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Bibliographical Description of the St. Pauls Manuscript of Donne's Poems.

Shelfmark: St. Paul's Cathedral Library MS 49. B. 43; DV siglum: SP1                    c. 1620-23

Format: 4o (approx. 20 x 13 cm; 8 x 5 in.); 165 leaves

Contents: Ff. 1-7v blank; 8-19v text; 20r-v blank; 21-38v text; 39r-v blank; 40-70 text; 70v-75v blank; 76-123 text; 123v-165v blank [see index of poems.]

Note: Though it had not yet come to light when Herbert Grierson (The Poems of John Donne [1912]) established the system of classification, SP1 belongs to Grierson's Group I, which also includes B30 (British Library ms. Harley 4064 [Harley Noel ms.]), B32 (British Library ms. Harley 4955 [Newcastle ms.]), C2 (Cambridge Univ. Lib. ms. Add. 5778 [Cambridge Balam ms.]), C8 (Cambridge Univ. Lib. ms. Add. 5467 [Leconfield ms.]), and O20 (Bodleian ms. Eng. poet. e. 99 [Dowden ms.]). SP1 is a direct copy of O20.

The Group-I mss. descend from a single prototype and contain an essentially identical canon in an essentially identical order. They contain no poem written later than 1614, concluding with the epicede on the Lord Harrington (who died in 1614) and possibly preserve, at some remove, a collection of poems that Donne assembled for publication prior to his entry into the ministry in 1615. A member of this group—C2 or it's lost parent—provided much of the text for the 1633 Poems.

Among these Group-I manuscripts, B32, O20, and the lost parent of C2 and C8 appear to have descended directly from the group's progenitor. SP1 and the C2-C8 pair are a further step removed from it. In order to place users as close as possible to that progenitor, we have collated SP1 against its parent O20 and have flagged with an asterisk those few instances in which the two differ, listing the O20 reading in a pop-up box.

Counting the 7 sonnets of La Corona as a single work, SP1 contains 99 of Donne's poems, generally organized generically into the following sequence:

  • 5    Satires
  • 13  Elegies ("The Autumnal" appears among the Songs and Sonnets)
  • 12  Verse Letters ( "To the Countesse of Bedford" ['That I might make your Cabinett my tombe'] appears among the
          Songs and Sonnets)
  • 2    Epicedes
  • 17  Divine Poems
  • 47  Songs and Sonnets including the elegy "The Autumnal" and the verse letter "Epitaph on himselfe ('That I might
          make your Cabinett my tombe')
  • 2    Epithalamions
  • 1    Epicede ("Obsequies to the Lord Harrington")

The images of SP1 are presented with permission of the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's Cathedral. The photographs were made by David Cooper in the fall of 2006 in the Cathedral Library.