A Donne Deal

A Donne Deal

By Will Noel

We are so grateful to the Friends of the Princeton University Library for their support of our programs and collections. I recently took the opportunity to share with the membership a wonderful addition to Special Collections which was purchased from an auction at Christie’s New York on the 23rd of November last year.  It is an important source for the work of English poet John Donne.  

This is in fact three books bound in one.  The first two are printed and are the first editions of Donne’s Poems and Juvenilia, which were both published in London two years after his death, in 1633.  Here, I show you the title page of the Poems. Both these works have annotations in a contemporary hand, which is pretty neat. 

by J. Donne
with Elegies on the Author's Death
Printed by M.F. for John Marriot, and are to be sold at his shop in St. Dunstans Church-yard in Fleet-street, 1633
John Donne’s Poems cover page, 1633

Most of Donne’s work was circulated in his lifetime only in manuscript, as it was deemed unsuitable for printing during his lifetime.  While many poems were published in 1633, not all of them were, and a contemporary hand has added many of these poems in manuscript at the end of the two printed works and entitled this section of the book “Poems of J.D. not printed.”

Manuscript of "Poems of J.D. not printed"
Elegie 1. Love's Progresse
Whoever loves, if he does not propose
The right true end of Love, he is one that goes
To sea, for nothing but to make him sick
Love is a beare-whelpe borne, if wee orelick
Our Love, and force ti to new strang shapes to take
We erre, and of a' lump a' monster make
Were not a calfe a monster that were growne
effac'd like a' man, though better than his owne
Perfection is in Unity, preferre
One woman first, and hten one part in her
I when I value gold, may thinke upon the Ductilenesse, the Application,
The wholesomnesse, the Ingenuitie,
from Rust, from soile, from fyre ever free
But if I love it, 'tis because 'tis made
“Poems of J.D. Not Printed”

Right away there are questions: What is the relationship of these poems to Donne’s published oeuvre? What was the original circumstance of this anonymous manuscript compilation of 16 of Donne’s works? How did this manuscript function in the hands of its compiler, bound with the first editions of Donne’s Poems and Juvenilia? This unique item presents the very definition of research value. It is also one of the last sources for John Donne remaining in private hands, and so many, many thanks to the Friends for bringing it to Princeton, where it will be available for research and study by all.    

We have recently passed the feast day of John Donne. For his life as a priest, as well as for his poetry, Donne is remembered in the Calendar of Saints of the Church of England on the anniversary of his death, March 31, 1631. I am delighted to be able to celebrate him with you in this way, and in this post.