Percy Bysshe Shelley:
Hellas. A Lyrical Drama.
London: S. and R. Bentley for Charles and James Ollier, 1822.
Octavo. 205 x 128 mm. xi, [1 blank], 60 pp.
Early 20th-century green morocco, the covers tooled in gilt with a border of two fillets, and a panel of solid and broken fillets with buds, leaves and roses in the corners, the roses on red goatskin onlays, the leaves on black goatskin onlays, amongst dots and roundels with red onlays. The spine divided into six panels with gilt compartments, lettered in the second and dated at the foot, the others with buds, leaves and dots, the edges of the boards tooled with a gilt fillet, the turn-ins and matching inside joints with solid and broken fillets and dots, grey/blue paper endleaves, top edge gilt, the others untrimmed. Signed in gilt on upper turn-in: Sangorski & Sutcliffe. Contained within a cloth drop-over box.
¶ Francis Sangorski and George Sutcliffe established their firm in 1901, this binding probably dates from just before World War I, the period, when they were producing their finest work.
Complete with the half-title and final leaf, “Written on Hearing the News of the Death of Napoleon”. Written at Pisa in late 1821, ‘Hellas’ was the last of Shelley’s works to be published during his lifetime. “Based in form on the Persians of Aeschylus, [Hellas] was inspired by the news of the Greek War of Independence against the Turkish empire, and dedicated to their national leader, Prince Mavrocordato, whom Shelley had known in Pisa. The action, a series of lyric pictures, is set at Constantinople, where the Turkish Sultan Mahmud receives a number of messengers reporting the insurrection, and prophesying Greek victory. Shelley uses visionary figures - Christ, Mahomet, Ahasuerus the Wandering Jew, and the phantom of Mahomet II - to explore a cyclical philosophy of history. But the main interest lies in the choruses, composed like songs for opera, and concluding with the celebrated poem, ‘The world’s great age begins anew’.
¶ Shelley’s preface, his last great appeal for political liberty in Europe, remains a classical statement of English phihellenism: “We are all Greeks. Our laws, our literature, our religion, our arts, have their root in Greece.” This preface, suppressed in 1822 by Charles Ollier, was first restored in 1892 by Mr. Buxton Forman [“Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley”, IV, pp. 40-41] from a proof copy of Hellas in his possession.
A few spots, else a very good copy, and a very fine, attractive binding.
Erste Ausgabe. Handgefertigter grüner Maroquinband auf fünf erhabenen echten Bünden, mit reicher fleuraler Rückenvergoldung, Titel und Verfasser auf zweitem Feld, die Deckel mit verschiedenen Rahmen aus Linien vergoldet, in den Ecken Rosen-, Blätter- und Knospenstempel, davon die beiden ersten jeweils auf roten bzw. schwarzen Lederauflagen. Steh- und breite Innenkantenvergoldung. Signiert auf vorderem Spiegel unten. Handgestochene grüne Seidenkapitale, Kopfgoldschnitt. Mit gefüttertem Klappkasten. Nur vereinzelt leicht stockfleckig, sonst schönes Exemplar. Ein äußerst dekorativer, schön gestalteter Meistereinband.
First edition. Graniss 73 - Wise 66.
Oh, cease! must hate and death return?
Cease! must men kill and die?
Cease! drain not to its dregs the urn
Of bitter prophecy.
The world is weary of the past,
Oh, might it die or rest at last!