Laon and Cythna; or, The Revolution of the Golden City: A Vision of the Nineteenth Century. In the Stanza of Spenser.
London: Sherwood, Neely & Jones and C. and J. Ollier, 1818. Octavo. xxii, 270pp. First edition, first issue. Inscribed "From the Author" in Shelley's hand. One of only twelve unexpurgated presentation copies containing the exceedingly rare half-title page (sig. d) with a quote from Pindar.Printed in 1817 and intended for publication in January 1818, the poem was suppressed by its publisher, Ollier, who feared a backlash against the depiction of incest in certain of Shelley's stanzas. Upon the book's printing, Shelley had instructed Ollier to quickly bind twelve copies and send them to him. Ollier complied, and it is thought that these presentation copies constitute the entire first issue of the book. Shortly after sending Shelley the copies, Ollier raised his objections about the content and refused to continue to publish the work unless revisions were made. Shelley begrudgingly acquiesced to this demand, although, according to Forman, he apparently could not bear to initiate the necessary changes himself, and instead had a committee of his friends propose revisions which he would then approve, modify, or reject, all the while complaining that his poem was being spoiled in the process. The result of these efforts was the release of a new, expurgated version of the book under the title The Revolt of Islam, a work about which Shelley had serious misgivings. In an 1817 letter to Ollier, quoted in Granniss, he wrote, "'I have the fairest chance of the public approaching my work with unbiased and unperverted feeling -- the fruit of reputation . . . is within my reach. It is for you . . . to blast all this, & to hold up my literary character in the eye of mankind as that of a proscribed & rejected outcast." Granniss goes on to comment that the dedicatory poem to Mary Shelley that precedes the main text "contains some of [Shelley's] most beautiful lines."This copy of Laon and Cythna is elegantly bound in full brown morocco by Sangorski & Sutcliffe, with a gilt rule border to the outer edges of both boards and turn-ins. Also with gilt lettering to spine within compartments formed by raised bands in the leather. Slight cracking to rear spine and some apparent bleaching to title page that does not affect text, else a very fine copy of a rare and controversial work, additionally inscribed by Shelley. Housed in a cloth box with leather spine label, lettered in gilt. A.e.g. (Forman, pp.72-87; Granniss 39; Wise, pp.47-48). (Item ID: 20954)
(Forman, pp.72-87; Granniss 39; Wise, pp.47-48).