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SHELLEY, Percy Bysshe.

Queen Mab, A Philosophical Poem, with Notes.

London: Printed by P. B. Shelley, 23, Chapel Street, Grosvenor Square [actually by an unknown printer for Thomas Hookham], 1813 Stock Code: 143222
£17,500.00
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Rare "unmutilated" copy of Shelley's most provocative poem

First edition, an "unmutilated" copy, with title page and final leaf intact, and including the poetic dedication to Harriet.

Queen Mab was Shelley's most provocative poem and a key radical text in the early years of the 19th century. The entire edition was 250 copies, published by Thomas Hookman for private distribution by Shelley himself. Due to its radical contents, Hookman refused to put his name on the title page. As by law a publisher and address had to be provided, Shelley agreed to provide his own name and address on the title and terminal leaf. Fearful of prosecution, when Shelley distributed the copies he cut away the title page and excised his name from the final leaf. Moreover, as his marriage with Harriet broke down with his elopement with Mary Godwin after the summer of 1814, Shelley removed from the copies which he distributed the poetic dedication leaf to Harriet as "the inspiration of my song". This copy is consequently one of the copies which survived "unmutilated", without excision of Shelley's name or Harriet's dedication. The remaining copies were issued by Richard Carlile shortly after Shelley's death in 1822.

This "unmutilated" state has always excited the attentions of collectors and has consistently fetched far higher prices than "mutilated" copies. The "unmutilated" state offers one of the most inflammatory title-pages of the era. Knowing that very few would see it, Shelley was free to give vent to his revolutionary, atheistical fervour. The title carries a tag from every freethinker's favourite Latin author, Lucretius, and Archimedes' aphorism in Greek: "Only give me a place on which to stand, and I shall move the whole world." Bolder yet was the cry "Ecrasez l'Infame!" from the Correspondance de Voltaire. Voltaire was referring to the established Church, but the same phrase had been adopted by the Illuminists as their motto to refer specifically to Christ.

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Description

Octavo (193 x 116 mm). Early 20th-century brown morocco by Riviere and Son, spine lettered in gilt, gilt floral tools to compartments, gilt french fillets to covers, gilt ruled turn-ins with floral cornerpieces, marbled doublures and free endpapers, top edge gilt. Housed in a custom brown cloth box, red morocco label.

Condition

Faint early ownership signature to title page and a few very minor pencilled markings. Binding in fine condition, contents washed as was Riviere's custom, consequently clean with light residual foxing, a little more pronounced in the central pages. An excellent, complete copy.

Bibliography

Granniss pp. 28–35; Hayward 225; Wise, Shelley Library, pp. 39–40.

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