Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Happy Sonnet Day!

We may have gone a little wild last month in celebration of Shakespeare’s 445th birthday, but how about a little love for today, the 400th anniversary of the publication of the Sonnets?

The Sonnets of the Bard appeared, without his permission, in 1609 and advertised as "never before imprinted". The publisher, although reputable, clearly wanted to make use of the celebrity of Shakespeare who by 1609 was a famous member of the Globe Theatre and could count royalty amongst his patrons. The 1609 quarto, entitled Shake speares Sonnets, was published by Thomas Thorpe, printed by George Eld, and sold by William Aspley and William Wright. On May 20, 1609, Thomas Thorpe was granted a license to publish "a Booke called Shakespeare's sonnettes" as this entry in the Stationer's Register attests: "Thomas Thorpe Entred for his copie vnder thandes of master Wilson and master Lownes Warden a Booke called Shakespeares sonnettes". The publisher clearly went through the correct procedures prior to publication, so despite Shakespeare's reticence in publishing any of his works, there were apparently no irregularities by the publisher. Sonnets 138 and 144, despite the "never before imprinted" claim, had been included, albeit in a slightly different format, in The Passionate Pilgrime (1599) a poetry collection containing twenty poems by various poets. The title page to the second edition contains the inscription "By W. Shakespeare" but only five of the poems appear to be his. Once again these appear to have been published without the consent of Shake-speare.

Show the sonnets some love, people.  Recite a sonnet today.


Shell said...

This is something I didn't know. Happy Sonnet Day, to you too.

catkins said...

Although quite possible, it is supposition that The Sonnets were published without Shakespeare's permission. There is certainly no record of his having complained about their publication. On the other hand, there was a protest registered in regard to the publication of The Passionate Pilgrim edition of 1612 (actually the third edition, not the second--there was a little known edition prior to 1599). Thomas Heywood, who wrote a number of the poems that Jaggard falsely printed under Shakespeare's name, said: "as I must acknowledge my lines not worthy his [Shakespeare's] patronage, under whom he [Jaggard] hath publisht them, so the Author [Shakespeare] I know much offended with M. Jaggard (that altogether unknowne to him) presumed to make so bold with his name."
BTW, Happy Birthday Sonnets!