IF it’s real, it’s the literary find of the century.
New York antiquarian booksellers Daniel Wechsler and George Koppelman believe they have found William Shakespeare’s annotated dictionary.
The book is John Baret’s An Alvearie, or Quadruple Dictionarie published in 1580.
It was listed on eBay in late April, 2008, and the pair bought it for $4050.
Although unsigned, it contains thousands of annotations in a contemporary hand that point to the composition of some of Shakespeare’s best known works, including Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and sonnets.
Mr Wechsler and Mr Koppelman have spent the past six years making sense of the annotations and building a case that this can only be Shakespeare’s copy and are looking to sell it.
To cite but one phrase attributed to Shakespeare, which appears in Hamlet: “Gertrude: Your bedded haire, like life in excrements, Start up, and stand an end.”
This can be found in the dictionary under “Stare: His haire Stareth or standeth on end.”
Further, there are subtle clues such as the eight examples where it is claimed the bard practised the letters W and S.
Shakespeare biographer and scholar Stephen Greenblatt is enthusiastic about the dictionary as an unheralded Shakespeare source book.
“We know Shakespeare had an eye out for unusual words — but we have only limited knowledge of where he went to find them,” he said.
Mr Wechsler is prepared for the fact that no matter how strong the evidence, some people won’t believe them.
They’ve just published Shakespeare’s Beehive, a 300-page book outlining their case, which proves the Alvearie was vital to the composition of many of Shakespeare’s works.
New York bookseller Jim Cummins speculated the book could fetch “tens of millions ... even a hundred.”