Shelley Editions in the Crewe Collection

Percy Bysshe Shelley by Amelia Curran, oil on canvas, 1819, NPG 1234
© National Portrait Gallery, London

In an earlier blog we discussed the discovery in the Crewe Collection of the page from a hotel visitors’ book where Shelley declared himself an atheist in the fateful summer of 1815 which led to the writing of Frankenstein. This leaf had been tipped into one of the first editions of Shelley’s poems which Richard Monckton Milnes treated among his most prized possessions. A new article by Michael Rossington discusses these first editions in more detail.

The focus of the article is three early editions of Shelley which were displayed at meetings of the Philobiblon Society  founded by Monckton Milnes in 1853. Two of these editions – the book which included the page from the visitors’ book and the ‘Posthumous Fragments of Margaret Nicholson’  – are now in the Crewe Collection.

The ‘Posthumous Fragments’ is a collection of poetry written by Shelley while at Oxford and published in 1810. It is one of Shelley’s earliest political works and was written as if by Margaret Nicholson, a woman who had attempted to assassinate George III in 1786. Shelley hid his authorship under the supposed editorship of  ‘John Fitzvictor’. The note on the fly-title of the Crewe Collection copy ‘with the Editor’s best Comp[limen]ts’ is, therefore, Shelley’s autograph.

The page from the hotel visitors’ book at Chamounix had been inserted into a first edition of Shelley’s The Revolt of Islam (London 1818) which had been acquired by Monckton Milnes in 1860 (Crewe 116.23). Other lifetime editions of Shelley in the Crewe Collection are St Irvyne (Crewe 105.31), Laon and Cythna (Crewe 116.22) and The Cenci (Crewe 116.34).

An first edition of St Irvyne, with the author identified (London, 1813)
A copy of Laon and Cythna (London 1818) which belonged to Shelley and was acquired at the sale of his Library in 1829.

Michael Rossington’s article can be read here.

With thanks to Nora Crook for her comments on Laon and Cythna.