A previously unknown 400-year-old manuscript of works by English poet John Donne has been found in a box in a stately home.
Sotheby’s expert Dr Gabriel Heaton stumbled across it during a visit to Melford Hall in Suffolk.
He said it was a “significant find” and – at 139 poems – is one of the largest surviving collections of the metaphysical poet’s work.
It is expected to fetch up to £300,000 at auction, The Guardian reported.
The gilt-panelled calf leather-bound volume contains 265 pages written “in a single attractive italic hand”, and dates from the 1620s or early 1630s, Sotheby’s catalogue states.
It contains a “highly important” collection of the poet-priest’s works plus some by other writers.
It was found by manuscript specialist Dr Heaton during a “standard valuation visit” to the National Trust property earlier this year.
“I was looking through a box containing miscellaneous estate papers and photo albums when I came across it,” he told the BBC.
“I opened the book – it was really beautiful – and started reading, and thought, ‘that’s a John Donne poem… and that’s another, and another’.
“It’s a really substantial group of manuscripts and certainly not what I was expecting,” he said.
“I realised it was a significant find.”
The book includes Donne’s Songs and Sonnets, erotic elegies and satires as well as religious verse.
Born into a Catholic family in 1572, Donne was ordained into the Church of England priesthood in 1615 and became Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in 1621.
He died in 1631 and was buried in the cathedral.
The bound collection, described by Sotheby’s as “the most significant Donne poetical manuscript remaining in private hands” is being auctioned online until 10 December and is expected to sell for between £200,000 and £300,000.