Thursday, May 25, 2006

Special Collections Acquires First Edition of Donne's Poems

The LSU Libraries’ Special Collections division has acquired a first edition of John Donne’s Poems. Donne’s poetry was largely unpublished during his lifetime, but hundreds of hand-written copies of his works were passed among his admiring readers. Numerous editions of his poems were published in the decades after his death, but his work fell out of fashion during the Restoration. Most readers and critics in the 18th and 19th centuries ignored his work or derided his poems for being (as Samuel Johnson opined) frigidly ingenious and metrically uncouth. The 20th century brought a reappraisal of Donne’s poetry, and today he is widely recognized as a literary giant of his period. His poems, which range from erotic to devotional, display a complexity of thought and beauty of expression that continue to engage and challenger readers.

The first published collection of Donne’s poems was probably based on one or more manuscripts owned by a close friend. It appeared in 1633, two years after his death. LSU’s newly acquired copy is bound in early paneled sheepskin. An early owner, John Winboult, has written his name several times and made a few neat jottings in the text.

The funds used for the acquisition were generated by the Hauer Rare Book Endowment, bequeathed by Dr. Mary Garrett Hauer and administered by the LSU Foundation.