­cess­ful anti­quar­i­an book deal­ers or ded­i­cat­ed Shake­speare fans lack enthu­si­asm.

via The Atlantic

Relat­ed  Con­tent:

Dis­cov­er What Shakespeare’s Hand­writ­ing Looked Like, and How It Solved a Mys­tery of Author­ship

What Shake­speare Sound­ed Like to Shake­speare: Recon­struct­ing the Bard’s Orig­i­nal Pro­nun­ci­a­tion

Read All of Shakespeare’s Plays Free Online, Cour­tesy of the Fol­ger Shake­speare Library

Free Online Shake­speare Cours­es: Primers on the Bard from Oxford, Har­vard, Berke­ley & More

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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