Queen Mab (first edition)

Item author: Percy Bysshe Shelley
Item date: 1813
Grant Value: £5,000
Item cost: £11,600
Item date acquired: 2015
Item institution: Keats-Shelley House
Town/City: Rome

Queen Mab, Shelley’s first major published poem, is part fairy tale, part political treatise, and totally enthralling. This is a first (and extremely rare) edition of this work, printed for Thomas Hookham in 1813.  It is one of just seventy to have been distributed in a so-called ‘mutilated’ state and was handled by Shelley himself, who removed the politically radical work’s title page and dedication so as to conceal his identity and save himself from likely prosecution.

Its acquisition enhances Keats-Shelley House's small, but important collection of first editions of works by the second-generation Romantic poets, which, together with our manuscripts and other rare books, provide an invaluable resource to scholars working in the field of Romantic literature. As the largest collection of works devoted to this period of English literature in Europe outside the UK, our library and museum holdings are regularly consulted by academics, students, biographers, novelists and poets, who are not always able to access such titles elsewhere in Italy, or even on the Continent. In joining the collection in Rome, moreover, the link between this copy of Queen Mab and Shelley’s own hand will give our visitors their own personal connection with the poet in a way that is comparable to Keats’s copy of Tacitus, or indeed the many autograph manuscripts on display and in our archive.

Queen Mab will delight and inspire our visitors, during periods of display alongside some of our other important Shelley treasures, such as our first edition of his late poem Adonais. For exhibition purposes, it will therefore serve as a means of tracing the development of Shelley’s poetic sensibility, technique and major themes. Given that some 40% of visitors to the House are school students, we do our best to encourage them to read excerpts from poetry on display as part of our vibrant programme of educational visits, and we have no doubt that Queen Mab will stir their interests in Shelley and spur them to find out more about him, his peers, and the times in which he wrote.

Keats-Shelley House is owned by the Keats-Shelley Memorial Assocation, which is a UK registered charity, hence its eilgibility for FNL grants.