This handwritten collection of poems and prose contains William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 2, as well as works by other Elizabethan authors including John Donne, William Strode and William Herbert. The small notebook is signed on the first page by its original owner, ‘I A’ of Christ Church College, Oxford.

What are commonplace books?

Personal anthologies like this are known as commonplace books, and were popular in 17th-century Britain. Their owners used the books to collect inspiring quotes and passages, which they copied from sources ranging from poems and prayers to recipes and medical texts. As such, they reveal the owner’s personal tastes, experiences and interests. This particular book contains mainly poetry.

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 2

A number of Shakespeare’s sonnets, especially Sonnet 2, have been found in commonplace books from the 1620s and 30s.

Sonnet 2 is one of the so-called ‘Fair Youth’ group of Sonnets, which are addressed to a young man. The poem tries to persuade the youth to marry and reproduce, to defy the process of ageing. It asks him to imagine himself as a 40-year-old with ‘sunken eyes’, who can only renew his beauty by having a child.

But in manuscripts like this one, the addressee is changed from male to female by adding the title, ‘To one that would die a Mayd [virgin]’. This revision makes it seem like a more conventional poem about seducing a woman. This version also differs in other ways from the 1609 printed edition. The word ‘pleasure’ is used instead of ‘praise’, and ‘like’ has been repeated, as if the poem was copied quickly without concern for accuracy.

Which other poems are digitised here?

  • Walton Poole celebrates the attractions of a lady with ‘blacke’ hair and eyes, who somewhat resembles Shakespeare’s ‘Dark Lady’ (ff. 23r–24r).
  • John Donne’s racy ‘Elegy: To His Mistress Going to Bed’ is included here, although it was banned from the first print edition of Donne’s Poems (ff. 27r–28r).
  • ‘A Maides Deniall’ was written by William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke (f. 125r–v). Some critics suggest that Herbert, who was notoriously reluctant to marry, might be the mysterious young man of Shakespeare’s ‘Fair Youth’ sonnets.



J.A. Christichurch


Robert Killigrew

his booke witnes

by his Maiesties

ape Gorge Harison

M.S. 1644.

M.S. 1660






fond               fond

an la butterie

MS. C           210



  1. Transcript


    J.A. Christichurch


    Robert Killigrew

    his booke witnes

    by his Maiesties

    ape Gorge Harison

    M.S. 1644.

    M.S. 1660






    fond               fond

    an la butterie

    MS. C           210


    XCVI ID I.

  2. Transcript

    Should by th[a]t darknes suffer an Eclippese

    Nor it is fitt th[a]t nature should have made

    Soe bright a sunne to shine without a shade

    It seemes that nature when she first did fancie

    Your rare composure, studied Niegromancie

    And when to you those gifts she did imparte

    She used alltogether the blacke arte.

    She drew the magicke circle of your eyes

    And made your haire the chaine wherin she ties

    Rebellious harts, thos blew veines which appeare

    Twined in Meanders licke to either spheare

    Misterious figures are and when you list

    Your voice commandeth like an Exorcist.

    O if in magicke you have skill so farr

    Vouchsafe to make mee your familiar

    Nor hath kinde nature her blacke arte revaeald

    On outward parts alone some ly concealed

    As by the springhead men may often know

    The nature of the stre^ames th[a]t run below

    Soe your blacke haire and eyes doe give direction

    To make mee thinke the rest of licke perfection

    The rest where all rest lyes th[a]t blesseth man

    That Indian mine th[a]t streight of Magellan

    That world-dividing Gulfe w[hi]ch who so ventures

    With swelling sayles, & ravisht sensces, enters

  3. Transcript

    Into a world of blisse; Pardon I pray

    If my rude muse presume here to display

    Secrets unknowne, or have her bound ore past

    In praysing sweetnes which I neere shall tast

    Starved men know ther^es meat, & blind men may

    Though hid from them yet thinke theire is a day

    A rover in the marke his arrow stcikes

    Sometime as well as hee th[a]t shootes at prickes

    And if I might direct my shaft aright

    The black marke would I hitt & not the white.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    On Ms Mallet unmasked.

    - - - - - - - - - -

    Skelton some rimes and Elderton a ballet

    Here theame enough for all, hers Maddam Mallet

    Whom poets all scorne, but our riming muses

    Makes choice of this occation and doth chuse

    To writ of her whom all the towne admires

    For going, speaking, looking, strange attiers

    For bein what she is an uncoth thinge

    Made up by naturs hasty handelinge

    The moddle of whose wit is gracie so bigg

    As a flie blow nitte or Kernell of a figge.

  4. Transcript

    Shoulde dote on mee? as if they did contrive

    The divell and shee to damne a man alive

    This spouse of Antichrist, and his alone,

    Shees drest sox like the whore of Babylon,

    Why doth non welcome ra^ither purchase her

    And beare about this rare familiar?

    Six market dayes, a wake, & a fayre too

    Will quitt his charges and the Ale to boote

    Not tygresselike she feeds upon a man

    Worse than a tyger or a leoparde can.

    Let mee goe pray & thinke upon some spell

    At once to beidd the divell and her farwell.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    Com Maddam come all rest my powers defy

    Untill I labor, I in labor ly

    The foe oft times having the foe in sight

    Is tyrde with standing though he never fight.

    Off with th[a]t girdle like heavens zone glistering

    But a far^re fairer world incompassing.

    Unpinne th[a]t spanglinge brest plat th[a]t thYou weare

    That I may see my shrine that shines soe faire

    Unlase your selfe for that harmonius chime

    Tels mee from you th[a]t now tis your bedtime

    Off with that happie buske which I envy

    That still will bee and still can stand soe nigh.

  5. Transcript

    Your gowne going off such beauteous state reveale

    As when from flourie meads hills shadowes steale

    Off with that verie corronett and show

    The ha^yrie diadem which one you doth groew

    Now off with those sho^oes, and then softly tread

    In this loves hallowed temple this soft bedd

    In such white robes heavens Angells use to bee

    Received by men, thou Angell bringst with thee

    A heavenly Mahomets Paradice & though

    All spirits walke in white wee easeily know

    By this these Angells from an evill spxrite

    They sett our haire but these our flesh upright

    Licence my roving hands & let them goe

    Behinde, before, betwen, abo ^ above, below.

    O my America my new found lande

    My Kingdome safest when with one man ^ tis mand

    My mine of preciouse stones, my Empeiry

    How blest am I in this discovering, theey

    Full nakednesse, all eyes are due to thee

    All soules unbodyed bodyes unclothed should bee

    To x tast whole Joyes, gemms th[a]t you women use

    Are as Atlantas bal^les cast in mens veiws

    That a fooles eye lightnening on a gemm

  6. Transcript

    His greedy ey might court thes ^ & not them

    Like unto bookes with gawdie covernings made

    For laymen, are all women thus arayed

    Them selfes are musike bookes which only wee

    (Whom their impxuted grace will dignifie)

    Must see reveald, then sweet th[a]t I may know

    As liberally as to a midwife shew

    Thy selfe, case all, yea this white linnen hence

    Ther is nox pennance due to innocence

    To enter into these bonds is to bee free

    There where my hand is set my seale shall bee

    To txeach thee, I am naked first; why then

    What needst thou have more covering then a man

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    Iter boreale . R. Cor.

    - - - - - - - -

    Fowxre Clearkes of Oxford Doctors txxwo and txxwo

        That would bee Doctors, having lesse to doe

    With Austein, then with Galxen, in vacation

        Change’d studies, and turne’d bookes te recreation,

    And one the 10th of August Northwarde bente

        A J^ourney not soe soone conceive’d as spent.

    The first halfe day they rode, they light upon

        A noble clergie-host Kitt Midleton

    Who numbring out good dishes with good tales,

        The maior part of cheere waiyde downe the scales

    And though the countenance make the feast (say bookes)

        Wee xxxx nere found better welcome with worse lookes

  7. Transcript

    To one that would die a Mayd.

        When forty winters shall beseige thy brow

    And trench deepe furrowes in that lovely feild

    Thy youth faire liverie soe accounted now

    Shall bee like like [sic] rotten weedes of noe worxth heild

        Then being askeit where all thy beauty lies

    Where all the lustre of thy youthfull dayes

    To say within thes hollow suncken eyes

    were an all-eaten truth, and worthles pleasure.

    How better were thy beaties use

    If thou couldst say this prittie childe of mine

    Saves my account and makes my old excuse

    Making his beauty by succession thine

        This were to bee new borne when thou art old

        And see thy bloud war^me, when thou feelst it cold.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    ┼ J.D. to his paper.

    - - - - - - -

    Flie paper kisse those hands

         when^ce I am barde of late,

    shee quickly will unloose thy bands

        O wish mee then thy state

    Appeare unto her eyes

        Though they doe turne to fumes

    For happy is that sacrifice

        That heavenly fire consumes.

    Yet even in thy depart

        With a soft dying breath

    Whisper thes truthes unto her hart

        And take them one her death

  8. Transcript

        A Maides Deniall

    Nay pish, nay pray, nay faith, & will you? fie

    A Gent: & use mee thus, In faith He ay

    God’s body what a man’s this? nay fie for shame

    Nay faith away, nay fie, introth you are to blame:

    Harke somebody comes, hands offe I pray,

    He pinch, He scra^tch, ile spurne, nay runne away,

    In faith you strive in vaine, you shall not speed,

    You mare my ruffe, you hurt my back, my nose ^ will bleed

    Looke how the doore is open, somebody sees;

    What will they say, in faith you hurt my Knees -

    Your buttons scratch, o what a quoile is here,

    You make mee sweat in faith, here is goodly geare

    Nay faith lett mee intreat y[o]u leave, if you list,

    You hurt my head, be teare my smocke, but had I wist

    So much before I would have Keept you out,

    It is a proper thing you goe about,

    I did not think you would have done mee this,

    But now I see I tooke my aime amiss,

    A little thing would make us not bee freinds,

    You have used mee well, I hope youle make amen^ds

    Hould still I’le wipe your face, you sweat amaine,

    You have gott a goodly think with all this paine,

  9. Transcript

    O God how hott am I, w[ha]t will you drinke,

    If you goe sweating downe w[ha]t will they thinke,

    Remember S[i]r how you have used mee now.

    Doubt not ere long but I will meete with you,

    If any manx but you had used mee so,

    Would I hav putt it upp infaith S[i]r no:

    Nay goe not yet stay here & supp with mee,

    And then at cards wee better will agree.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    Mr Hericks welcome to sacke

    - - - - - - - - - - - -

    So soft streames meet so springs with gladder smiles

    Meete after long divorcment made by Iles

    When love the child of likeness urgeth on

    Their Christall water to an union

    So meet stolne kisses when the moony night

    Calls forth firce lovers tho their wisht delight

    So Kings and Queenes meet when desire convinces

    All thoughts save those th[a]t tend to getting Princes.

    As I meet thee soule of my life & fame

    Eternall lampe of love, whose radiant flame

    Out darts the heavens Osyris & thy gemmes

    Dart forth the splendor of his midday beames

    Welcome o welcome my illustrious spouse

    Welcome as are the ends unto my vowes