Star turn for Deaths Duell

A Brasenose book is currently featuring in the recently opened Shakespeare’s Dead exhibition at the Weston Library. The exhibition is co-curated by our very own Fellow Librarian and English Tutor (Prof) Simon Palfrey; on discovering that the Bodleian copy of a particular book did not possess a crucial image we were asked to lend our copy for the exhibition.

The full title of the work in question is:

Deaths duell, : or, A consolation to the soule, against the dying life, and liuing death of the body. Deliuered in a sermon at White Hall, before the Kings Maiesty, in the beginning of Lent, 1630.

Donne, John, 1572-1631.

The second leaf of the BNC copy bears an engraved death portrait of John Donne signed “Martin DR [monogram]”. Sometimes the portrait was not printed hence the interest in the Brasenose copy.

The work is one of a number of sermons bound together to form a fat volume; the others are not by Donne but several different authors.

A photograph of the portrait and title page appears in the book that accompanies the exhibition and we now have a copy of this in the library. (Unsurprisingly it is entitled “Shakespeare’s Dead” and was written by Simon Palfrey and his co-curator Emma Smith. Look out for the skull on the spine and shelfmark F/MA 10 if you want to find it!)

This is not the first time that a BNC book has featured in a Bodleian exhibition however we are delighted that one of our books is making a guest appearance at an exhibition marking something as special as the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. The icing on the cake is that this tremendous exhibition has been curated by a Fellow of Brasenose. If you are wondering about the reason for the inclusion of this work in the exhibition you might be interested in the following talk which takes place next month:

Donne to Death
11 May 2016 1.30pm — 2.00pm
Lecture Theatre, Weston Library (
Peter McCullough, Professor of English, Oxford

John Donne’s sermon, Death’s duell, was part of an early Stuart vogue for funeral sermons. Professor McCullough discusses Donne’s contribution to this genre, and looks at how this tradition is connected to the poetic and dramatic representations of death on display in the exhibition, Shakespeare’s Dead.

The talk is just one in a series of free talks that began earlier this year and Simon Palfrey will be participating in June talking about Shakespeare’s dead men and women as part of this series. Dates and booking information can be found here:

I urge you to cross the road to the Weston and immerse yourself in this engaging, eclectic exhibition. If you can’t spare the time just now you can always take a look at the accompanying book.

Liz Kay
College Librarian
April 2016

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