The Works of Mr. William Shakespear, Volume the Seventh

<<< Back to Benson's Poems

Shakespeare, William, S.N., and Charles Gildon. The Works of Mr. William Shakepear. Volume the Seventh. Containing, Venus & Adonis. Tarquin & Lucrece and his Miscellany Poems. London: E. Curll and E. Sanger, 1710.

Image source: University of Oregon Rare Books Library

Though this volume of Shakespeare’s poetry was printed on its own, its title (“Volume the Seventh”) and layout were designed to invite the owner to add it to Rowe’s 6-volume edition of Shakespeare’s plays.

This intriguing volume was designed to accompany the first modern edition of Shakespeare’s “complete” works (but which did not include poems) edited by Nicholas Rowe in 1709. Labeled “Volume the Seventh” but published alone, the book was evidently designed to be slid next to Rowe’s 6-volume set. The image at left shows the book’s effort to resemble the aesthetic and layout of Rowe’s 1709 Works (use this link to compare it to Rowe). With the creative “Volume the Seventh” label, the book attempted to integrate Shakespeare’s poetic writings with his dramatic works, whereas Rowe's edition followed the Folios in presenting Shakespeare's plays only. While the book’s title emphasizes the inclusion of Shakespeare’s historically more popular narrative poems, Venus & Adonis  and The Rape of Lucrece , it included his lyric poems, primarily sonnets, as well.

The volume reprinted Benson’s edition’s headers. The headers and grouped poems, which reordered the original 1609 sequence of sonnets, suggest interpretations for the reader – here some meanings of the sonnet mistress’s “black” beauty.

The sonnets were reprinted exactly following the model of John Benson’s 1640 Shakespeare’s Poems. Writer Charles Gildon and the book’s second, unknown editor, identified only as “S. N.” in the dedication, retained Benson’s rearrangement of the sonnets in groupings of variable size and Benson’s headings stressing, and arguably generating, thematic coherence of the groupings. This image shows the book's reprinting of two of Benson's groupings emphasizing the sonnets’ depiction of the sonnet mistress as “black” – that is, dark, promiscuous, and disturbing, in Shakespeare’s time period’s complex associations with the word. Benson’s treatment of the sonnet mistress’s beauty concessively (“In praise of her Beauty tho’ black,” emphasis added) shapes a reader’s response to these poems placed together. In the 1609 Sonnets  they are numbers 127, 130, and 131 – close, but not fully in sequence, and untitled.