“Darkness” First Edition

1. We found the first edition of “Darkness” by initially looking at the footnote attached to the poem’s title in the Norton Critical Edition of Byron, which gives the poem’s publication date as December 5, 1816 in The Prisoner of Chillon and Other Poems. Using this book title as a search in Google Books along with Murray’s name yielded us the digitized first edition.

We could tell that this was the first edition because the title page clearly indicates that the book was “Printed for John Murray” in 1816. Additionally, no specific edition number is mentioned, as would be done for successive printings.

3. Byron’s “Darkness” was the fifth of nine poems published in a collection. Unlike modern day anthologies, each poem begins on a new page, and there is no other poem intruding on the reader’s mind on the last page. This can also be an indication of Byron’s status as an elite writer, as the publisher could afford to allot more paper to producing his publications despite the expense and limited availability of paper as a resource.

4. The font for the collection’s title on the opening page is printed in an archaic looking style, known as Blackletter or Gothic script, which evokes other Gothic inspired writing of the time.

5. In terms of paratext, we examined the “Contents” page that followed the title page, and considered how the presentation of “Darkness” among a collection can suggest to the reader the themes present in the collection as a whole before they even read any of Byron’s poems. The “Contents” page is the entryway into the reader’s psyche and influences the subsequent interpretations that result. A reader can also explore the physical placement of “Darkness” in the table of contents – was it intentionally situated in the middle of the collection as a thematic climax, followed by “Churchill’s Grave,” or was it randomly shuffled into order by the printer or publisher?


(Enakshi & Audrey)


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