Bibliographical Description of the Dolaucothi Manuscript of Donne's Poems

Shelfmark: National Library of Wales, Dolaucothi MS 6748; DV siglum WN1 (cited in Beal, IELM, I.i [1980] as the "Dolau Cothi MS")                c. 1622-33

Format: 4o (18.7 x 14.9 cm; 7-3/8 x 5-7/8 in.); 108 leaves1

Contents: front paste-down endpaper (added by binder) [not shown]: information on the repair and rebinding of the ms. in 1964, a pasted-in bookplate citing donation of the artifact to the National Library of Wales by "Herbert Lloyd Johnes, Esq," and a pasted-in note citing description of the artifact in Gardner's 1965 John Donne: the Elegies and the Songs and Sonnets; 1st free endpaper (added by binder) [not shown] blank; 2nd free endpaper (added by binder) [not shown] blank; 3rd free endpaper (added by binder) [not shown]: inscribed "Dolaucothi 6748" on the recto, verso blank; 1st original leaf: penciled markings by early owners on the recto, verso blank; 2nd original leaf: numbered in pencil "2/84" in upper left corner of the recto and signed "Richard Lloyde," verso blank; pp. 1-108 text; pp. 109-124 missing; pp. 125-130 text; pp. 131-134 missing; pp. 135-219 text; p. 220 originally blank, now contains--in two different hands-- penciled signatures of early owners (running vertically) and a brief inked ledger of purchased items (running horizontally); 3rd free endpaper (added by binder) recto and verso blank; 2nd free endpaper (added by binder) blank [not shown]; 1st free endpaper (added by binder) blank [not shown]; rear paste-down endpaper (added by binder) blank [not shown] (see index of poems).2


1This count excludes the front and back covers of the artifact and the interior paste-down end papers. Insofar as can be determined, the manuscript originally comprised 112 leaves, but 10 of these (originally paginated 109-24, 131-34) and their attendant text are now missing. The covers and 6 modern end papers (3 at the front, 3 at the back) were added when the artifact was rebound in its current form in 1964.

2Beginning with the first page of poetic text (which, like the recto of the 2nd original leaf, is numbered in pencil "2/84" in the upper left corner of the recto), the original scribe numbered the pages in the upper outside corner of each page in ink, and--except for a few penciled attempts at clarifying the original scribe's numerals scattered sporadically throughout the artifact--this is the only numbering in the manuscript up through p. 108. Following the gap caused by the loss of pp. 109-124, an archivist has through-numbered the remainder of the artifact in pencil, continuing from the scribal "108" directly to "109" (the original p. 125), and the gap created by the missing pages 131-134 is similarly ignored. Scribal p. 135 is thus renumbered "115," and this under-numbering by 20 persists through p. 176/156, at which point the original scribe accidentally omits the number 177, skipping to 178 and leaving a 21-number discrepancy between the two numbering systems thereafter. Further complicating matters is that, beginning with his (misnumbered) p. 203, the original scribe inexplicably begins to number his second century of pages as 100s (what should have been "203" is numbered "103," etc.), and the last 18 pages of the artifact show various penciled attempts to correct this mistake. We have sought to provide a comprehensive numbering system that respects the original composition of the manuscript, labeling each page up through 176 as the original scribe intended (and noting omitted pages as appropriate); thereafter, we give the correct numeral in the navigation panel at the top of each page, but include in square brackets the scribal misnumbering visible on the page. (This numbering differs from that in CELM, which follows the archivist's penciled renumbering after p. 108.)


Penned in a single scribal hand, WN1 is one of the fullest surviving manuscript collections of Donne’s poetry. It was first brought to the attention of modern scholars in 1965 by Gardner (see the citation above), who credited her awareness of the artifact to A. E. MacColl. Counting the 7 sonnets of Corona as a single work, the manuscript contains a continuous sequence of 129 canonical poems, 4 of which are incomplete owing to the loss of pages 109-124 and 131-134. Five non-canonical poems conclude the collection. The following is a summary of the volumes's contents, listed seriatim:

9 Divine Poem[s] . . . . . . . . . . Corona + 8 holy sonnets (see index)
3 verse epistles . . . . . . . . . . Sal, Carey, Sappho
12 elegies . . . . . . . . . . (includes Image; see index)
2 verse epistles . . . . . . . . . . Storm, Calm
16 Epigrams . . . . . . . . . . (see index)
51 songs and sonnets . . . . . . . . . . (see index)
1 epithalamion . . . . . . . . . . EpLin 1-72
4 epicedes . . . . . . . . . . Mark 45-62, BoulRec, Henry 1-87, Har 109-258
4 divine poems . . . . . . . . . . Goodf, Annun, Cross, Res
25 Letters (verse epistles) . . . . . . . . . . (see index)
2 divine poems . . . . . . . . . . Lam, Lit
5 non-canonical poems . . . . . . . . . . (see index)

As this chart indicates, the compiler of the collection--no doubt aided by predecessors in the line of transmission--made a notably successful effort to group poems by genre, even though generic section headings appear in only 4 instances: "Diuine Poem[s]" (the s is conjectural, being signaled by a glyph resembling a lower-case o)--above Corona and the following 8 holy sonnets; "Epigrams"--above the 16 individual poems; "Songs which were made to certaine Aires that were made before"--preceding the final 6 love lyrics; and "Letters"--appearing on the same line as the heading to the first epistle "To. M. I: W:.". . .further discussion forthcoming.

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The description of the manuscript's physical makeup given above is indebted to unpublished notes taken by Ted-Larry Pebworth on site at the National Library of Wales in May of 1995.

The images of the manuscript were made by the Digi/Photo Department of the National Library of Wales in the spring of 2011. Published here by permission.