Early Poetry in Manuscripts

Sonnet 43, by Lady Mary Wroth, from <em>Pamphilia to Amphilanthus.<br />(Folger Shakespeare Library </em>

Sonnet 43, by Lady Mary Wroth, from Pamphilia to Amphilanthus. (Folger Shakespeare Library Digital Manuscripts


John Donne's "The Flea" in a 17th century Commonplace book owned by Yale's Beinecke Library. 

(Photograph taken by Vimala Pasupathi)

Early in the course, we discussed the forms in which early English poetry circulated: in manuscripts amongst elite readers in coterie circles and in hand-written commonplace books.

In addition to looking at many examples of commonplace books now accessible via digitized archives like this one at yale, we also looked at the manuscript of Lady Mary Wroth's manuscript of Pamphilia to Amphilanthus, available in full online via the Folger Shakespeare Library.

With online access to Wroth's poem, we were able to talk about and practice the act of transcription, generally difficult but in this case fairly easy because of the neat hand in which the poem has been copied. We practiced transcribing handwritten text from the 17th century in order to prepare for the transcriptions we'd be doing later in the course using early modern printed works and 20th century poetry from the Hofstra Special Collections library


Early Poetry in Manuscripts