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This report is taken from PN Review 172, Volume 33 Number 2, November - December 2006.

Archive Corner 1: Thou hast not Donne Stella Halkyard

One of the unsung gems held within the collection of the John Rylands University Library is an elegantly made little book bound by the master Kalthoeber in dark blue morocco and delicately dimpled with tooling. It fits comfortably into the reader's palms and offers up its secrets, without resistance, to careful fingers and eager eyes. It contains a small number of works by John Donne including poems, with elegies on the author's death and a selection of his letters. It was printed in London in 1633 by M. Flesher for John Marriott where it was sold in his shop in St Dunstan's Churchyard in Fleet Street.

In contrast to his sermons, only a handful of Donne's poems came to press before his death in 1631. In common with many of his contemporaries, the first readers of his poetry operated a coterie whereby manuscript poems were copied and circulated to friends in a literary é lite. Although copies of Donne's poems have survived in manuscript collections and commonplace books, most of his holograph manuscripts have been lost to the archival record. So despite being a posthumous publication this graceful little book is one of the surviving copies of the first edition of the poet's work which is regarded as the 'most trustworthy of the original editions, though the arrangement is somewhat chaotic'.1 If we are to hear the distant voice of the poet we must incline our ears to the surface of its pages.

And yet ...

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