"ON EARTH AS VAMPIRE SENT, THY CORPSE SHALL FROM ITS TOMB BE RENT": BYRON’S THE GIAOUR, WITH EARLY VAMPIRE REFERENCES—ONE OF 12 PRINTED ON HEAVY WATERMARKED PAPER AS REQUESTED BY BYRON FOR PERSONAL DISTRIBUTION, IN ORIGINAL WRAPPERS
BYRON, George Gordon, Lord. The Giaour, A Fragment of a Turkish Tale. London: T. Davison for John Murray, 1813. Thin octavo, original drab wrappers neatly respined; pp. (vi), 41, (1). Housed in a custom clamshell box. $6000.
First edition, scarce first issue on heavy watermarked paper, one of 12 copies requested of the publisher by Byron for personal distribution (second variant with Byron's name on the title page). The first of Byron's "Oriental romances," including an early Westernized version of the vampire myth, in original wrappers.
Byron's "Fragment of a Turkish Tale" became a publishing phenomenon, going through eight editions in its first year. The first of his "Oriental romances" or "Turkish tales," The Giaour was followed soon after by "The Bride of Abydos" (1813), "The Corsair" (1814) and "Lara" (1814). Among other exotic attributes, The Giaour includes an important early account of vampires (pp. 22-25) which Byron's physician, John Polidori, drew upon for his The Vampyre (1819). "During this time [1813-15] Byron's poetry poured forth… mostly in the sequence of remarkable narratives that began with The Giaour and The Bride of Abydos (1813) and culminated with Parisina and The Siege of Corinth (1815). These were the works that defined and perfected the Byronic hero, whose initial incarnation was Childe Harold. Brooding throughout 19th-century European literature, the Byronic figure—usually an aristocrat—embodied a culturally alienated anti-hero, bearing within a dark secret that seemed as threatening to others as to himself. The popularity of Byron's oriental tales, which were coded with political allegory and personal references, was unprecedented" (ODNB). As an indication of the popularity of this tale, Jane Austen references it in her novel Persuasion (written 1815-16), when Captain Benwick relishes the "hopeless agony" and romantic moodiness of The Giaour—and offers help in pronouncing the title (it rhymes with "flower"). "He was trying to craft a new form, one that could contain the intimate lyric within a dramatic narrative framework. That he succeeded is the triumph of The Giaour. Working on several levels, this poem and the 'Oriental Tales' which followed, reached as wide a readership as the poetry (and later the novels) of Walter Scott, John Murray's other best-selling author" (Eisler, Byron, 393). "On May 23, 1813 Byron wrote John Murray to have 12 copies of The Giaour struck off for his personal distribution, and these 12 copies form the first issue of this volume" (Randolph). These 12 copies were printed on heavier paper watermarked either "John Hall/1805" or "J Whatman/W. Balston/1809 [or 1810]"; this copy with watermarks on pp. 3, 13, 23, 25, 33, 39. This is the second variant of that first issue, with Byron's name on the title page. Bound with half title. Randolph, 25-26. Manuscript 14-line poem, in an unknown, apparently 19th-century hand, mounted to verso of front wrapper.
Text generally clean, wrappers neatly respined. A near-fine copy of the very scarce watermarked presentation issue.