Queen Mab

A Philosophical Poem: With Notes

SHELLEY, Percy Bysshe

SHELLEY, Percy Bysshe Queen Mab A Philosophical Poem: With Notes

Printed by [i.e. for] P.B. Shelley, 1813.

First edition, in the 'unmutilated' state, with the title and final leaf intact. Publisher's original drab paper covered boards. A near fine copy, with the joints cracked but holding and wear to the spine, but an extraordinarily well preserved copy. Internally perfect.

An exceptional copy of Shelley's key radical text of the early nineteenth century, described in DNB as a "freethinking and socialistic gospel... couched in a rhetoric so exalted as to pass easily for poetry" (DNB).
Shelley arranged for a mere 250 copies to be printed for private distribution. Given the contents, Shelley's printer, Thomas Hookham, refused to put his name to the work, so it is Shelley's name and address which are listed on the title page. In order to avoid the possibility of prosecution, Shelley 'mutilated' copies as he distributed them by removing the title page and final leaf bearing his name. Furthermore, as his marriage to Harriet broke down with his elopement with Mary Godwin in 1814, he took to removing the dedication leaf to his estranged wife.
Copies which have survived unmutilated offer one of the most inflammatory title pages of the era. Knowing few would see it, Shelley felt able to give vent to his revolutionary fervour. It carries a quote in Latin from Lucretius and Archimedes' aphorism in Greek, "Only give me a place on which to stand,and I shall move the whole world." Bolder still is the statement from Correspondance de Voltaire, "Ecrasez l'Infame!", a phrase which had been adopted by the Illuminati as their motto to refer specifically to Christ. As Harriet Shelley wrote to a friend, about Queen Mab, "Do you [know] any one that would wish for so dangerous a gift?".
This unmutilated state has long been highly sought by collectors and considered much more valuable than mutilated copies. Further, whilst unmutilated copies are rare, copies in boards are even more so and the combination of the two is almost unknown: we can discover only one other such copy offered for sale at auction since 1902.

PROVENANCE: A.S.W. Rosenbach (Noted bookseller and collector, pencil note declaring it to be from his personal collection); Louis H. Silver (morocco bookplate, purchased by John F. Fleming at the sale of Newberry Library duplicates from the Silver accession, Sotheby's, London, 9 November 1965, lot 301) – Abel E. Berland (Christie's, New York, 8 October 2001, lot 105).

Ashley V, p.57; Granniss/Grolier Shelley 15; Hayward 225; Tinker 1886; Wise Shelley, pp.39-40.

Stock ID: 41783


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