Originally published 08/12/2013
On 20 May 1609, the publisher Thomas Thorpe stepped off Ludgate Hill into Stationers' Hall, and registered what was to become perhaps the most famous poetic works of all time: Shakespeare's Sonnets. It was a slim volume on publication, containing 154 poems over 67 pages, and the edition is now extremely rare: only 13 copies survive. But its influence has been all-encompassing, providing a template for language, for literature, for love, ever since. Recent years have seen the sonnets disseminated in ways that Shakespeare could never have imagined. "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" is quoted 5m times on the internet. Apps have been created in which famous voices recite the poems, sonnets are tweeted, T-shirts are printed, and poetry that was once said to circulate only among Shakespeare's "private friends" is now stored for ever in the cloud.