The British Library’s “Don Juan” collection

The BL has a num­ber of Byron’s man­u­scripts and some ear­ly edi­tions of the pub­lished Don Juan from the 1820s. Pages from some of them are on-line as image files: well worth exploring.

I have tak­en the illus­tra­tion at the head of this post from an 1826 pirat­ed edi­tion (Smee­ton) of Can­to I that fea­tured plates by Isaac Cruick­shank (broth­er of the bet­ter-known George). The image depicts Juan and Julia her maid — the ‘adept’ Anto­nia — shoo­ing Juan from Juli­a’s bed­room (he had been hid­den in the clos­et) while her hus­band, Don Alfon­so, search­es the rest of the house for her lover.

The verse (No. 182) is Byron at his most sug­ges­tive… Julia pleads with Juan who, still love struck, tarries:

Fly, Juan, fly! for heav­en’s sake — not a word —

The door is open — you may yet slip through

The pas­sage you so often have explored —

For com­par­i­son, Lynette Yen­cho’s illus­tra­tion of the same verse for my audio-iBook of Can­to I of Don Juan:


It’s amus­ing that the British Library notes that the Cruick­shank images are “Free from any copy­right ret­ric­tions”. It was the refusal of the Crown to grant copy­right to Can­tos 1 & 2 that lead to their wide­spread pira­cy by the pub­lish­er of this edi­tion (among others).

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