“THE AGE WOULD SEIZE UPON SHELLEY”: FIRST EDITION OF POSTHUMOUS POEMS, WITH THE FIRST PUBLICATION OF MUCH OF SHELLEY’S GREATEST WORK, IN ORIGINAL BOARDS
SHELLEY, Percy Bysshe. Posthumous Poems. London: John and Henry L. Hunt, 1824. Octavo, original tan paper boards, printed paper spine label, uncut. Housed in a custom chemise and clamshell box. $5200.
First edition, first issue, edited and with a preface by Mary Shelley, containing the first publication of much of Shelley’s work. One of fewer than 500 copies printed and fewer than 300 actually sold, in scarce original boards.
The publication of Shelley’s Posthumous Poems was the beginning of his wife Mary’s “campaign to make the world appreciate Shelley’s genius and personal virtues” after his untimely death. Edited by Mary, the book “included 65 unpublished poems, 13 out of print, and five translations. [Mary’s] preface went straight to the point of Shelley’s ill repute: ‘his fearless enthusiasm in the cause which he considered the most sacred upon earth, the improvement of the moral and physical state of mankind, was the chief cause why he, like other illustrious reformers, was pursued by hatred and calumny’… Posthumous Poems accomplished what Mary Shelley intended: before it, Shelley’s immorality, destructiveness, and incomprehensibility were legendary, and he was largely unread; upon its publication there was a surge of interest as he seemed at once more accessible and admirable… The age would seize upon Shelley” (Sunstein, 257). As few as 500 copies of the Posthumous Poems were printed, and after only about 300 were sold, Shelley’s father threatened to terminate Mary’s allowance unless she withdrew the remaining copies and promised not to publish anything more about his son during his own lifetime, which she did. Includes the first appearance of Julian and Maddalo and The Witch of Atlas, the unfinished Triumph of Life, the Epistle to Maria Gisborne, and many other poems and translations, including the first appearances of some of Shelley’s most widely known lyrics-To Night, Lines to an Indian Air, and Music when soft voices die. First issue, without errata leaf. Forman, 108. Wise, 70. CBEL III:213.
Text fine. Only a few spots of soiling to text, front free endpaper excised, wear to binding and spine label, front joint split, rear joint expertly repaired. An extremely good copy, rare in original boards.