How was Queen Mab published?
Percy Bysshe Shelley was involved in setting the type for printing the first edition of 250 in 1813, which was intended for private distribution. He wrote – ‘let only 250 copies be printed. A small neat quarto on fine paper & so to catch the aristocrats: They will not read it but their sons and daughters may.’ Roughly a third of the copies were given out, and the rest were stored at William Clark’s bookshop in London. Shelley went on to rewrite the poem, which was published as The Daemon of the World.
What happened to the stored copies?
In 1821 the stored copies were discovered and sold on the black market, not by Clark; Shelley tried to suppress the distribution, but could not get an injunction as the poem was deemed to be illegal. Clark himself was imprisoned for ‘the publication of blasphemous libels’, not for sedition (The Morning Chronicle, 11 December 1821).
Was the work republished?
After Shelley died his father put an embargo on Mary Shelley publishing any of his son’s works; Queen Mab and The Daemon of the World were both omitted from the Posthumous and Miscellaneous Poems of 1826. But unscrupulous publishers cashed in on the poet’s posthumous fame: although publishing brought charges of blasphemy, it was deemed too profitable to miss. The 1832 edition, shown here, is typical of those that brought the poem fame as ‘the Chartists’ Bible’. The 1830 edition of The Beauties of Percy Bysshe Shelley is one of 26 editions of the poet’s works which was published between 1821 and 1841 (it contains ‘a revised edition of Queen Mab, free from all the questionable passages’).