2018 Beehive Update

Of our own conclusions regarding the annotations in the copy of Baret’s Alvearie that is the basis for Shakespeare’s Beehive, two have proven resistant to criticism:

1. No individual created any annotations with the intention of making it look like this was Shakespeare’s dictionary.

2. No individual left behind any annotations that could be reasonably construed as a contemporary, or later, effort at examining Shakespeare’s life or work.

Of our much weightier conclusion – that Shakespeare himself was responsible for the annotations – well, that’s another story.

We hope that this condensed supplement serves as a means for renewing interest in our argument for those who are familiar with it, and to encourage others to look into our findings for the first time. The examples highlighted in this supplement were discovered after the publication of the second edition of Shakespeare’s Beehive, and are being shared here publicly for the first time.

Click to Download the 2018 Beehive Update (24 Pages)



George Koppelman and Daniel Wechsler at the Stratford Festival, Ontario, Canada

Join George Koppelman and Daniel Wechsler, authors of Shakespeare’s Beehive: An Annotated Elizabethan Dictionary Comes to Light, on Friday, June 23 from 9 to 10:30 am at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada as they explain the amazing discovery of this illuminating work and how the annotations contained therein shed light on and tie directly in to Shakespeare’s work.

Click here to purchase tickets.

Recent and Upcoming Events

Shakespeare’s Words and Works: A Creativity Conversation with Lauren Gunderson and Dan Wechsler
November 14, 2016 at 4 p.m.

Emory alumni Lauren Gunderson and Dan Wechsler join moderator Rosemary Magee in a Creativity Conversation devoted to Shakespeare. Lauren Gunderson is an award-winning playwright whose new play, The Book of Will, focuses on the survival of Shakespeare’s words via the printing of the First Folio. Dan Wechsler is an antiquarian bookseller whose book, Shakespeare’s Beehive: An Annotated Elizabethan Dictionary Comes to Light (co-written with George Koppelman) examines a copy of Baret’s Alvearie that contains what Wechsler and Koppelman argue are annotations in Shakespeare’s own hand.

Free and open to the public. More Information Here.


Two Booksellers Make a Discovery: Turning the Pages of Shakespeare’s Dictionary
Tuesday, October 25, 2016

George Koppelman, proprietor of Cultured Oyster Books, New York, and Daniel Wechsler, proprietor of Sanctuary Books, New York.

This event is part of The University of Delaware Celebrates Shakespeare

Two Booksellers Make a Discovery: Turning The Pages of Shakespeare’s Dictionary

The University of Delaware Library has announced a Shakespeare series talk, “Two Booksellers Make a Discovery: Turning The Pages of Shakespeare’s Dictionary,” at 4:30 p.m., on Tuesday, Oct. 25, in the Class of 1941 Lecture Room in Morris Library.

In April 2014, booksellers George Koppelman and Daniel Wechsler announced their belief that they had discovered William Shakespeare’s own personally annotated dictionary. The dictionary, John Baret’s An Alvearie: Or, Quadruple Dictionarie, containing “Foure sundrie tongues: Namelie, English, Latine, Greeke and French,” was printed in London in 1580 and is now on loan at The Folger Shakespeare Library.

Their book, Shakespeare’s Beehive: An Annotated Elizabethan Dictionary Comes to Light, reveals how the annotator carefully worked his way through the Alvearie, leaving, in turn, astonishing linguistic allusions to the whole of Shakespeare’s canon and also, importantly, many “fingerprints” that match frequently debated biographical speculations.

Koppelman and Wechsler, who both remain convinced, more so than ever, that their thesis is correct, will discuss what the response to their claim has been, provide clarity on aspects of their argument, and share what led them to feel confident enough to come forward with such a bold conclusion.

Koppelman and Wechsler have independently both spent more than two decades working with rare books. Each is a member of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America, the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers and the Grolier Club.

Since first meeting at Wechsler’s Upper West Side shop, Book Ark, in 1995, they have shared a common bond over a love for, and a devotion to, the labyrinthine world encompassed by books.

Both Koppelman and Wechsler live in New York City. Koppelman is a graduate of the University of Chicago (1961), and Wechsler a graduate of Emory University (1990). Koppelman is the proprietor of Cultured Oyster Books (1993-present), and Wechsler, of Sanctuary Books (2001-present).

In 2014, they published jointly their co-authored book, Shakespeare’s Beehive: An Annotated Elizabethan Dictionary Comes to Light, under the imprint of Axletree Press, after six years of largely independent research and study. A revised and expanded second edition of the book was released 18 months later.

These programs, allied to the library’s exhibition, “Shakespeare Through the Ages” on view through Dec. 12, are sponsored by the University of Delaware Library and University Museums, with support from the Special Collections Projects and Planning Committee of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Charlotte Orth Shakespeare Fund of the Department of English, and the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, University of Delaware Library.

For information on all Shakespeare-related events, visit this website.

RSVPs are strongly encouraged via email at rsvp-library@winsor.lib.udel.edu by Oct. 23. Walk-ins are welcome.

“Details Still Matter” – A reply to Adam Hooks on Shakespeare’s Beehive 2.0

Not long after Adam Hooks posted his online essay: Shakespeare’s Beehive 2.0 (“We find Shakespeare because Shakespeare is who we want to find”) he was asked via Twitter if he had received a review copy of our book. His immediate response was: “It’s self-published, so there are no review copies. And therefore no review.”

The truth is dozens of review copies were distributed to various scholars, writers and publications. Professor Hooks did not receive a review copy, but many others did, and there were reviews. Professor Hooks should know – he quotes (on multiple occasions) in his essay from two very prominent ones: H. R. Woudhuysen’s review in the TLS following the release of the first edition in 2014, and Michael Dirda’s review in the Washington Post of the second edition in the fall of 2015.

Professor Hooks presented misinformation over social media. And, as trivial as his Twitter error may seem, it is a reflection of how he approaches Shakespeare’s Beehive on the whole. For starters, Professor Hooks frames his broader piece with a much-publicized early attack over social media without investigating the accuracy of the statements therein. He takes greatest issue with the idea that we sought out advice and did not heed it:

“It is one thing to simply not know how scholarship works, or to simply possess gaps in your knowledge that you may not realize. It is quite another, however, to seek out expert opinions, and to then ignore them when their conclusions do not happen to match your desires. And this seems to be (alarmingly) the case in this instance, as the assessment of two of the most well-known paleographical experts on early modern England was disregarded (as reported by Grace Ioppolo).”

The truth is neither one of us ever had a single direct exchange with Grace Ioppolo. With the stated understanding of privacy, a few exchanges did take place via email with her husband Peter Beal (December 2012). Most alarmingly (to borrow Hooks’ word) Grace Ioppolo was untruthful on Twitter about what was communicated to us. Professor Hooks provides a link to the Tweets that include the following statement:

“We told the owners that the book’s notes are very typical of a 17th c. reader working from Folio or quarto texts of Shakespeare’s plays.”

Such a statement was never made to us. One might reasonably ask how Grace Ioppolo formulated it at all, when only a small handful of digital scans were shared (emailed at Dr. Beal’s request to show some of the variety in the annotator’s handwriting). Any scholar familiar with our Alvearie or our arguments would never suggest that “the notes” in our book represented “a 17th c. reader working from Folio or quarto texts of Shakespeare’s plays.” Furthermore, and both Grace Ioppolo and Professor Hooks fail to note this, if you did discover an annotated dictionary where a 17th c. reader was working from Folio or quarto texts from Shakespeare’s plays you would have an extraordinary book, not “very typical” in any respect!

Anyone who reads through Professor Hooks’ critical assessment of Shakespeare’s Beehive will see clearly that he does not agree with Grace Ioppolo, at least on this critical point. Professor Hooks states he believes our annotator is an “active reader” but does not mention anywhere that this reader is in any way working off a Shakespeare text. Yet he cites Ioppolo without further question, seeing it as parcel of the “generous and congenial” responses we received (and, in this case, apparently did not pay attention to).

Professor Hooks was not the first to provide this Ioppolo citation. To our surprise, Woudhuysen’s TLS review was largely cobbled together from a flurry of early comments made over social media, including those made by Ioppolo. When more than one prominent scholar suggested to us that we write a letter to the TLS in response to Woudhuysen, we did just that. Other than a correction the following week to one of our names (the print version read “David Wechsler”) and the title of our book, the TLS elected not to publish our letter that addressed Ioppolo’s tweets.

In November 2015, over one year after her initial posting, Grace Ioppolo responded again to an article concerning the Beehive. She sent out a Tweet that began: “my husband Peter Beal & I examined this book a few years ago…”   This was later deleted from her account, probably because she knows that she and her husband never once examined our copy of Baret’s Alvearie.

While we did not communicate directly with Grace Ioppolo, we did engage with other scholars, and are grateful for the range of advice we received. The process began in May 2010, when we first shared our work, two years after acquiring the book. We have communicated directly with an array of important Shakespeare scholars and handwriting experts in the years since then, and have always protected the privacy of each and every one of the individuals with whom we communicated.

Strangely, Professor Hooks seems to imagine our engagement with scholars through one possibility and one possibility only: that we sought out advice and did not take it. This is completely false. Professor Hooks obviously knows that not all early modern scholars agree, even when it comes to paleography.

Professor Hooks asserts the chief reason for writing his essay is because “ignoring amateur enthusiasts and conspiratorial eccentrics does not mean that their theories go away — in fact they are often intensified when Shakespeare scholars refuse to engage with them.” Professor Hooks makes it abundantly clear that he feels the backdrop to the Beehive story pits a pair of booksellers (at best “amateur enthusiasts,” at worst “conspiratorial eccentrics”) vs. “generous and congenial scholars.” Such a simple-minded assessment damages any effort at encouraging further inquiry either from fellow scholars or curious members of the public.

Equally problematic is how Professor Hooks diminishes and distorts our arguments as he progresses through his own analysis. His analysis contains a number of errors and inaccurate assumptions. Just as Professor Hooks expressed it unnecessary to respond to all of what is in our book (“once the flaws in a particular methodology are identified, and crucial details have been assessed as inaccurate or misleading, it is not productive to continue”), neither will we respond to all of his review, as we feel once we have established problems with his method at some point it no longer serves any purpose. Using a rhetorical strategy that runs throughout, Professor Hooks writes: “my intention here is to take the arguments presented in the book seriously.” It is implicit here and elsewhere that Professor Hooks feels we don’t really deserve to be taken seriously, thus shaping the narrative for his readers much as he claims we do in ours.

Less than ten days before posting his essay, Professor Hooks politely requested a document, a supplement to Shakespeare’s Beehive, which we offer through our website. A PDF of over 450 pages, it includes a compilation of every annotation in our Alvearie. The PDF also contains connective texts to assist those who wish to study the annotations in greater detail. The terms “spoken” annotations and “mute” annotations are clearly explained. These terms were first coined and introduced in Shakespeare’s Beehive, both to distinguish between the types of annotations, and to help demonstrate the integrated manner in which they are used. How they are connected and intertwined is an essential aspect in terms of approaching both the methodology of the annotator and the paleography.

When the annotator has supplied a word, or a sequence of words, we refer to these annotations as spoken annotations. These are complimented by what we call the mute annotations, annotations that do not involve the additions of words, but repetitive marks instead. The three primary means by which the annotator has consistently marked the printed text without adding a word are: slash marks alongside headwords, little circles alongside subsidiary definitions, and underlining to text sequences or individual words within the printed text. There are thousands of mute annotations used by the annotator throughout the dictionary with consistency and purpose. In his essay Professor Hooks makes no mention of the terms “spoken” and “mute”. He simply ignores them.

The spoken annotations are almost entirely derived from the printed dictionary text (as the compilation shared with Professor Hooks demonstrates with every example coded). A mute annotation (usually an underlining) can almost always be found at the textual position in Baret where from the spoken annotation has been grabbed, before its re-position alphabetically at another place in the dictionary. Professor Hooks had access to both Shakespeare’s Beehive and the supplement, so there is no excuse for ignoring details we stress in both, and repeatedly insisting that we have overlooked something as basic as an alphabetical insertion formulated from the dictionary text as outlined above, or the recording of a French annotation. If “the details still matter,” as Professor Hooks insists, why not share them? Why distort them? Why take false credit for them? Repeatedly, Professor Hooks does all of these things.

One of Professor Hooks’ main points of contention is in our summoning of the following passage from T. W. Baldwin, written roughly seventy-five years ago:

“Baret was in effect the standard English Dictionary of Shakespeare’s schooldays, and must have had powerful influence in shaping the English definitions of Shakespeare’s generation. But it is not likely that Shakespeare would have preserved the patterns so accurately if he had not himself turned many a time and oft to Baret for his varied synonyms.”

In his own investigation, Professor Hooks writes: “Koppelman and Wechsler reiterate their dependence on Baldwin multiple times.” “Dependence” is extremely misleading and in fact spurious. The fact that Baldwin’s statement expresses a necessary condition for our assertion to be valid does not mean we are dependent on Baldwin’s writing itself as necessary evidence to that effect. We are not. Nor did we accept the idea of Baldwin being correct at face value.

Professor Hooks then reaches into Baldwin’s book for mentions of the Alvearie to test the credibility and perceived enthusiasm of the statement we cite. He claims “Baldwin’s only extended example focuses on Touchstone’s speech which concludes the first scene in Act 5 of As You Like It.” Professor Hooks adds that “Baldwin finds several possible parallels between Touchstone’s speech…for example, ‘abandon’ is defined as to ‘leaue’ in Baret (it is also the very first entry).” The speech begins:

He, sir, that must marry this woman. Therefore, you
clown, abandon– which is in the vulgar leave

Professor Hooks expounds at considerable length on the speech and Baldwin’s citation of it in relation to Baret, before adding: “Koppelman and Wechsler do not mention the example of Touchstone — the foundation on which Baldwin’s pivotal pronouncement is based. This is because not one (Hooks’ emphasis) of the entries Baldwin cites are annotated in their copy of the Alvearie.

But Professor Hooks’ statement is, once again, inaccurate. Not one, not two, but three examples under abandon, where the connection to the “vulgar leave” is linked, are annotated. To repeat, we shared this document with Professor Hooks, and he has access to the digital facsimile of our Alvearie online (his essay includes images from it).


A1. Abandon

ο  To abandon: to leave, or forsake.
ο  He which leaveth, abandoneth or forsaketh.
ο  A leavying, abandoning or forsaking.

Acknowledging the annotations in our copy at this entry is far less important than highlighting the fact that Professor Hooks tells his readers that there are none there. And the inference that Professor Hooks makes for why we don’t share this example (he says it is because there are no annotations there, when in fact there are) is also untrue. We were aware of T. W. Baldwin’s example, we were aware of the annotations, and we were also aware that it is the only time in Shakespeare that forms of the words “leave” and “abandon” are combined in a speech. In fact, we have it recorded among the many hundreds of stored supplementary examples not included in either edition of Shakespeare’s Beehive. But we chose not to include it among the evidence because we felt that there were much stronger examples to illustrate how our annotator was working, and the recurring patterns that are found in Shakespeare.

Professor Hooks concludes the Baldwin portion of his essay by saying: “In the only instance their scholarly authority could find of a potentially direct connection between Baret and Shakespeare, the book fails to live up to its billing.” Not only is this overly dramatic rhetoric, it is inaccurate, as we have just shown. Furthermore, and just as importantly, the implication that we are reliant on a single scholarly authority in showing potentially direct connections between Baret and Shakespeare is also completely wrong. We address a number of “potentially direct connections between Baret and Shakespeare” that a variety of scholarly authorities have made (necessarily leaving out many others due to space), dating back to the 18th century when critical editions of Shakespeare’s work first appeared.

Consider the following amorous lines from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where Titania is lying with Bottom after his transformation into an ass:

Titania (4.1.41–44; Q1600, F3a–b)
So doth the woodbine, the sweete Honisuckle,
Gently entwist: the female Iuy so
Enrings the barky fingers of the Elme.
O how I loue thee! how I dote on thee!

A still frequently referenced citation, noted in Shakespeare’s Beehive, reads: “Baret, in his Alvearie, 1580, enforces the same distinction that Shakespeare thought it necessary to make…Woodbin that beareth the Honie-suckle.” Without saying so directly, the implication in this scholarly observation is that Baret may well be responsible for the error, but, if not, the same note speculates, “perhaps Shakespeare made a blunder.”

Both mentions of woodbine in our Alvearie receive attention from the annotator.

H582. / Honiesuckle herbe. Vide woodbine.
W368. / Woodbin that beareth the Honiesuckle

This is just one of a great number of occasions where scholars have turned to Baret for linguistic clarification. Potentially direct connections between Baret and Shakespeare extend over centuries to the present day, hardly by way of any single scholarly authority.

Printed texts that are unique to Baret include the introductions, or preambles, to letters. These odd contributions to letter reform are short essays on letters and pronunciation that precede the entries under each given letter. In one of them, the preamble to Letter E, Patricia Parker, a professor of English at Stanford, notes (without citing the location) that portions of the text “sound uncannily like Hamlet’s instructions to the players.” The same bits of text in question, sounding uncannily like Hamlet’s instructions to the players to Professor Parker, have been worked over in our copy, first with mute and then with spoken annotations. This is the probable order the annotator works from throughout. Mute annotations precede spoken annotations. The annotations marked in the preamble to Letter E and taken from there did less to enliven our belief that Shakespeare was the annotator, than they did to inspire us to find more examples of potentially direct connections. Why not add to existing scholarship?

The process could, and often did, work in reverse from what Professor Hooks imagines in terms of our seeing an annotation and looking into Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s text often came first. Or, a scholar’s explication of a Shakespeare text preceded our looking. Why does Professor Hooks fail to show examples (as we share repeatedly) of scholars deconstructing Shakespeare, and our making use of the annotated Alvearie as a means of exploration? Helen Vendler, a distinguished professor at Harvard for many years, declares “ragged hand” in Sonnet 6 as being “odd” – in other words, unusual to her experienced ear. After reading Sonnet 6 and her note, we remembered the preamble to letter B in our copy of the Alvearie which contained the “odd” text, “ragged hands,” and remembered that the text was not only present there, but was treated by the annotator with an underlining:

And the cause thereof may seeme to be either ignorant printers and their correctours, when printing began first to be used, taking one letter for an other, being written in divers ragged handes…

OED cites Shakespeare for three early usages of the word ragged, but has no mention of “ragged hands”. Baret’s Alvearie has not once been reprinted since 1580, and the texts unique to Baret remain obscure. The word ragged is not given its own entry in Baret, but it does appear as part of a subsidiary definition and the annotator has also marked it: He is all to be ragged and rent. Ragged and rent combine one time only, in The Merchant of Venice:

How like the prodigal doth she return,
With over-weather’d ribs and ragged sails,
Lean, rent and beggar’d by the strumpet wind!

The underlining of the word “ragged” in “ragged hands” is exactly the type of mute annotation that so often leads to alphabetical insertions of text. We see that over and over again throughout the book.

It is repeatedly surprising how Professor Hooks ignores the extent to which we have studied Baret in relation to Shakespeare. As we say, already on page 9 of our book, “…to a large extent we went about our business of exploring the nooks and crannies of the text of Baret’s Alvearie as a means of testing Baldwin’s general assessment of it in regard to Shakespeare.” Let us turn to a few examples of what we uncovered.

What’s in a single word? Potentially, more than you might think. It would be interesting to know how many other playwrights of the period record usages of the following trio of fishes: cuttle, dace, and gurnet in their work. All three words are marked in our dictionary. Each word appears a single time in Shakespeare, and, curiously, always in and around the same character – Falstaff. The foul-tasting gurnard fish, or gurnet, is referenced (by Falstaff) in 1 Henry IV: “If I be not ashamed of my soldiers, I am a soused gurnet.” The entry for the little species of minnow, the dace, is the first entry under letter D. Falstaff ends the third act in 2 Henry IV with a reference: “If the young dace be a bait for the old pike.” Our annotator has marked dace with a slash, just as he has the final entry (also a fish, oddly enough) under letter C, cuttle.   And Shakespeare’s only recorded use of cuttle appears in the final scene of the preceding act in the same play, directed at Falstaff and his gang of rascals (Pistol specifically) by Doll Tearsheet: “By this wine, I’ll thrust my knife in your mouldy chaps, an you play the saucy cuttle with me.” It’s an example from the proliferation of double-entendres we find in Shakespeare – the perfect choice for that moment. It can be no accident that a cuttle is a knife used by pickpockets to cut the bottom of purses, and is also a fish known to excrete from its mouth a foul inky juice. I’ll cut you, if you play the foul-mouthed bully with me, implies Doll.

Returning to the Baret entry for Dace, we see that the annotator has added a French annotation: “Mennuise” (minnows). A separate English annotation, “Menues, or little fish” falls alphabetically in the upper margin above M306. Both of these are pulled right from an underlined entry at F574: Fish, Menues, or little fishes… poissons menuisse,” before being repositioned in their two respective locations. This is all indicative of the annotator’s careful method involving related text at different positions in the dictionary. Mute annotations also appear at B198, a Base Fishe…a fish of little valew. The word base is here lined both over and under. In Love’s Labour’s Lost, we hear one of two usages in Shakespeare of minnow (within a letter being mocked for its ridiculousness): “…that base minnow of thy mirth.”

Any number of examples could be chosen from our Baret to similar effect. We hope that this cluster surrounding little fish and foul fishes has provided a small demonstration of how our annotator worked and what we find in Shakespeare. We share similar and more complex examples involving clusters of words over and over again in Shakespeare’s Beehive. Instead of addressing our principal argument in any detail, Professor Hooks pecks away at the periphery.

He also ignores the whole relationship of proximity we explore at great length between select annotations and neighboring printed Baret text. Shakespeare is full of textual cruxes that have long puzzled scholars. Take, for example, Malvolio’s line from Twelfth Night: “There is example for’t: the lady of the Strachy, married the yeoman of the wardrobe.”

One scholar went so far as to render it “a passage of complete incomprehensibility to reader, actor and audience alike.” Alongside the printed entry for yellow, in the margin at Y26, our annotator has added “yeoman vide warderobe”. In other words, to find yeoman, see the entry for wardrobe. The text referenced by the annotator is unmarked at W63. Wardrobe: yeoman of the robes, or that keepeth the wardrobe chests. The fact that this referenced Alvearie text is clean demonstrates that our annotator did not always mark the text as he went along (critical to keep in mind any time a parallel in Baret is also found in Shakespeare). Four distinct elements from the wardrobe entry at W63 appear in back-to-back lines in Sonnet 52:

So is the time that keepes you as my chest,
Or as the ward-robe which the robe doth hide,

Any argument for these being simple words of little consequence collapses under the awareness that both keep and chest and robe and chest are combined in Shakespeare only in Sonnet 52. Such textual observation charmingly reinforces the pattern we attempt to make a case for throughout, but this is only a small part of what makes the annotation “yeoman vide warderrobe” such an appealing example.

The neighboring alphabetic word to the annotation “yeoman vide warderobbe” is yellow, and this word lands directly and symbolically in the scene where Malvolio speaks the phrase, “yeoman of the wardrobe” when he reads Maria’s letter (mistaking the handwriting as Olivia’s) that requests for him to appear (forever to the delight of audiences) in yellow stockings. The annotator’s entering “yeoman vide warderobbe” alongside Baret’s printed entry for yellow matches the mind of an author who has a character utter “yeoman of the wardrobe” while knowing (before anyone else does) that this very character, his creation, will soon be wearing yellow.

It would be one thing if Shakespeare used yeoman and wardrobe together on a regular basis under varying circumstances. But he does not. The one and only time Shakespeare has a character use these words together it immediately sets in motion the brightest, most repetitive, and most memorable presence of yellow to appear anywhere in the canon (9 of 29 usages). If the annotation simply read “yeoman” we could be looking at an alphabetical insertion and nothing more; but the presence of the word “wardrobe” changes things. An interpretation of the entire annotation as simply an alphabetical insertion with a Shakespearean textual coincidence is, we feel, a suspect conclusion, given the sum of synchronistic occurrences we uncover in our Alvearie.

Let us look at one more example, this one spawned by the observation of Rene Weis (professor at University College of London), when he referenced the following stanza at the beginning of Venus and Adonis.

Venus and Adonis (st. 15, 85–90)
Vpon this promise did he raise his chin,
Like a diuedapper peering through a waue,
Who being lookt on, ducks as quickly in:
So offers he to giue what she did craue,
But when her lips were readie for his pay,
He winks, and turnes his lips another way.

Weis writes: “It is one thing to read about the dive-dapper ‘peering through a wave’ and ducking in when ‘being looked on’ – and what an extraordinary image that is for the callow Adonis to use in Venus and Adonis – but to see a little grebe or dive-dapper on a pond or in a still corner of the Avon endows the image, and indeed the creature, with a particular kind of imaginative life. The only way Shakespeare could have learned to distinguish ducks from grebes, to know that one of the dive-dapper’s characteristics is its extreme shyness, was through patient bird-watching on the river, through living close to nature in a way few do today.” 

Venus and Adonis contains Shakespeare’s only uses of the dive-dapper or didapper bird, something that we already knew before reading Weis. We were also aware of how enamored our annotator seemed to be with the shy little bird. Over several distinct entries (alternate spellings) he expresses repeated interest, marking the text and adding to it. After reading Weis, we returned to the annotations. At one location we observed how the printed text matches Shakespeare’s recollection. The annotator marks the subsidiary definition at D994 with a little circle, just below the use of a slash mark at a Diuer, or Didapper bird. In between these two entries he adds “dowker” and “dobchicke” – two variations on the dive-dapper name – with lines connecting them to the words: to diue, or ducke under the water.

But then we noticed something else – the underlining of a proverb (an English translation from Plutarch) that completes Baret’s entry at D994. The key underlined word in our copy that just so happens to appear at the start of the stanza at the moment when the divedapper makes its sole Shakespearean appearance is promise. This word is ushered forth in the Baret text by the Latin that precedes it, diues promissis. The word promise is then repeated not once, but twice under the proverb that follows.

There are roughly 10,000 words, 1,200 lines, and 200 stanzas in Venus and Adonis, and the word promise appears in any form only once – resting directly in the line above the word divedapper. We do not believe that the word promise, with its peculiar and irrefutable connection to the divedapper entry in Baret’s Alvearie, is an accident, but that personal experience and Shakespeare’s engagement with our copy have come together to produce a dazzling moment of poetry. In a series of exchanges between the annotator and the Baret text – an exchange that involves spoken and all three primary mute annotation types – the stanza from Venus and Adonis is illuminated like never before.

As we say in our book, “it is the near constant proliferation in Shakespeare of examples from Baret – examples simple and complex, commonplace and obscure – that should have scholars willing to champion the claim previously made by T.W. Baldwin.”

Professor Hooks declines to share any of the more enticing examples from Shakespeare’s Beehive. Instead, he oversimplifies and distorts our arguments, using reductive language. He does this throughout, including when he discusses the biblical annotations.

There are twelve biblical citations that the annotator has mixed among his annotations over time as he explored language, seven of these are from the Psalms and five others fall outside the Psalms but are found in the Book of Common Prayer.  We note the different Bible translations of the period and how each of the twelve citations follows wording from the Great Bible.  It is apparent that the annotator is working from memory, as the citations are not exact matches to either the wording or the spelling in a printed text, and two annotations have citation numbering that is incorrect.  Therefore it is clear that there was no printed bible consulted at the moment the annotator reached into his memory.

Professor Hooks agrees with elements of our biblical annotation study, although you can tell it pains him to admit as much: “It is possible,” he writes “and likely, that one particular reader made this particular kind of connection between the Psalms and some of the terms listed in the dictionary.”  He fails to point out that the annotator is often making Biblical connections with terms that are not listed in the dictionary, such as Areed (Mark 14). Professor Hooks acknowledges “the claim that Shakespeare imitated the phrasing of the Psalms from the Great Bible — when he quoted the Psalms — is absolutely correct,” but feels that it does not help us in any way to date the annotations. We disagree. We feel it is part of the evidence. Our annotator is working from memory, not from a printed text. Furthermore, our dating sense comes from multiple factors including the unlikelihood of a later annotator using the dictionary by this particular method when there would have been more up-to-date dictionaries in use. Finally, nothing in our biblical annotations dismisses an earlier dating, as a citation belonging first to the King James Bible would have.

Professor Hooks requested and was given a meticulously organized document that includes each of the spoken annotations (as well as all the mute annotations) in our Alvearie. The document also demonstrates how the annotations are related to the printed text, so it is odd that he does not acknowledge the uniqueness of the biblical set of annotations among the whole. The biblical memories are obviously outside the box when it comes to the annotator’s regularized methods for alphabetically entering words or phrases of text he has pulled directly from his Alvearie.

There are two biblical citations where the annotator has left off the psalm number entirely. Each of these is addressed by Professor Hooks.  One is from Psalm 46: “He knappeth the speare in sunder,” is written in the margin within letter K.  “He breaketh the bowe, and knappeth the speare in sunder” is from Psalm 46.  In regard to the annotator’s remembering, Professor Hooks notes that “it is not cited as biblical, but ‘knappeth is the word used in Great Bible (and thus the Book of Common Prayer).”  He then goes into an extended complaint against our mentioning of Psalm 46 in relation to “unreliable stories”.  He fails to mention that the Shakespearean connection to Psalm 46 was playfully debated in three consecutive issues of the TLS as recently as a few years ago.  And he clearly misrepresents the degree to which we also treat it as farfetched in our book, where we describe it as “whimsical and widespread speculation,” our eventual conclusion being: “The reviewer [in the TLS], who initiated the discussion, concluded, after an exchange of letters, by saying, ‘No one, certainly not I, would seriously argue for anything except coincidence in all this. Nevertheless, as a matter of logic, it surely has to be either “improbable chance” or “improbable design”. We are in accord…”

The other annotation we identify as biblical in spite of not being marked as such is “Drought in Sommer”.  Professor Hooks acknowledges the line we provide from Titus Andronicus beginning “In summers drought” and begrudgingly admits, “granted, this is not the same as ‘Drought In Sommer,’ but it might be considered a parallel.”  But he neglects to share the really remarkable Shakespearean use of Psalm 32 echoing in Titus Andronicus. On three separate occasions, each time through the mouth of the same character, we find unique Shakespearean parallels to Psalm 32 (discovered when we looked at the full line where “Drought in Sommer” appears, as well as the line preceding it). Professor Hooks cuts our argument short, once again, focusing instead on the trivial fact that we do not mention that the French for “Drought” is also added to the margin by the annotator.  Professor Hooks has our PDF, diligently prepared over years of work and shared with him as an extension of congeniality, and is aware that we have recorded every one of the French annotations.

In a discussion of the paleography, Professor Hooks claims to be unconvinced that the annotator occasionally imitates the capital letters of the “W” and “S” and that the annotator’s treatment of these two letters is unique. “The problem is,” Professor Hooks says, “is that this ‘preference’ is simply not true.” He goes on to say, “even Koppelman and Wechsler admit so, albeit in a footnote to a much later passage in the book.”

That Professor Hooks confuses footnotes with endnotes is easily forgiven, but his misreading of the note to a sentence from an early chapter on paleography (“not much later passage”) is not. Our endnote does cite “instances where a majuscule letter ‘B’ bears some resemblance to the capital ‘B’ as printed in Baret.” But it also makes the vitally important distinction that the “some resemblance” factor is seen in annotations spread throughout the dictionary, as opposed to falling under the letter “B”. As we note in our book, the annotator does not carry an imitation of a majuscule “W” or “S” into an annotation anywhere outside the said letter alone. The imitations are straightforward, and completely outside his variable handwriting. The annotator, in looking directly down at the typeface, occasionally (five times within the letter W, three times within the letter S) makes an imitation of the majuscule letter at the start of the annotation. He does this absolutely nowhere else.

Professor Hooks openly admits to not having done “a complete survey of the annotations.” We have done a complete survey, and have little doubt that our conclusion regarding the “W” and “S” will eventually be confirmed by unbiased assessments. Professor Hooks wants to make his point as strongly as possible in spite of not having conducted a complete survey. He writes: “I will say there are other capital letters that seem to imitate the typography in the Alvearie, some of which are capital letters,” but Professor Hooks fails to say which letters these are!

This is highly misleading. And the reason he does not point them out is because they are not there. There are no other examples of majuscule letters where the annotator looks down at the typeface and goes on to awkwardly work elements of the typeface into an annotation at that position in his dictionary. We say awkwardly because the attempts with the W and S are not free flowing, as they would be if the annotator were accustomed to writing them that way.

The “some resemblance” to the capital letter B as printed in Baret is spread out in annotations over six distinctly different points in the dictionary (under entries for five different letters and the trailing blank where no printed text appears at all). The example on the trailing blank is useful as an example for multiple reasons. We see alternate versions of a capital letter B within a sequence of words added to a page that has no printed text. None of these are imitations of letters that are printed on the page. It is part of the annotator’s customary mixed hand and is entirely free-flowing, unlike the imitations involving the letters W & S.


The “some relation” component specifically is the loop-curve extending from the bottom left of the capital B in “Braque” (bottom word, middle of the image above). This element is in some small measure also part of the capital B as printed in entries under letter B, so we wanted to acknowledge that in our endnote. But another critical point is that the “B” in “Braque” that we see here is a standard letterform found in the paleography of the period (one has to look no further than the “B” in “By me” added to Shakespeare’s own will to see another version of it). The W&S imitations remain completely outside the annotator’s own diverse normal hand, as well as the extraordinarily diverse paleography of the period. The W&S imitations are a direct result of attempting to copy a letter that is printed within immediate direct view. Here are two (“shuffled” and “wedlocke”) examples.

shakespeare's beehive

As he does elsewhere, Professor Hooks distorts our arguments involving paleography, adds his own interpretation, and claims we have said things that we have not. He writes: “I do not agree with the conclusion that the significant and visible variations in both the handwriting and the ink must point to a single, identifiable annotator.” That is not at all what we say. We have studied each of the thousands of annotations in our Alvearie extremely carefully. The effort is so coordinated, the integration between the spoken and mute annotations so distinctive, and the variability in the hand so repetitive even in its diversity that we find that the evidence allowing us to speak of a single annotator is overwhelming, but not for the reason Professor Hooks gives.

Professor Hooks writes: “the varied color of the ink also seems to indicate that a reader (perhaps even more than one) returned to this activity again and again.

In no way shape or form does one reader returning over time run counter to the argument within the book. We say explicitly that the annotator has returned over and over again to this activity. It is misleading that Professor Hooks leaves this out, just as he has so much other relevant information. This understanding is written in right from the very start of our book: “Of significant importance, after a number of readings, one could see that the markings – whether added words or symbols – were part of a characteristic method and were continually interrelated, and the whole was suggestive of a single annotator at work over an indeterminate but clearly substantial amount of time.” Ink variability could even be a product of one day to the next, as ink was not standardized. Eventually ink ran out, and you used a different batch. As for the exact time period over which our book was annotated, we readily admit we will never know. Without being able to prove that the annotations occurred over many decades there is nothing relevant about Professor Hooks’ point here, but unless you’ve actually read our book it would seem otherwise.



For Professor Hooks, the engagement with Shakespeare’s Beehive began shortly after our first edition was released. He was kind enough to write, “It is a very fine book indeed, one that was clearly produced by people who love and appreciate fine books.” But then he follows up this praise by saying that “it is also designed to make money, both directly and indirectly,” and so begins his theme, conveyed in his first essay, and emphasized much more strongly in his recent piece addressing our second edition, that we are in this chiefly for the money. He even has a section labeled “Money,” as if that bears important consideration in regard to the evidence.

Let’s be perfectly clear: if you have designs on making money as a rare bookseller you would be wise not to make a case for having found Shakespeare’s personally annotated dictionary. If you intend to write, self-publish, and self-distribute fine press books to promote your thesis, you will most likely lose a lot of money. If you are lucky, you will defray some small percentage of your expenses through the selling of your self-published and self-distributed books. We understood all of this from the beginning, but took the risk because we firmly believed, and still believe, that our conclusion is correct.

We cannot deny that we are rare booksellers. That means part of what we do is look to find books and buy them for one price, and attempt to sell them for a bigger price. But our motivations here are far more complex, as are the strategies. Professor Hooks takes our desire “to find a more suitable home” and twists it to mean hoping to sell the dictionary for a lot of money to someone, or some institution, gullible enough to be persuaded by our argument. That is not our intention.

We may not be able to change Professor Hooks’ mind in regard to what has motivated us. But surely he and his colleagues will agree that scholars also have books to sell, and tenure to land, and peers to impress, and are very often motivated in their own right. Nothing is more suspect than to claim to have no agenda whatsoever.

Professor Hooks’ own work displays an open distrust of any inkling of biographical interpretation – what he refers to as the “myths and legends” surrounding Shakespeare. So one can imagine his concern when a 16th century annotated dictionary turned up that at various moments may well contain veiled references to a number of the most prominent biographical speculations involving Shakespeare.

Professor Hooks wasted no time in his essay following our first edition in sharing his previously argued belief that Shakespeare’s connection to Richard Field, the Stratford born and raised London printer, has been exaggerated. We are of the opinion that while no one can be certain exactly how well Shakespeare and Richard Field knew each another, and what terms they were on, the odds clearly favor a relationship of some closeness, at least around (also more than likely, before) 1593 when Richard Field printed and published Venus and Adonis, the first book to carry Shakespeare’s name. Many scholars, including those we cite in our book, fully agree. Professor Hooks, himself, seems to refute his own labeling of Field and Shakespeare a myth. He writes (in his first Beehive essay): “Did Shakespeare know Richard Field? Probably so.” And “did Shakespeare take his poems to Field because they knew each other from their Warwickshire youth?” His answer to his own question suggests caution, over branding the relationship a myth or legend: “It remains the most plausible — but certainly not the only — explanation.”

Yet Professor Hooks questions our finding reflection in the annotations in “a variety of myths and legends surrounding Shakespeare’s earliest years in London,” even as we cite numerous scholarly sources, and bemoans that we are caught up in the biographical speculations at all. To note one speculation he does not mention, Professor Hooks may well cringe at the thought of feeling strongly that Shakespeare was once referenced as “William Shakeshafte,” so it’s possible he’s rather annoyed at the “coincidence” (his likely interpretation) of an early modern annotator adding “shaft” to the right of the printed entry for “Shake” along with a connecting slash. Alphabetical? Yes. It’s also almost certainly a unique alphabetical insertion and placement among all surviving copies of Baret’s Alvearie with early modern annotations, and it just happens to fall in our copy.

“My conclusion” writes Professor Hooks “is that, based on the evidence presented, Shakespeare cannot be considered as the annotator of this particular dictionary.” But he follows by saying that he’s not willing to say explicitly that this is not Shakespeare’s dictionary, “because that is not how scholarship works.” Such a statement is completely disingenuous and Professor Hooks knows it. Shakespeare scholars make definitive statements all the time – starting with Shakespeare not being the Earl of Oxford. Some scholars have come out with definitive statements regarding our thesis. As others before, Professor Hooks shares Grace Ioppolo’s tweets wherein she felt justified in making a definitive (if also, egregious) statement on the basis of having been granted a preview of a small handful of annotations. A very well respected Shakespearean, Jonathan Bate, whose books we admire, came out quickly (after viewing the digital copy provide on our website) with the statement: “the handwriting certainly isn’t Shakespeare’s.” Jason Scott-Warren, director of the Cambridge Centre for Material Texts, and H. R. Woudhyusen, rector of Lincoln College, also made definitive statements.

Interestingly, Professor Hooks did write in his first essay (2014) concerning our assertion: “This annotated copy of John Baret’s Alvearie was not Shakespeare’s beehive.” But then, before publishing his second essay (2016) he altered that sentence before reposting it, to read: “is, in all probability, not Shakespeare’s beehive.” This is a curious edit – one that suggests Professor Hooks may have some doubts after all.

Where Professor Hooks seems to have no doubt at all is in the condemnation of our approach. “The first thing I tell my students,” he writes, “is to Stop Thinking & Start Working — that is, work through the material first, and let an argument emerge from that work. Starting with a predetermined argument means that you are in danger of simply finding what you already wanted to find.” This is extraordinarily reductive and refers to students given a task essentially to make some kind of basic academic response to a written text. If Professor Hooks is at the Folger Shakespeare Library and is researching an old book and he sees a line in the margins that has a Shakespearean ring to it and he wants to investigate it further, he shouldn’t be allowed to because he’s had that thought and therefore his inquiry will be irrevocably tainted?

 We are of the opinion that you have to have the idea somewhere/sometime. There is no fundamental flaw in attempting to prove a hypothesis – or leap of intuition for that matter. To ask what if is an essential part of reasoning and discovery. To hear Professor Hooks say it, you must have your idea after you’ve found incontrovertible evidence without even knowing what you’re looking for. This is a very narrow kind of scholarship. And very pedantic.

Lastly, it’s not as if the need to be vigilant against finding what you seek out through self-deception isn’t remarked upon several times in our book. On page 105, we write, “We have, in fact, done our best over seven years to otherwise convince ourselves that the relationship between the annotations and the text might have nothing to do with Shakespeare.”

But in the end we are convinced that the annotations have everything to do with Shakespeare. We believe Shakespeare is the annotator. Certainly it is not an annotator, or a group of annotators, attempting to make it look as though Shakespeare is the annotator. It is also clearly not someone actively working from quarto and folio texts of Shakespeare, as Grace Ioppolo erroneously claimed to have told us, and absurdly concluded in her announcement on Twitter. That a language lover could, through coincidence and shared language alone, stumble on so much strikes us as too improbable, but we are eager, not afraid, to see this tested by other means. We can only hope that the work we have done can be enjoyed, and tested and treated more honestly than in the misrepresentative examination of our argument presented by Professor Adam Hooks. And on one final note, anyone who wishes to review Shakespeare’s Beehive for publication, just let us know – we will send you a complimentary copy of the second edition.

Holiday Greetings / What’s In a Name?

Before there was digital technology that allowed for easy cutting and pasting of text, you had to do it the hard way. Hundreds of times over, our annotator demonstrates the old fashioned way of taking text from one place and adding it to another.

In this example from our chapter “What’s In a Name”, newly added to our second edition, we find a possible connection to one of the most memorable comic scenes in all of Shakespeare. It is just one of many new additions that appear throughout the second edition of Shakespeare’s Beehive: An Annotated Elizabethan Dictionary Comes to Light.

We continue to encourage members of the Beehive community to read our study and to share with friends the wonderful possibility that it argues for. Still thinking of the perfect gift for yourself or your fellow Shakespeare fan? Look no further!

– –

There is example for’t: the Lady of the Strachy,
married the yeoman of the wardrobe.
Twelfth Night, Malvolio, Act 2, Scene 5


“The evidence, at all events, is insufficient to justify an excision of the sentence, however one might wish to justify excision and to leave no longer in the text a passage of complete incomprehensibility to reader, actor and audience alike.”
– C. J. Sisson. New Readings in Shakespeare. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1956. p. 191.

Malvolio’s line containing “yeoman of the wardrobe” is a fine example of a Shakespearean text that links in a rather extraordinarily direct way to our annotated Baret:  Y26. annotator adds yeoman vide warderobbe in margin.

The text here referenced by the annotator is unmarked at W63.
Wardrobe: yeoman of the robes, or that keepeth the wardrobe chests.

Four distinct elements from this text appear in back-to-back lines in Sonnet 52:

So am I as the rich whose blessed key,
Can bring him to his sweet vp-locked treasure,
The which he will not eu’ry hower suruay,
For blunting the fine point of seldome pleasure.
Therefore are feasts so sollemne and so rare,
Since sildom comming in the long yeare set,
Like stones of worth they thinly placed are,
Or captaine Iewells in the carconet.
So is the time that keepes you as my chest,
Or as the ward-robe which the robe doth hide,
To make some speciall instant speciall blest,
By new vnfoulding his imprison’d pride.
    Blessed are you whose worthinesse giues skope,
    Being had to tryumph, being lackt to hope.

Any argument for these being simple words of little consequence collapses under the awareness that both keep and chest and robe and chest are combined in Shakespeare only in Sonnet 52. Such textual observation charmingly reinforces the pattern we observe throughout, but is nothing compared with the possibility that the long-standing confusion over the name Strachy could be resolved. Let us bring back, this time with the visual from the Baret, the annotation: yeoman vide warderobbe.

Y26. Yellow, adds yeoman vide warderobbe

Y26. Yellow, adds yeoman vide warderobbe

The neighboring word to the annotation, yellow, lands directly and symbolically in the scene where Malvolio speaks the “yeoman of the wardrobe” line. Moments after using this phrase he reads Maria’s letter (mistaking the handwriting as Olivia’s) that requests for him to appear, forever to the delight of audiences, in yellow stockings. The annotator’s entering of yeoman vide warderobbe alongside Baret’s printed entry for yellow matches the mind of an author who has a character utter “yeoman of the wardrobe” while knowing (before anyone else does) that this very character, his creation, will soon be wearing yellow. It would be one thing if Shakespeare used yeoman and wardrobe together on a regular basis under varying circumstances. But he does not. The one time he has a character use these words together, there is absolutely no hiding from the fact that it immediately sets in motion the brightest, most repetitive (9 of 29 usages), and most memorable presence of yellow to appear anywhere in the canon.

The connection to the name Strachy is less immediately apparent, but if we examine scholarship that extends from the late eighteenth century to the present, the relationship between the annotation and the printed text is truly uncanny.

George Steevens was the first editor to argue that the name “Strachy” could in fact be “Starchy.” Just recently, David Frydrychowski follows Steevens’s suggestion and takes it a step further, making a case for Shakespeare referencing Frances Howard, Countess of Somerset, “whose household was linked in the popular mind with a certain fashion of yellow starch” (emphasis added).[i]

Frydrychowski further deconstructs the puzzle, thusly: “Given the hard pronunciation of ‘ch’ that survives in some instances from Middle English, an aspirated schwa or neutral vowel following the ‘ch’ might have formed part of the usual pronunciation; it is possible that the intention is simply to render what a modern reader would parse as ‘Lady of the Starch.’ [Interestingly, if the actor playing Maria gave a similar pronunciation when talking of the gulling of the hapless steward, the (doubtlessly intended) ‘yellow stockings’ would have been aurally indistinguishable from ‘yellow starchings.’]”[ii]

It would, no doubt, represent something different had our annotator added “Starchy” below yeoman vide warderrobe. Such an annotation would imply either a later reader or the writer actively working. But what we have is, we believe, even better. It is the future writer working as a reader.

[i] David E. Frydrychowski, “ ‘Some Old Story’: A Conjecture on Malvolio’s ‘Lady of the Strachy.’ “ Unpublished manuscript, April 22, 2009, abstract, http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1925153.

[ii] Ibid, 6.

Announcing the Second Edition of Shakespeare’s Beehive


We are pleased to announce the publication of the second edition, revised and expanded, of Shakespeare’s Beehive: An Annotated Elizabethan Dictionary Comes to Light. A second edition became a necessity as a result of research that we conducted over the course of the past year and a half, evidence that we believe is important to share and helps to solidify and advance the credibility of our arguments and our claim. There are two entirely new chapters, including perhaps what is now the most significant of all: “Missing Leaves, and the Curious Case of John Frith.” A wide array of fresh textual examples comparing the annotated Baret dictionary with the works of Shakespeare has been added throughout.

Available in paperback ($35) and as an eBook ($10).

Henry Denham and Abraham Fleming

In our study, Shakespeare’s Beehive: An Annotated Elizabethan Dictionary Comes to Light, we raise the possibility that if Shakespeare did come into contact with Henry Denham vis-à-vis employment (as was once previously claimed), he may well have had access to the preparation behind the issuing of Holinshed’s Chronicles in 1587, which, as with the 1580 Alvearie, was printed by Denham. The 1587 edition of Holinshed, the second edition, was the version Shakespeare consulted and drew from throughout his career as a writer, most notably as the primary source for the English Histories over the early portion to middle point of his career, but also as a reference for later works, including the great tragedies, Macbeth and King Lear.

In the time since the release of our study, and the first reporting of our claim in The New Yorker, we have examined more carefully the striking parallels between the Holinshed of 1587 and the Baret of 1580.

The principal participants in revising and ushering forth these two source books (one long famous, the other still largely unheralded) are identical. Both works are second editions printed by Henry Denham, published after the original main compiler has died (Holinshed in 1580, Baret in 1578), and on each occasion, during the process of expanding and polishing the work, Abraham Fleming is hired as the editor. Fleming (1552?-1607) is known today by few people, even academics familiar with the period, in spite of having carved out a busy and distinguished career as a clergyman, writer, translator, editor, and poet. There is a good chance that Fleming was present at, and even conducted a portion of, Christopher Marlowe’s funeral, reasoning that is based on his position as curate in the parish of Deptford during the time when Marlowe was murdered and buried there. That was in May of 1593, and is mentioned more for curiosity’s sake. Fleming’s most important and lasting contribution was the job he performed on the second edition of Holinshed’s Chronicles, a job that began in 1584 when the project commenced. In addition to serving as the primary editor and proofreader, Fleming contributed with his own extensive enlarging of the third volume and the creation of detailed indexes.

Denham, who we may assume appointed Fleming as the Holinshed revisions got underway, must have been impressed with how Fleming had previously embellished Baret’s Alvearie. Among these contributions were the assembling of over 200 proverbs not printed in the first edition, the inclusion of a proverbial index, and the addition of Greek, transforming it from a triple dictionarie to a quadruple dictionarie. Granted, the fact that the two individuals most responsible for the second edition of Baret’s Alvearie were central in the development and release of Shakespeare’s most famous source book may indeed be nothing more than a coincidence, but it does contribute as a part of the backdrop in making our argument and reconstructing how Shakespeare would have originally acquired a copy and in what context.

Taking the stance that Shakespeare worked for Denham, without hard proof, can give rise to grumbling, especially considering the bold (some might contest, dreamy) assertion we make in our study: that Shakespeare acquired our very copy through this connection and began annotating the volume during his early years in London (possibly under the umbrella of initially helping to create a third and never completed edition), before squirrelling it away amongst his favorite books, where it could still prove useful as an occasional reference tool. Charging this conclusion to be conjectural and self-serving is one thing, let us remove our particular copy of Baret from the equation, and ask a relevant question: How would Shakespeare, the boy from Stratford, been expected to get his hand on a set of Holinshed? Although there is no generally accepted consensus as to when exactly Shakespeare arrives in London and soon after begins a life in the theater, we can be sure that there was no set of Holinshed stuffed in with his belongings upon arrival. Baret’s Alvearie, as anyone who has handled a copy knows, is a big book, roughly 1,000 pages thick and measuring approximately 12” x 8”. Holinshed was considerably bigger still, and issued in two or three volumes depending upon the binding. Given the relatively slender time frame between the publication date (1587) and the composition of the first group of plays (the three Henry VI plays, 1590-1) indebted to this source, Shakespeare must have, at the very least, had access to a copy not long after publication. Gaining employment via the world where books were being prepared for print is hardly outlandish, and would make sense for someone who was hungry for books, and would be so reliant upon them to aid his writing process. An alternative, that Shakespeare had access to the library of a patron, is possible, but such a benefit would more likely have occurred at some point later, after his talents in the theater had emerged (not something that happened overnight) and he had settled into a life of writing and acting. It seems more believable that the reading and acquisition of books, so necessary to his development, already had to some degree begun in earnest prior to the involvement of a patron such as Southampton. The library of a preexisting friend is a possibility, especially if we imagine Richard Field as that friend; certainly an awareness of his being in London, and a connection to Field from their days together in Grammar school, would have facilitated for Shakespeare an opportunity in gaining access to the book/print world.

If, at some early moment in London, Shakespeare did get in with Henry Denham and his associates, the connection would have given him some necessary parts (including Holinshed and Baret) of the toolkit (to borrow from Henry Wessells) that he took along once he entered the theater and began to make a name for himself. The sourcebooks themselves were not liable to be lying around at the entrance to the theater. If we take Holinshed as one example, either Shakespeare managed quick and repeated access to someone’s library to begin absorbing the material, or he could have gotten a jump-start on his reading while working on a copy as it was being prepared. There were later editions of Cooper’s Thesaurus (another book thought to have been used by Shakespeare and printed by Denham) but no later Barets. So perhaps the examples of proofreading in our copy represent the beginning of a 3rd edition that never came about. We suspect Shakespeare was a part of a “proofing” group, and acquired his copies of Baret and Holinshed through the book world, an introduction to which he was likely given by Field.  Thus were registered some of the initial deposits into Shakespeare’s library.

Baret’s Alvearie: The Biblical Annotations

In our study, Shakespeare’s Beehive: An Annotated Elizabethan Dictionary Comes to Light, we reference twelve biblical annotations as among the most significant of the spoken annotations for several reasons, none more critical than the fact that they have all been born out of the annotator’s memory and do not appear printed in Baret. In comparing the English Bible translations of the period, we observe that, without exception, whenever a translation differs, our annotator’s biblical citations are closer to the Great Bible translation (1540) and the Bishops’ Bible translation (1568). That neither the Geneva (Shakespeare’s clear Bible of choice in the second half of his career) nor the yet-to-be printed King James Bible (1611) were in the annotator’s head is significant, improving our ability to narrow the time frame to which the annotations date.

As far as Shakespeare is concerned, after the composition of Henry V, the biblical allusions turn sharply to the Geneva Bible,[i] but before 1600 the echoes are notably not from the Geneva translation. According to Jonathan Bate, an allusion to the officially sanctioned Bishops’ Bible over the Geneva “would have come from the memory of listening in church.”[ii]

In Shakespeare’s Religious Background, Peter Milward writes, “when he uses the phraseology of the Psalms, it has been noted that Shakespeare follows the Great Bible, as used for the Psalms in the Book of Common Prayer.”[iii]

Our annotator has not copied his biblical citations out of a printed book, as there are frequent minor differences in spelling or wording. It reinforces the very critical point we argue and emphasize when discussing them at various times in our study: these annotations installed in the margins are memories specific of hearing the Great Bible and Bishops’ Bible being read in church. This is essential information when considering the proposed dating of the annotations. In lieu of the inexact science that is paleography, a calculation for the annotations being from a time after the First Folio is highly questionable on the basis of the biblical annotations alone.

We very recently discovered a thirteenth biblical annotation, this one referencing the 32nd Psalm, and it too fit the pattern of echoing the Great Bible and Bishops’ Bible over the Geneva and King James translations. Unlike most of the others, it does not receive a citation of chapter and verse. Let us look at the annotation in our Baret, and the phrase as it appears in the four translations.

D1321. adds “drought in sommer”
Great Bible: “Drouth in Sommer”
Bishops’ Bible: “Drouth in Sommer”
Geneva Bible: “Drought of Summer”
King James Bible: “Drought of Summer”

The use of “in” (Great Bible, Bishops’ Bible), as opposed to “of” (Geneva Bible, King James Bible), may on the surface seem small, but only if one is inclined to dismiss the importance of the biblical translations can it ultimately be argued as such. While we missed including it among the biblical annotations recorded in our study, we did make note of the line receiving a twist in the very early work, Titus Andronicus, not realizing at the time of our recording the echo of Psalm 32.

Titus Andronicus. Titus(3.1.16–22; Q1594, E3–E3b)

O earth I will befriend thee more with raine,
That shall distill from these two auntient ruines,
Then youthfull Aprill shall with all his showres
In summers drought, Ile drop vpon thee still,
In winter with warme teares Ile melt the snow,
And keepe eternall spring time on thy face,
So thou refuse to drinke my deare sonnes blood.

A number of the other twelve biblical annotations from the margins of our Baret are discussed in our study. One in particular that we expected would raise more eyebrows than it has, at least to this juncture, is the one from Psalm 46 that is added in the left margin at K87: “he knappeth the speare in sunder”.

We decided that it would be disingenuous not to mention it specifically, because of the whimsical but widespread speculation surrounding a particular set of coincidences that are found in the translation of that psalm as printed in the King James Bible published in 1611. These involve the number “46” as well as this particular passage that our annotator has added in the left margin at K87.

A word that is being remembered and recorded by the annotator (in this case, “knappeth”) is again most critical, as it eliminates both the Geneva and the King James Bible being in the ear at the time of annotation, because both of these translations use cutteth in place of knappeth that is recorded in both the Great Bible and the Bishops’ Bible.

Great Bible (1540) “He breaketh the bowe & knappeth the speare in sonder”

Bishops’ Bible (1568) “He breaketh the bowe, & knappeth the speare in sunder”

Geneva Bible (1587) “He breaketh the bowe and cutteth the speare”

King James (1611) “He breaketh the bow and cutteth the spear asunder”

We expected this would spark attention to a possibility that has been suggested for many years – namely, that in 1610, as the King James Bible translation was nearing completion, many of the celebrated poets of the period may have been consulted informally by the committee of translators for help with the more poetic passages of the Hebrew Bible such as the Psalms and the Song of Solomon.

Because of the set of coincidences in the 46th Psalm, attention especially falls on Shakespeare. If he had been among the poets chosen, and given the 46th Psalm, could he have taken the opportunity to adjust the exact placement of shake (as the 46th word from the beginning) and spear (as the 46th word from the end) as a hidden “signature,” made even more intriguing because he would have been 46 years old at the time? This theme of poets used as KJB translators was even taken up by Rudyard Kipling in his last published story, “Proofs of Holy Writ,”[iv] which portrays Ben Jonson and William Shakespeare happily imbibing in Shakespeare’s garden in Stratford one afternoon and becoming more and more inebriated as they work together to improve the translation of Isaiah 60 that had just been brought down to them by a messenger on horseback from Oxford.

If our annotator did participate in the KJB translation of the 46th Psalm, he obviously then was already familiar with the Bishops’ Bible version and would seem to have chosen to retain the word cutteth from the Geneva Bible in place of the Bishops’ Bible’s knappeth.

As evidence that the 46th Psalm is still a debatable topic, the TLS recently printed a lively exchange on the matter across three issues from December 2011, to January 2012. Their reviewer, who initiated the discussion, concluded, after an exchange of letters, by saying, “No one, certainly not I, would seriously argue for anything except coincidence in all this. Nevertheless, as a matter of logic, it surely has to be either ‘improbable chance’ or ‘improbable design.’”[v] We are in accord and certainly feel, given the recent illuminating scholarship regarding the known translators of the KJB,[vi] that, at most, with the discovery of our annotated Baret, we may have moved the matter to a chance of slightly less improbable design. That said, it would be difficult to argue the improbability of finding that piece of that psalm in almost any annotated book of the period, let along finding it this annotated copy of Baret’s Alvearie, printed in London in 1580, along with all the other compelling evidence that it holds.


[i] John W. Velz, “Shakespeare and the Geneva Bible: The Circumstances.” In Shakespeare, Marlowe, Jonson: New Directions in Biography, ed. Takashi Kozuka and J. R. Mulryne (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2006).

[ii] Bate, Soul of the Age, 138.

[iii] Peter Milward, Shakespeare’s Religious Background (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1973), 86.

[iv] The Strand magazine, April 1934. “Proofs of Holy Writ” was completed too late to be included in Kipling’s last collection, Limits and Renewals, published in April 1932. It later appeared in The Sussex Edition of the Complete Works in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (35 vols.) (London: Macmillan, 1937–39).

[v] Stephen Prickett, “Psalm 46,” TLS, January 13, 2012. The series of comments began in the TLS issues of December 23 and 30, 2011, in Prickett’s review of Harold Bloom’s 2011 publication The Shadow of a Great Rock: A Literary Appreciation of the King James Bible.

[vi] David Norton, The King James Bible: A Short History from Tyndale to Today (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011). This is an example of the scholarship that is currently being devoted to the making of the KJB. The unlikeliness of the notion that the KJB translators who were selected from the leading members of the Anglican and Puritan clergy would have been receptive to including the work of poets who wrote for the theater can be seen in the list of publications of John Rainolds who, in 1599, published Th’ overthrow of Stage-Playes, . . . wherein all the reasons that can be made for them are notably refuted . . . as that the iudgement of any man, that is not froward and perverse, may easelie be satisfied. Wherein is manifestly proved, that it is not onely vnlawfull to bee an actor, but a beholder of those vanities. John Rainolds or Reynolds (1549–1607), president of Corpus Christi College, was the leader of the Puritan delegation to the Hampton Court conference (1604) that set the procedures in place for the new translation. Another aspect of recent scholarship is the inspection of the extant and identifiable books from the translators’ libraries. Much can be revealed, of course, by marginal addenda, but also, in at least one case, by the overall contents of the library itself. Greek scholar William Branthwaite left an enormous library of 1,405 books that is almost intact at Gonville and Caius College; in it one finds, surprisingly, an almost complete lack of English literature. Although not mentioned by Norton, this would seem to open the door, if only slightly, to the possibility that informal contact with leading poets might have been advisable as the translation was drawing to an end.