Today in History: May 20

When I consider every thing that grows
Holds in perfection but a little moment,
That this huge stage presenteth nought but shows
Whereon the stars in secret influence comment;
When I perceive that men as plants increase,
Cheered and cheque’d even by the self-same sky,
Vaunt in their youthful sap, at height decrease,
And wear their brave state out of memory;
Then the conceit of this inconstant stay
Sets you most rich in youth before my sight,
Where wasteful Time debateth with Decay,
To change your day of youth to sullied night;
And all in war with Time for love of you,
As he takes from you, I engraft you new.
—Shakespeare, Sonnet 15

Neuer before imprinted.” The London printer Thomas Thorpe made sure to boldly put that statement on the title page of his edition of “Shake-speares Sonnets” (seen at top). On this date in 1609, Thorpe announced plans to publish the book: he wrote the following in the Stationer’s Register of soon-to-be published works: “Entred for his copie under the handes of master Wilson and master Lownes Wardenes a booke called Shakespeares sonnettes.” He paid six pence for the copyright.

It remains unknown whether or not Thorpe had William Shakespeare’s permission to publish the poems; the book may have been given to Thorpe by one of Shakespeare’s friends who needed money. The great poet’s relationship with the publisher—or even with the book as anything other than author of the contents—is unknown. Was he paid?

The book may not reflect Shakespeare’s intended order of the poems, if he intended to place them in an order them and publish them. Regardless, Shakespeare’s 154 poems were printed soon after Thorpe’s May 20 announcement: on a slip of paper with the date of June 19 on it, an actor named Edward Allyn jotted that he had purchased “a book Shaksper sonnetts” (sic) for the price of five pence.

The 1609 edition established that, while he was alive, Shakespeare was famous enough for his name to be on the title page of a book and also that a large collection of poems written by Shakespeare was a desirable commodity among London printers. In later editions, printers took liberties: in several, the order of the poems is re-arranged, and in others, printers delete a few sonnets altogether or combine several into one longer poem. They also bowdlerize some of Shakespeare’s sexier metaphors. Thus, we know that the 1609 edition is the first and only definitive edition.

* * * *
FacebookJandMLove Is in the Air, Chapter 5: Four years ago today, Jen Dellova, who often appears in these pages, agreed to have dinner with me. We have not yet been served with the check. Happy anniversary, sweetness, as we begin our fifth year together. I love you more and more each day.

* * * *
W.H. Auden became a U.S. citizen 70 years ago today. He had been living in New York City since 1939.

* * * *
At 7:40 a.m. EST, Charles Lindbergh took off from Roosevelt Field near Mineola, NY, to attempt a non-stop solo flight across the Atlantic on this date in 1927.

* * * *
Five years later, on this date in 1932, Amelia Earhart flew from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, with a copy of that day’s newspaper to confirm the date of the flight. She landed almost 15 hours later in a field north of Derry, Northern Ireland, which was seen by a couple of farmers. One approached her plane and asked, “Have you flown far?” Earhart replied, “From America.” The newspaper confirmed it.

* * * *
The final Late Show with David Letterman aired one year ago today.

* * * *
Sir Max Beerbohm died 60 years ago today. Gilda Radner died on this date in 1989. Stephen Jay Gould died on this date in 2002.

* * * *
Jimmy Stewart was born on this date in 1908. Moshe Dayan was born 101 years ago today. George Gobel was born on this date in 1919. Joe Cocker was born 72 years ago today.

* * * *
David Hedison is 89 today. President José Mujica, the former president of Uruguay who appears on so many online memes as the “poorest President” in the world, is 81 today. Sadaharu Oh is 76. Cher is 70 today.

Dave Thomas is 67. Governor David Paterson is 62. Cindy McCain is 62. Ron Reagan is 58. Bronson Pinchot is 57. David Wells is 53. Mindy Cohn is 50 today. Louis Theroux is 46. Tony Stewart is 45 today.

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  1. Relax... · May 20, 2016

    Happy beginning of your fifth year together (and my gosh, she’s so pretty)!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. loisajay · May 20, 2016

    Happy Anniversary, you two!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. whippetwisdom · May 20, 2016

    Happy anniversary and here’s to wishing you many more happy anniversaries to come 💜💜

    Liked by 1 person

  4. whippetwisdom · May 20, 2016

    Happy anniversary and here’s to wishing you many more happy anniversaries together 💜💜

    Liked by 1 person

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