Percy Bysshe Shelley rare books and memorabilia

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wikicollecting

2015-06-26 10:43:54

Percy Bysshe Shelley rare books and memorabilia are collectible items relating to English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822). He is regarded as one of the greatest lyric poets in the English language.

Brief History/biography

Percy Bysshe Shelley led a remarkable life, cut short at only 29 years. His categorical certainty concerning morality, nonviolence, vegetarianism, atheism etc, his passionate political ideology, the unconventional and somewhat hedonistic lifestyle he led, plus his remarkable poetry, make him a striking historical and literary figure. Shelley was famous for his association with Lord Byron, John Keats, and through his second marriage to Mary Godwin, better known as Frankenstein novelist Mary Shelley. The works he is most famous for are now considered classics: Ozymandias, Ode to the West Wind, The Masque of Anarchy, and Queen Mab. His dramatic play Prometheus Unbound is also highly respected. While a controversial figure in his own lifetime, he was enormously influential to generations of poets that followed.

Types of rare books and memorabilia

Books

Bonhams

  • Queen Mab: A Philosophical Poem (1813), first edition, sold for £6,600 in November 2009.
  • Prometheus Unbound (1904) limited edition vellum copy, elaborate binding, sold for £6,480 in March 2009.

Christie’s

  • Adonais (1821) first edition, presentation copy inscribed by Shelley, sold for $99,500 in October 2001.
  • Adonais (1821) first edition, sold for $54,000 in December 2005.
  • Laon and Cythna (1818) first edition, sold for $33,600 in December 2005.
  • A collection of 7 works, in 2 volumes (1818-22), sold for £13,800 in November 1997.
  • Queen Mab (1813), sold for $21,150 in October 2001.
  • Epipsychidion (1821), first edition, sold for $10,200 in June 2006.
  • The Revolt of Islam (1818), first edition copy dated 1817, sold for £6,463 in July 2000.

Sothebys

  • Adonais (1821) first edition, sold for $33,600 in December 2004.
  • Queen Mab (1813), first edition, sold for £18,750 in July 2009.
  • Laon and Cythna (1818), first edition elegantly rebound, sold for £12,500 in July 2008.
  • Alastor (1816), first edition, sold for £5,000 in July 2008.
  • The Masque of Anarchy (1832), first edition, sold for £4,500 in December 2008.

Documents, Autographs and Photographs

Bonhams

  • Autograph cheque signed in full by Shelley to Thomas Love Peacock, 1818. Sold for £2,629 in September 2004.
  • Autograph cheque signed in full by Shelley to George Furnivall, 1817. Sold for £2,500 in November 2011.

Christie’s

  • Four autograph letters 1810-11, indicating the emergence of Shelley’s atheism. Sold for £45,600 in June 2005.
  • Autograph letter signed, 1820, sold for $30,000 in December 2009.
  • Autograph verse letter to Edward Fergus Graham, 1811, sold for £12,650 in June 1995.

Sothebys

  • Autograph letter signed, regarding the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Sold for £21,875 in December 2009.

Guide for collectors

Shelley’s works, being classics of English literature, are often chosen as projects for a beautiful binding or to showcase an illustrator. So, while early editions of the works will be extremely valuable, often a much later copy possessing one or more of these other attractive attributes will also be particularly sought-after. People also love to own items relating to Shelley's life, such as letters and signatures. He was a fierce and passionate enthusiast about several interesting causes, such as nonviolence, atheism and vegetarianism, that he is seen as a figurehead by many for the strength of his ideology.

His works are often sold together with those of his friends and contemporaries, John Keats and Lord Byron, as representative of an era in literature. His Adonais: An elegy on the death of John Keats, is an emotional lament in Spenserian stanzas, prefaced by a fierce attack upon the Quarterly Review critics, who, having harshly reviewed Keat’s Endymion, Shelley believed played a part in hastening Keats’ death. It is particularly sought-after as a collectible, being Shelley’s favourite of his own poems, and demonstrating that personal connection between the two Romantic poets who both died so tragically young.

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