Shakespeare’s BeehiveShakespeare’s Beehive

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Shakespeare’s Dictionary Discovered By Rare Book Experts

George Koppelman and Daniel Wechsler Expand Their Argument and Present New Evidence in the Second Edition of Shakespeare’s Beehive: An Annotated Elizabethan Dictionary Comes to Light

George Koppelman and Daniel Wechsler’s discovery was announced in The New Yorker magazine in April 2014, and the two antiquarian booksellers were met with quiet encouragement and loud skepticism. They’ve pressed forward more confident than ever, honing their claim with a revised and expanded edition of Shakespeare’s Beehive: An Annotated Elizabethan Dictionary Comes to Light, in which the story of its acquisition and the journey that led to its identification is presented with further evidence and new discoveries throughout, as well as two additional chapters. It is due for release on October 1, 2015. “A second edition became a necessity as a result of research that we conducted over the course of the past year, evidence that we believe is important to share, and helps to solidify and advance the credibility of our arguments and our claim.” The object of their seven-year study is a heavily annotated copy of John Baret’s Alvearie, or Quadruple Dictionary, printed in London in 1580.

Koppelman and Wechsler are not the first to suggest that Baret’s Alvearie may have been one of Shakespeare’s source books. The noted scholar T. W. Baldwin asserts in William Shakespere’s Small Latine & Lesse Greeke:

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.

Following years of study, the authors have concluded that Baldwin was correct, and that their copy must have been the copy. It is, they argue, the sum of the evidence they present in the second edition that is simply too much for coincidence. “Over the course of discovery, it became impossible for us to neglect a host of personal markers that run throughout the annotated book — finger prints left by the annotator that reveal a personality and hint at an identity.”

Koppelman and Wechsler buttress their argument with a website,, which features access to:

  • High resolution facsimiles of every page from the 1580 edition of Baret’s Alvearie, where all of the annotations can be seen
  • Free sample material from their study.

Understanding from the outset that their conclusions would stimulate debate, the authors address possible skeptics: “The question is, does it make sense to imagine any book extensively written in by Shakespeare to realistically survive entirely unnoticed to the present day… In simplest terms [our claim] goes as follows: with Baret’s Alvearie we are faced with a book that has not once been reprinted since 1580. A most obscure book. A humble copy. An extensive network of annotations that, through obscurity and a lack of attention, comes to light only now, never previously studied of speculated upon. These are the basic stepping-stones to providing a plausibility to the dream that such a monumental discovery is possible. The rest is in the evidence.”


About the Authors

George Koppelman (Cultured Oyster Books) and Daniel Wechsler (Sanctuary Books) have each spent more than two decades working with rare books. Each is a member of several respected rare books organizations, including The Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America, The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, and The Grolier Club. Through their respective businesses, Koppelman and Wechsler have catalogued thousands of books, and manuscripts, spanning all fields and time periods. Occasionally the two firms have combined forces on cataloguing projects, none as significant, or as spectacularly time-consuming, as their unique copy of Baret’s Alvearie, or Quadruple Dictionary, published in London, 1580.


Publication Information

Shakespeare’s Beehive: An Annotated Elizabethan Dictionary Comes to Light. Second Edition, Revised & Expanded.
By George Koppelman and Daniel Wechsler

Publication Date: October 2015

Paperback Edition (417 pages, with illustrations in color): $35

eBook: $10
978-0-9915730-8-0 (iBooks)
978-0-9915730-9-7 (Amazon)
978-0-6925003-2-3 (all others)


Axletree Books
P.O. Box 436
New York, NY 10028

Contact: Lauren Avirom
(212) 861-1055

Shakespeare’s Beehive

George Koppelman and Daniel Wechsler’s extraordinary account of their acquisition and subsequent research into an annotated Elizabethan dictionary published in London in 1580. Read More

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