In 1640 the London bookseller John Benson published a small volume (an “octavo”, the next size down from a quarto) simply titled Poems written by Wil. Shakespeare
. A curiously jumbled production, it contains Shakespeare’s longer poems Venus and Adonis
and The Phoenix and the Turtle
, most (but not all) of the sonnets, extracts from Measure for Measure
and As You Like It
and verses written by Beaumont and Fletcher, Sir Walter Ralegh, Ben Jonson, William Basse and others. Intriguingly, Benson altered the gender of some pronouns in the sonnets to make them seem like more orthodox love poems. He also added titles of his own devising, changed the order and strung several sonnets together as if they constituted single poems.
The frontispiece to the 1640 Poems
is an inverted and augmented copy of the famous Droeshout portrait that appears in the first four Folios. The rhyming lines beneath the image were written by Benson.
From Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.