Iuuenilia: or Certaine paradoxes and problemes, written by I. Donne.

London : Printed by E[lizabeth]. P[urslowe]. for Henry Seyle, and are to be sold at the signe of the Tygers head, in Saint Pauls Church-yard, anno Dom. 1633.


FIRST EDITION. 4to. 32 unnumbered ll., [A] B-H, first leaf blank, with licenses to print on F1v and H4v. Roman letter, some Italic. Small ‘Noli Altum Sapere’ woodcut printer’s device on title [McKerrow 311], floriated woodcut initials, woodcut head and tail-pieces, typographical ornaments, armorial bookplate of Evan Morgan on pastedown, his autograph 1930 on first blank, bookplate of Robert S Pirie on fly. Light age yellowing, a little darker at margins, very minor marginal dust soiling in places. A fine copy, crisp and clean in excellent contemporary vellum gilt, covers gilt ruled to a panel design, fleurons gilt to outer corners, central lozenge gilt, spine triple gilt ruled in compartments, small fleurons gilt at centres, traces of green silk ties. Vellum a little soiled.

A fine copy of this important first edition, complete with the licenses to print on both F1v and H4v, in a fine contemporary limp vellum binding; very rarly found separately in a contemporary binding. “Although it may be regarded as normal to find these two licences .. their occurrence is erratic. Of my two copies one lacks the first licence and the other both. … Both this and the second edition were printed by Elizabeth Purslowe (1633-1646). The device used on the title pages of both editions is a copy of one of those used by the family Estienne of Paris” Keynes.

“Although they are supposedly of Donne’s youthful period, Bald argues that most of the ‘Paradoxes’ probably were written before Donne’s marriage in 1601 and that the ‘Problems’ were written after King James came to the throne in 1603, citing evidence from some of the ‘Letters to Goodyear’ that indicate 1607 as the year for some of the ‘Problems’. The “Paradoxes’ generally have much in common with Donne’s poetry, especially with the ‘Satires’, ‘Elegies’ and some of the ‘Songs and Sonnets’. The deliberately audacious, witty, flippant, paradoxical, punning and colloquial Donne clearly appears in them. … Just judging by the titles one can see that the central device is to argue against the common opinion or accepted truth – to create indeed a “paradox”. .. Subjects in the ‘Paradoxes’ such as the inconstancy, appearances, and the uses of women; the relaion of body and soul; the true natures of the ‘Microcosm’ and ‘Macrocosm’; the decay of the world; the Fall of mankind; good and evil; discord and harmony; and death all in fact reveal a spectrum of those topics Donne handles with more breadth and depth in his other secular and Christian works through his career. .. The ‘Problems actually are posed as questions (and many are answered simply by a series of questions). Most scholars and critics see them as having some of the same qualities of wordplay, colloquialism, paradox, flippancy, etc., as the ‘Paradoxes’; however the ‘Problems’ generally are regarded as a bit more cynical, melancholy, and disillusioned. Some scholars argue that they seems to be a logical outgrowth of Donne’s own bitterness and stagnation in hte 1603-1610 period when his aspirations for a grand secular career seemed futile. The “problems” are usually pseudo-problems, false issues, and largely unexplainable. Even if they are explainable, the writer puts forth the most outrageous, illogical, and unexpected “reasons” for the sake of entertainment and satire.” Robert H. Ray. ‘A John Donne Companion’.

“Donne’s Juvenilia are clever and entertaining trifles, most of which were probably written before 1600 during the more wanton period of the author’s life. His own opinion of them was expressed in a letter to Sir Henry Wooton in 1600: … ‘they were made rather to deceave tyme than her daughter truth’” Keynes.

Although these Paradoxes and Problemes were widely circulated in manuscript, their secular, character prevented them from being published during the author’s lifetime. The catalogue of the Grolier Club’s quatrocentenary exhibition of Donne mentions that while copies of both the first and second editions of Juvenilia are frequently found bound with the 1633 edition of Donne’s Poems, “copies bound separately in contemporary bindings are rare.”

STC 7043. ESTC S109980. Grolier/Donne 26 (this copy). Grolier, Wither to Prior  284. Keynes 43.


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