SWINBURNE, Algernon Charles.

Poems and Ballads.

London: Edward Moxon & Co., 1866 Stock Code: 148689
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The rare first issue - "Established Swinburne as not only the leading new poet of the day but an international icon for progressive thinkers"

First edition, first issue (with Moxon imprint), first state with Wise's textual errors uncorrected, of the most sensationally controversial book of English poetry of its century, its contents being a heady mix of sadomasochism, necrophilia, egalitarianism, and blasphemy. This copy passed through the hands of renowned book dealer Martin Stone and has his pencilled note to the front free endpaper.

"It was a dazzling collection. Swinburne had developed an original poetic voice, lyrical and possessed of an energy only matched in the period by Gerard Manley Hopkins, and written in a marvellous variety of stanza forms and metres The book was learned and cosmopolitan in outlook. It established Swinburne as not only the leading new poet of the day but an international icon for progressive thinkers. In the late 1860s and 1870s Swinburne's very name seemed a trumpet blast for those who wanted a more liberal, less puritanical society" (ODNB). The first reviews, on 4 April, were hostile, and Moxon, frightened by rumours of imminent prosecution, withdrew the book from sale the very next day.

The book was reissued by John Camden Hotten later in the year with their imprint, which is the issue usually found. Swinburne corrected various errata while the book was in print, leading to corrected and uncorrected sheets, this being the former, but the variant sheets were apparently issued together, and Hotten also bound up some uncorrected sheets for their issue. "It is doubtful whether many unaltered copies of the book got into circulation. Even with the Moxon title and the corrected leaves the book is by no means common. But an absolutely genuine example, with every leaf excepting N.3 in the original state as here - N3 is always cancelled is of extreme rarity, and is very seldom to be met with" (Wise, p. 115).

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Octavo (167 x 104 mm). Contemporary brown half morocco, spine lettered and decorated in gilt, marbled boards and endpapers, top edge gilt.


Occasional pencil annotations. Discreet colour restoration to rubbed extremities, occasional faint spotting to contents; still, a very good copy.


Wise 25.


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