FIRST ISSUE OF SHELLEY'S POSTHUMOUS POEMS, ONE OF FEWER THAN 300 COPIES SOLD BEFORE SALES WERE PROHIBITED, WITH THE FIRST PUBLICATION OF MUCH OF SHELLEY'S GREATEST WORK, INCLUDING "TO NIGHT," "LINES TO AN INDIAN AIR," "TRIUMPH OF LIFE," AND WITH MARY SHELLEY'S PREFACE
SHELLEY, Percy Bysshe. Posthumous Poems. London: John and Henry L. Hunt, 1824. Octavo, early 20th-century full dark blue morocco, covers and spine gilt-tooled with red morocco onlays, raised bands, marbled endpapers, top edge gilt. $4200.
First edition, first issue, edited and with a preface by Mary Shelley, containing the first publication of much of Shelley's work, handsomely bound in full morocco-gilt by Root & Sons. One of fewer than 500 copies printed and fewer than 300 actually sold before Mary Shelley acquiesced to Shelley's father's demands to publish nothing more about his son during his own lifetime.
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 Edited by Mary, the book "included 65 unpublished poems, 13 out of print, and five translations.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, as noted, 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 appearance 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. Without half title. Forman, 108. Wise, 70. CBEL III:213. Contemporary owner ink signature on title page, somewhat faded, dated 1825.
Interior clean and fine. Beautiful binding with expert repairs to joints, corners and spine ends. An excellent copy.