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SHELLEY, Percy Bysshe.

The Cenci.

A Tragedy, in Five Acts.

[Livorno,] Italy: for C. and J. Ollier, London, 1819 Stock Code: 144510
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An attractive copy

First edition, one of 250 copies only, of Shelley's verse tragedy which proved an unexpected publishing sensation, despite its action being far too lurid for the London stage. It is scarce in commerce - the second London edition (the only second edition of his own Shelley lived to see) is the one more usually met with.

Shelley had been fascinated by the story of Beatrice Cenci and Guido's portrait of her seen in the Colunna palace at Rome, and originally intended the latter to be copied as a frontispiece for this book. He worked exceptionally fast on his version of the tragedy, starting in May and ending in August of his annus mirabilis, the same year he wrote Prometheus Unbound, The Masque of Anarchy, and the "Ode to the West Wind". The book is excellently produced, handsomely printed in Italy on thick laid paper: "It has a few errors of the press incidental to the Italian compositors' ignorance of English but on the whole it seems to me a preferable text to the second edition - a text more like the absolute production of Shelley" (Forman).

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Octavo (220 x 140 mm). Finely bound without the initial blank in late 19th-/early 20th-century green crushed morocco, titles in gilt to spine, green-blue endpapers, all edges gilt. Housed in green cloth chemise within custom green morocco case with titles in gilt to spine (spine a little sunned).


Bookplate of noted Virginian bibliophile Christopher Clark Geest to front pastedown. The binding sharp, without the first blank, occasional very faint foxing to contents, else internally clean and fresh; an attractive copy.


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