Details
DONNE, John (1573-1631). Manuscript collection of poetry and prose [England, c.1630-33]. [Bound with:] Poems, By J. D. With Elegies on the Author's Death. London: M.F. for John Marriot, 1633. [Bound with:] Juvenilia or Certaine Paradoxes and Problemes, written by J. Donne. London: Printed by E.P. for Henry Seyle, 1633.

The Berland Donne manuscript. A highly important volume of Donne's poetry and prose containing contemporary manuscript sources of works omitted from the 1633 collected editions, including several Elegies. One of the only Donne sources in private hands.


A remarkable sammelband containing the first editions of Donne's Poems and Juvenilia (both with corrections and emendations in a contemporary hand), each followed by a manuscript gathering of texts omitted from those editions. The Berland sammelband constitutes one of the last manuscript sources for Donne remaining in private hands. Most of Donne's verse and much of his freer prose works, deemed unsuitable for publication during his lifetime, circulated widely in manuscript prior to the posthumous collected editions. The extensive manuscript sources (divided into several groups according to completeness and relative authority), are inventoried in the Variorum Edition of the Poetry of John Donne, ed. G. Stringer et al, vol. 1. For additional information on the contents and textual significance of the Berland manuscript see John T. Shawcross, "Notes on an Important Volume of Donne's Poetry and Prose," in John Donne Journal, 9:2 (1990), pp.137-139.

The first group of manuscript verse follows Poems. Running 17 pages, it includes Elegies numbered 1-5 and “Lecture Upon a Shadow.” Donne’s elegies, almost all written in the 1590s, are modeled on Ovid’s Amores; rather than a funeral lament, these discursive poems are ingeniously witty and unapologetically erotic—as in Elegy 19, “To His Mistress Going to Bed” (numbered Elegy 5 presently), which includes his famous conceit wherein fondling a naked lover is aligned with exploration in America: "O my America! My new-found-land, / My kingdom, safelist when with one man manned, / My mine of precious stones, my empery, / How blest am I in this discovery thee!" The elegies in the present manuscript are all attributed with certainty to Donne and comprise elegies omitted from the 1633 collected edition although they were likely present in the manuscript used as copy-text for that edition. Shawcross notes that the "Lecture," included in all Group I manuscripts, is likely to have been inadvertently omitted from the 1633 edition, and points out that the texts in the Berland manuscript have affinities with those in the Stephens Ms. in Harvard College Library (Ms. Eng. 966/6), a source which also includes non-canonical poems not present here. The Berland manuscript shows a number of differences in punctuation and significant textual variants, one occurring in the first couplet of Elegy XVI, which here reads "straung" rather than the "strange" reading found in most sources, and now generally accepted. Other differences are noted in the variorum edition.

The second group of manuscript verse follows Juvenilia. Also running 17 pages, this includes eight problems and “The true Character of a Dunce” and “An Essay of Valour.” Donne's "problems" were brief essays—"nothings," as he termed them—which "carry with them a confession of their lightness." They were composed, wrote the author in a letter to Henry Wotton, "rather to deceave tyme then her daughter truth." The works in manuscript were all added to the 1652 third edition of Juvenilia (Keynes 45) and Shawcross speculates that this manuscript "may have been...the copy-text used for 1652 or related to the manuscript that became a source." Additionally, the Berland sammelband is significant for its inclusions and exclusions, which may provide indications for the authorative determination of which works are canonical and which dubious or non-canonical. Shawcross argues that "surely the canonicity of the alterations to the [printed] exempla and of the poems and the problems in the two manuscript gatherings point to canonicity for 'The True Character of a Dunce,' and 'An Essay of Valour'" (the canonicity of both of which has been questioned).


The manuscripts are bound with the first editions of Poems, the principal collection of Donne's poetical works, issued two years after his death, and Juvenilia. Poems is also notable for containing the first appearance of several celebrated elegies on Donne, that by Izaak Walton ("Is Donne, great Donne deceas'd?..."), and Thomas Carew's famous elegy commencing "Can we not force from widdowed Poetry Now thou art dead (Great Donne) one Elegie To crowne thy Hearse?..." which concludes with the famous epitaph "Here lies a King, that rul'd as he thought fit The universal monarchy of wit..." This copy with sheet Nn1r in its earlier uncorrected state (running head omitted to accommodate 35 lines of verse). With textual emendations and corrections in a contemporary hand in nine of the poems and with suppressed text restored in Satires II and IV (two words: "dildoes," and "letanie" added on 2V1v, four lines restored on 2V2 in Satyr II, three lines on Xx3r of Satyr IV). Grolier Donne 81; Grolier English 25; Hayward 54; Keynes 78; STC 7054.

Juvenilia contains 11 of Donne's paradoxes and 10 of his problems. The collection, expanded in later editions, is usually bound with the Poems of the same year. In this copy F1v and H4v are blank; in some copies Henry Seyle's brief printer's license is added (Keynes records copies with both, either and neither licenses present.) Grolier Donne 26; Keynes 43; STC 7043.

The Manuscripts:

Quarto (185 x 136 mm). Two gatherings of inserted leaves, 34 pp. total: 17 pp. (poetry), 5 blank ll.; 17 pp. (prose), 3 blank ll. Ink on paper, the margins of each page neatly ruled in pale ink, generally containing 24-27 lines per page; paper of uniform stock, with indistinct "Post or Pillar" watermark (type of Heawood 3485 to 3535, nearly all in English use, first quarter of the seventeenth century). Written in a single clear, cursive English italic hand, ca.1630-1633.

16 works of poetry and prose as follows:

Manuscript verse. The 17-page manuscript supplement after Poems comprises:
1. Elegy 1 [XVII] Love's Progress ("Who ever loves, if he do not propose The right true end of love...")
2. Elegy 2 [XVI] [On his Mistris] ("By our first strange and fatall interview, By all desires which hereof did ensue,...")
3. Elegy 3 [XI] [The Bracelet] ("Not that in colour it was like thy haire, Armlets of that thou mayst still lett mee weare...")
4. Elegy 4 [XX] [Love's Warre] ("Till I have peace with thee warre other men, And when I have peace, can I leave thee then?...")
5. Elegy 5 [XIX] [To His Mistris Going to Bed] ("Come, Madame come, all rest my powers defye, Untill I labour I in labour lye....")
6. Lecture Upon a Shadow. ("Stand still, and I will reade to thee A lecture Love in Love's Philosophie....")

Manuscript prose. The 17-page manuscript supplement after Juvenilia comprises:
1. Problem XI. Why doth the Poxe soe much affect to undermine the nose?
2. Problem XII. Why dye none for Love now?
3. Problem XIII. Why doe women delight much in feathers?
4. Problem XIV. Why doth not Gold soyle the fingers?
5. Problem XV. Why doe Great men, of all Dependants, chuse to preserve Bawdes?
6. Problem XVI. Why are Courtiers sooner Athiests, then men of other Conditions?
7. Problem XVII. Why are Statesmen most incredulous?
8. [Problem I. Why have Bastards best fortune?] A section of text "wanting in the first printed Probleme," as published in 1633.
9. The true Character of a Dunce
10. An Essay of Valour.

Poems & Juvenilia:

Quarto (185 x 130mm). Final blank 3F4 present (lacking preliminary blank A1, without the extra inserted leaves containing "The Printer to the Understanders" and "Hexastichon Bibliopolae"). Contemporary speckled calf, covers blind-ruled, edges sprinkled red (neatly rebacked, rear hinge loosening). Custom quarter brown morocco slipcase. Provenance: Donne's name identified in ink on title-page by an early owner – four-line verse epigram on Donne by John Brown (1715-1766) neatly penned on A4v, manuscript additions in an early hand on a number of pages (see above) – Dean and Chapter's Library, Norwich Cathedral (ink inscription in upper margin "Eccl. Cathedr. Norwi.M.91," 18th-century engraved bookplate on title-page verso) – purchased from John F. Fleming, New York, 22 January 1970 – Abel E. Berland (his sale, Christie's New York, 8 October 2001, lot 36).

Exhibited: Grolier Club, John Donne, 1572-1631, 1972, no. 25 (prose addition only noted); Grolier Club, 'This powerfull rime," 1975, no. 11.
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