Donne, John. Poems by J.D. London: Printed by M.F. for John Marriott, 1633. First page of annotated index.

A seventeenth-century reader of the first collection of John Donne's poetry, the Poems by J. D. of 1633, has added "An Index" to the final leaves of this copy. By doing so the reader has attempted to impose an order on the collection that will allow the reader quickly to find useful phrases to incorporate into the reader's own writing or speech. Consequently, the topics listed in the index seem determined at least as much by the reader's own anticipated needs as by the topics of Donne's verses. Notice, for instance, that the reader has gathered far more page numbers for "Expressions" than for any other topic: "God" gets two references; "Expressions," fourteen. Because they seem at least somewhat shaped by the anticipated needs of this particular reader, the items listed in "An Index" can be surprisingly idiosyncratic. Modern readers of Donne probably are not surprised to see items like "Church," "Bodys," and "Woman" listed, but "Short Gallerys"? Such items suggest that the compiler of "An Index" may have thought of this index more as a personal and personalized resource than as a definitive reference tool for wide use (it is not "The Index," after all). However broad or narrow its intended audience, "An Index" shows clearly the early modern habit of reading as preparation for future action.

Folger Call No. 7045, copy 2.