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Venus and Adonis.
imprinted as 1602, i.e.
1610
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Harley 5990/134, title page

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Harley 5990/134, title page
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Institution Rights and Document Citation

 

From the collections of: THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Terms of use
The British Library has graciously contributed the above images to Shakespeare Documented under a Creative Commons Public Domain Mark.

Copy-specific information
Creator: William Shakespeare
Title: Venus and Adonis.  
Date: 1602 [really 1610?]
Repository: The British Library, London, UK
Call number and opening: Harley 5990/134, title page

Item Creator
William Shakespeare
Item Title
Venus and Adonis
Item Date
1602 [really 1610?]
Repository
British Library, London, UK
Call Number
Harley 5990/134, title page

Institution Rights and Document Citation

 

From the collections of: THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Terms of use
The British Library has graciously contributed the above images to Shakespeare Documented under a Creative Commons Public Domain Mark.

Copy-specific information
Creator: William Shakespeare
Title: Venus and Adonis.  
Date: 1602 [really 1610?]
Repository: The British Library, London, UK
Call number and opening: Harley 5990/134, title page

The tenth edition of Venus and Adonis, like the eighth and ninth, bears an imprint claiming the book was printed for William Leake in 1602; however, it seems that it was not printed for Leake until 1610. There are no surviving full copies of this edition; only a fragmentary title page. Harry Farr, in a landmark 1923 essay, as well as the editors of the Short Title Catalogue, provisionally assign it this later date because its text is derived from a different witness, or source text, than the Raworth editions and because it was printed for William Leake, possibly by Humphrey Lownes (based on type and ornament evidence).

Although Shakespeare is now known primarily as a playwright, in his own time he was equally revered as the author of Venus and Adonisfirst printed in 1593, and Lucrece, his two sensationally successful Ovidian narrative poems. Venus and Adonis appeared in more printed editions than any other work of vernacular poetry in his lifetime, and was published twice as many times as his most successful play, Henry IV Part 1

The title page of this edition survives because the bookseller and antiquary John Bagford (1650/51-1716) bound it into an octavo volume of “printed Title-pages, engraved Frontispieces, Portraits of Authors, &c.,” one of nine such volumes of printed fragments compiled by him. Bagford’s papers were acquired by the collector Edward Harley, 2nd earl of Oxford and earl of Mortimer, and became part of the foundational Harley collection when the British Museum opened in 1753.

To learn more about the plot and early printing history of Venus and Adonis, please visit the Folger Shakespeare Library's Shakespeare's Works; to read a modernized edition of the poem, see Folger Digital Texts.

 

Written by Erin A. McCarthy

Sources
A Catalogue of the Harleian Manuscripts, in the British Museum. 5 vols. (London: British Museum, 1808).

Harry Farr, “Notes on Shakespeare’s Printers and Publishers with Special Reference to the Poems and Hamlet.” The Library, 4th series, 3.4 (March 1923): 225–60.

W.Y. Fletcher, “John Bagford and His Collections.” Transactions of the Bibliographical Society 4 (July 1898): 185–201.

Last updated June 19, 2017