Shakespeare Takes Center Stage in the Rare Book World

John Baret’s Alvearie, 1580

Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven —William Shakespeare

For some it would be as close to the Holy Grail as one can hope for. A copy of the dictionary Shakespeare himself once owned, annotated!

As you can imagine, the antiquarian book world is in a tizzy. Two of their own, New York booksellers George Koppelman of Cultured Oyster Books and Daniel Wechsler of Sanctuary Books, have claimed to have unearthed a copy of John Baret’s Alvearie, a dictionary printed in 1580, with annotations in Shakespeare’s hand and have just released a book documenting their find, Shakespeare’s Beehive: An Annotated Elizabethan Dictionary Comes to Light


shakespears's beehive

shakespears's beehive 1

Mind you their are only 6 known fragments of the Bard’s handwriting, making this a potentially HUGE addition to the canon.

But before we claim this as the best gift ever presented to mankind on Shakespeare’s birthday a lot still has to happen.

I will leave you to Garret Scott’s post, On Shakespeare’s Annotated Dictionary, links and news, to stay abreast of the developing story.

Now here’s a taste of what’s out there:

Shakespeare’s birthday week begins with a bang: two New York booksellers, George Koppelman and Daniel Wechsler, announced that they have found Shakespeare’s dictionary. In their new book, Shakespeare’s Beehive, Koppelman and Wechsler present their reasons for believing that William Shakespeare is the annotator of their copy of John Baret’s Alvearie, a 1580 dictionary that scholars have linked to Shakespeare’s plays and poems. -

Buzz or Honey? Shakespeare’s Behive raises questions - Folger Shakespeare Library

They have managed to convince themselves, and hope soon to convince the world, that it was once the favorite reference book of the poet and playwright William Shakespeare.

“I went to eBay for some reason. I don’t know what I entered, but up popped this current auction for ‘an early Elizabethan dictionary with contemporary annotations.” - George Koppelman

The Poet’s Hand. Adam Gopnick in The New Yorker

As scholars debate and discuss the question, they’ll do so in writing, a kind of additional marginalia to the Alvearie’s scribble. And they’ll be helped by the considerable resources placed online by Koppelman and Wechsler, like high-quality scans of the whole book. The sites themselves, and the openness of the scans, seem to make our incredible new information technology worthy of an earlier era’s: Shakespeare had his own new IT, a thriving print culture that was just coming into existence. 

Bookseller’s: We Got Shakespeare’s Personal Dictionary on eBayRobinson Meyer in The Atlantic

Whether or not a scholarly consensus builds around whether or not this is Shakespeare’s annotated copy, this is a fine example of booksellers doing work: making an investment in money, time, and resources based on prior experience, taste, and scholarship. As an investment of $4000-$5000 cost up front with a huge potential upside, there’s a lot to be said from a bookselling angle (and with the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth hard upon us) for them at least pressing the case. This copy of the Baret has now become this copy of the Baret. –

Garrett Scott, on his blog, Bibliophagist

The press release for the book

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World Book Night is here!



World Book Night started in the U.K. in 2011 and on April 23rd every year publishers, authors, booksellers, libraries and volunteers join forces to spread the love of reading and distribute hundreds of thousands of books for free.

The mission is simple:
To give “books to those who don’t regularly read and/or people who don’t normally have access to printed books, for reasons of means or geography.”

Between 30-35 books are chosen annually by a panel of booksellers and librarians. The author’s then waive their royalties and the publishers pay for producing World Book Night editions which are sent to to “host” booksellers and libraries. They in turn distribute then to volunteer book “givers” who personally hand them out.

world book night author map

And why on April 23rd you might wonder?

April 23 is a symbolic date for world literature. It is both the birth and death day of Shakespeare, as well as the death day of Cervantes, the great Spanish novelist. It is in their honour that UNESCO appointed it the international day of the book and that we choose it to celebrate World Book Night.

April 23 also marks the city of Barcelona’s celebration of St George’s Day. St George is the patron saint of Catalonia as well as England and traditionally, to celebrate this day, Spanish gentlemen gave their ladies roses and the ladies returned the favour with a book. Considering the rich literary history of this day, it seemed more than fitting that April 23 should be chosen as the day of celebrating reading and the giving of books!

For the first time, this year, volunteers in the UK can opt to give any book of their choosing instead of the ones selected.

My only wish is that it was held twice a year, the other being Oct. 31st on Halloween, so we can spread the love of reading to our kids instead of sugar.

World Book Night U.S.
World Book Night U.K.

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The original painting of one of the most iconic book images, “The Bookworm,” might be sold

The Bookworm It came to the Milwaukee Public Library in 1972 from the collection of René Von Schleinitz. It was the only item from his “significant collection of German steins, figurines and genre paintings” to go the library. The rest was donated to the Milwaukee Art Museum, including other images of his featuring readers and scholars.

Now the library is seriously considering an offer of $400,000 from an undisclosed party for the painting. It is called Der Bucherworm “The Bookworm” and was painted by Carl Spitzweg around 1853. It is  by far Sptizweg’s most famous work and has become one of the most well-known biblio-images on the planet.

More here: Milwaukee Public Library may sell famous ‘Bookworm’ painting by Carl Spitzweg - Journal Sentinel

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The latest in e-reading: Pay by the page at Total BooX

Toolbooth on Merit Parkway

Total Boox is hoping to make its mark on the e-reading market by offering a new pay as you go model. Think of it as a toll both for e-books and as with most drivers these days you pay for your pass upfront.


Here’s how it works:



If you read 10% of the book you pay 10% of the full retail price, etc.

I’m not sure what to make of the tagline - Read Books Rather Than Buy Them – perhaps Buy The Words Not The Books is more appropriate.

I’m also a bit skeptical regarding its direct to consumer application since for most books one can already sample enough of a book online for free to be able to make an informed decision. Clearly, though, there are some healthy applications of the technology for public libraries, for textbooks (think of the unlimited  page skipping feature and paying for only the chapters needed) and the Free Reading Zones service where cities can create “pre-defined areas where anyone can access ebooks at any time and read them.”

I look forward to seeing how this one plays out.

Total BooX – the new way to read eBooks.

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In the Stacks: World War I propaganda posters at the Harry Ransom Center


ww1 feed the gunsWar bonds. Feed the guns! Thomas, Bert, 1915

It was supposed to be the “the war to end war” but unfortunately it wasn’t. And in addition to the horror of the battlefield (ten million men killed) WWI also featured a battle of propaganda.

Thanks to its newly digitized collection of over 100 propaganda posters from WWI the Ransom Center gives us a front row seat to the battle to win the hearts and minds of the American people and its allies as well as the enemy attempts to do the same.

ww1 keep offKeep these off the U.S.A. Buy more liberty bonds. John Norton, ca. 1917

The lithographs in English, French, German, and Russian illustrate a wide spectrum of sentiments from military boosterism to appeals for public austerity.  The posters document geo-political causes as well as social and economic transformations set in motion by the war.  The role of women, new technologies, international aid, wartime economy, and food supply all feature prominently in the First World War Collection.


ww1 garden armyFollow the Pied Piper. Join the United States school garden army. Maginel Wright Barney, ca. 1919
WWI poster all you need is a heartJoin. All you need is a heart and a dollar ca 1915-1917
ww1 ywcaFor every fighter a woman worker… Y.W.C.A. Back our second line of defense. Ernest Hamlin Baker, 1918
ww1 liberty speakingHello! This is Liberty speaking. Z. P. Nikolaki, 1918
ww1 knights columbusHelping your boy through no man’s land…Knights of Columbus war camp activities fund ca. 1917

View the collection

Previously on In The Stacks:

Rockwell Kent at the Smithsonian Archives of American Art
William Burroughs Through the Lens of Allen Ginsberg 
Leslie Jones at the Boston Public Library
The Getty Museum opens up
The Tokyo Sightseeing Photo Club
First Visit to The New Digital Library of America
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
Playing Cards at the Beinecke
National Library of Ireland
The Astor Free Library at the NYPL
Women’s Travel Diaries at Duke University
Charles Darwin’s Library
The National Archives
Columbia  University, From Homer to Howl
Private Libraries at the Museum of the City of New York
Los Angeles Public Library
Boston Public Library


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Picturing the Record Collector: Dust & Grooves by Eilon Paz

dust and grooves cover

Born out of his successful website of the same name photographer Eilon Paz has now collected a healthy sampling of his portraits of record collectors from around the world in his debut book; Dust and Grooves: Adventures in Record Collecting.

130 vinyl collectors are featured, each in the friendly confines of their record rooms. The first section of the books focuses on the visuals while the second part features 12 in-depth interviews which lets us in as to “what motivates record collectors to keep digging for more records.”

Dust aand grooves 1 uhnh_Joe Bussard: King of the 78s

As to the success and important role of the Dust & Grooves website:

Dust & Grooves has engaged and connected the underground community of record collectors. As well as becoming a go-to place for vinyl lovers, it maintains the integrity and history of vinyl, as well as the musical heritage that goes along with every record in these collections. As technology moves forward and many music formats go digital, Eilon’s endeavor helps keep the rich, warm, analog life of vinyl spinning.

dust and groove 2_CutChemistYMLPCut Chemist

dust and grooves 2 doublefaceYMLPAkalepse

Dust_and_Grooves 4Rich Medina

The party starts on Record Store Day, with the book being the “Official Book of Record Store Day,” with a launch event at Powerhouse Arena in Brooklyn featuring sets from over 20 dj’s.

Welcome to vinyl heaven!

dust and grooves release

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The Most Challenged Books in our Schools and Libraries for 2013


At first glance you might think it was a list of some of the better selling books but these are the top 10 most frequently challenged books at American libraries and schools for 2013.

The list is compiled by the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom and from the over 300 challenges across the country in 2013 these are the top 10.

captain underpants

1. Captain Underpants (series) by Dave Pilkey Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence

2. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence

3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

4. Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group

6. A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit

7. Looking for Alaska by John Green Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

9. Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit

10. Bone (series) by Jeff Smith Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence

The “FREADOM” poster is by Roger Roth
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Poetry from Portland – Part 2: Tavern Books

tavern logo

Founded by Carl Adamshick and Michael McGriff, Tavern Books is a publisher dedicated to “printing, promoting, and preserving works of literary vision.”

They are well aware that books are more than words and pay close attention to the design and printing in an effort to “create books that are exceptionally beautiful and a joy to hold. ”

They commission original artwork for every title they publish, and rightly believe that “the dialog between image and text is an essential, meaningful element of a reader’s experience.”

Both Adamshick and McGriff are accomplished poets in their own right who along with the Dickman twins, Michael and Matthew, make up the Portland 4 and are at the core of the blossoming poetry scene both here in the Northwest and across the country.

Here is a selection of titles from their Living Library series and a look at their The Honest Pint subscription series edited by Matthew Dickman where for the price of one pint of beer or an exotic espresso drink you can get real life prose written by a contemporary author that celebrates the work of a poet delivered straight to your door!


Duino Elegies by Rainer Marie Rilke.Translated from the German by Gary Miranda.

Begun in 1912, interrupted by the Great War, and completed early in 1922, the ten meditations on love and death in Rilke’s Duino Elegies are perhaps the twentieth century’s most sustained outpouring of lyricism.

Six Minute Poems: The Last Poems by George Hitchcock

This collection showcases the most representative of Hitchcock’s final poems, some of which were scrawled into journals, others of which were spoken and recorded.

 For the Living and the Dead by Tomas Tranströmer

John F. Deane’s translation of Tomas Tranströmer’s 1989 collection For the Living and the Dead (För levande och döda) originally appeared with The Dedalus Press (Ireland) in 1994. Published in the United States for the first time, this new edition contains a revised translation as well as a new introduction and translator’s note.

Buson : Haiku by Yosa Buson. Translated from the Japanese by Franz Wright

This collection of thirty-nine haiku from Yosa Buson showcases the mastery, delicacy, and mystery of one of Japan’s greatest and most deeply admired poets. With this publication, Pulitzer Prize winner Franz Wright offers readers a new avenue into one of poetry’s essential voices.

Skin front cover mockup

 Skin by Tone Škrjanec, translated from the Slovene by Matthew Rohrer and Ana Pepelnik.

Originally published in Slovenia in 2006 as Koža, Skin is Tone Škrjanec’s first full-length collection to appear in English. This one is due out in June and worth keeping an eye out for.

and now for a look at The Honest Pint:

honest pint

The first offering:

honest pint 1

a sampler:

honest pint 2

Poetry from Portland  - Part 1: Division Leap
Poetry from Seattle: Wessel & Lieberman and Wave Books

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Poetry from Portland – Part 1: Division Leap

We move a little south for our second offering Of Interest for National Poetry Month. This time we feature two of the shining and rising stars of the Portland poetry scene, Division Leap and Tavern Books

First up:

divison leap logo

frank stanfordThe Singing Knives. by Frank Stanford. Lost Roads Press, 1979. $200

The second edition of Stanford’s first published book, originally published by Mill Mountain Press in 1971. This edition, published shortly after Stanford’s death, adds two poems which did not appear in the 1971 edition, and also appends a 4 pp. afterword concerning Stanford’s life and work. The cover and construction of the book differ considerably from both the first and subsequent edition.

poetry marathon

[poster for Poetry Marathon at the Camden Festival, London, May 1969].  $200.

Announcement for an extraordinary poetry event organized by Couzyn for the London Poetry Secretariat as part of the Camden Festival at the Round House Chalk Farm. Participants listed include Zukofsky, Kenneth Koch, Bob Cobbing, Henri Chopin, Hugh MacDiarmid, Adrian Henri, Jeff Nuttall, Adrian Mitchell (of the Liverpool Scene), Charles Causley, and (leading a workshop) George Macbeth.

Girl CalendarThe 1967 Game Calendar. by Joe Brainard & Kenward Elmslie. Np: 1967. $125.

Great collaboration between Brainard and Elmslie in the form of a girlie calendar – each bold and scantily clad woman matched with a four line poem.

poetry olympicsPoetry Olympics Vol. 1. London: All Round Records, 1982. $75.

Scarce punk poetry album documenting the first Poetry Olympics held at the Young Vic Theatre in London.

barbara guestThe Blue Stairs. Barbara Guest. Corinth Press, 1968.  $75.

One of 100 copies signed and numbered by Guest at the colophon. A mind-blowing book, with a beautiful cover by Helen Frankenthaler.

Hurrah PatchenHurrah for Anything  by Kenneth Patchen. Jonathan Williams, 1957.  $75 

Inscribed by the publisher, Jonathan Williams in the year of publication: “For William Sassen who will find Patchen’s world not too far from Satie’s. Best regards, Jonathan Williams April 1957.”

coming attractionsComing Attractions: An Anthology of American Poets in Their Twenties. Dennis Cooper & Tim Dlugos, eds.Los Angeles: Little Caesar, 1980.  $50.

Inscribed by contributor Wayne McNeil to a an early contributor to Little Caesar. Superlative anthology.

jim carrol ups4 Ups and 1 Down. by Jim Carroll. Angel Hair Books, 1970. $300.

Mimeographed, printed on recto only. Stab stapled wraps. One of 300 copies, with the cover illustrated with a photomontage by Donna Dennis.

charles plymmelApocalypse Rose by Charles Plymell. Dave Haselwood, 1966.  $200.

Inscribed by Plymell to Doug Blazek – an excellent association between two poet publishers who both published each other.

 Lots more poetry from Division Leap here

Previously on Of Interest:
Poetry from Seattle:Wessel & Lieberman and Wave Books

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Happy Birthday to an American Classic: The Great Gatsby

gatsby coverThe cover of the 1925 first edition

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece The Great Gatsby was published today, April 10th, in 1925. Since then the book has infiltrated almost every corner of popular culture.

Here’s a handy flow-chart of the characters:

great gatsby

and a screenshot from a 1987 NES video game:

gatsby-video game

Cheers to you Mr. Fitzgerald!

gatsby dicaprio


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