Collected works, in first editions

Algernon Charles SWINBURNE

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SWINBURNE, Algernon Charles. First editions of the complete works. London: [Basil Montagu Pickering, et al.], 1860-99. Thirty-six volumes. Octavo (varying sizes), early 20th-century uniform three-quarter blue crushed morocco gilt, raised bands, marbled boards and endpapers, top edges gilt.

Splendid set of first editions of all of Swinburne’s major and most of his minor works in verse and prose, 36 volumes handsomely and uniformly bound by Stikeman. Includes a first edition of his sensational and controversial Poems and Ballads, which includes many of his finest lyrics; a first printing of Atalanta in Calydon, one of only about 300 copies issued; a first edition of his scarce first book The Queen-Mother and Rosamond (title page in second state, as usual); and first editions of his two works in support of Mazzini and Italian independence, A Song of Italy and Songs before Sunrise.

“As a magician of verbal melody he impressed his early contemporaries to the neglect of his merit as a thinker, but posterity will regard him as a philosopher who gave melodious utterance to ideas of high originality and value” (DNB). This complete set includes Swinburne’s early imitation of classical Greek verse drama, Atalanta in Calydon, which brought him instant celebrity; Songs Before Sunrise and A Song of Italy, which express his support for Mazzini in the struggle for Italian independence; and all three series of Poems and Ballads, including the first (1866), which features his finest and most notorious poems (“Dolores,” “Hymn to Proserpine,” and “Laus Veneris”). “Swinburne was a critic of perception and originality” (Drabble, 954); this collection includes his esteemed critical appraisals of Blake, Charlotte Brontë, Hugo, and Shakespeare, among others.

Swinburne’s first book, The Queen-Mother and Rosamond, with title page in second state, as usual. On receiving his copy, Swinburne felt that the title page did not make it clear that these were two separate plays; he asked the publisher to reset the title page to read “The Queen-Mother. Rosamond. Two Plays.” Despite the clarification, his first book “fell dead from the press” (DNB). His second book, Atalanta in Calydon—the success of which “was instant and overwhelming” (DNB)—is from the first printing of only about 300 copies, with 111 pages of text (the second printing had 130), page 85-86 canceled and page xiv misnumbered as xii. This collection also includes a scarce copy of his long poem “Siena,” first issued in pamphlet form by Hotten in 1868—not the very rare true first, published in possibly as few as six copies to secure copyright, but the so-called “spurious” edition issued later by Hotten, in itself now a scarce item. “Siena” is bound together with several other scarce pamphlets by Swinburne, each retaining the original wrappers. Under the Microscope with D5 (pp. 41-42) a cancel, as usual; some copies are found with the suppressed leaf laid in. Songs before Sunrise first issue, without publisher’s imprint on verso of page 287. Bookplate in each volume.

Front joint of The Tale of Balen tender. Fine condition. A very handsomely bound and complete set of scarce first editions.

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