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Queen Mab, A Philosophical Poem, with Notes ]
[London: by P. B. Shelley (actually by an unknown printer for Thomas Hookham), 1813] - Octavo (179 × 112 mm.), pp. 240, with title-page and dedication leaf removed and imprint torn from foot of last leaf Q8 by Shelley, as issued; the dedication leaf since supplied from the 1821 Clark reprint, the last leaf rather crudely trimmed, margins restored, with one line of Greek text at foot of recto supplied in manuscript. Contemporary half calf, neatly restored, with green morocco spine label. A few trivial marks internally, early ink notes about the history of the book to front and rear free endpapers, a good copy of a rare book. Book label of Ian Jack (1923–2008), Emeritus Professor of English at Cambridge University. First edition, one of only approximately 70 copies of the first issue, the so-called "mutilated" state of the text. Queen Mab was Shelley's first important poetic work, preceded only by two verse pamphlets. In this first effort to build a poetic myth from his repudiation of the political, moral, and religious conventions of his era, Shelley provides a series of startling notes to his exotic verses, including a straight reprint of his explosive 1811 pamphlet, The Necessity of Atheism, for which he had been expelled from Oxford, and others espousing such subversive causes as free love, vegetarianism, and republicanism. Given the nature of its contents, it was inevitable that Queen Mab should be a clandestine publication. Hookham made the arrangements to have 250 copies printed on Shelley's behalf, but declined putting his own name to it. By law a printer's name and address had to be given, so Shelley shouldered this risk himself. To avoid inevitable prosecution, however, he deliberately "mutilated" every copy he personally distributed by cutting out the title-page and final imprint containing these incriminating details. That this was always the intention is shown by the fact that the printing on the recto of the last leaf stops one line shorter than the rest of the book, so that no vital matter was lost when Shelley cut away his name on the verso. With the title cut away, the first thing the reader saw was the poetic dedication to Harriet, his ill-fated first wife. Copies from which this leaf is also removed were therefore likely distributed by Shelley after the summer of 1814, when he eloped with Mary Godwin. From the evidence of the remainder of 180 unmutilated copies offered for sale by Richard Carlile in 1822, it can be inferred that Shelley distributed no more than 70 copies of the poem in this way. Although booksellers and auctioneers have regularly asserted the contrary, the "mutilated" state is much the rarer of the two, as an examination of library holdings and auction records quickly bears out, and the state in which Shelley personally issued it. It is the primary issue. Tinker 1887 (this state); for unmutilated state see Granniss 15; Wise, p. 39; Hayward 225. See also William St Clair, The Godwins and the Shelleys, 1989, pp. 512-518.
      [Bookseller: Peter Harrington. ABA member]
Last Found On: 2015-07-07           Check availability:      AbeBooks    

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