Shelley wrote Queen Mab in 1812 and 1813, when he was twenty. Its subject was nothing less than ‘The Past, the Present, and the Future’, and Shelley accompanied the verse with extended prose notes. Drawing upon the political anarchism and utopianism of William Godwin, the republicanism of Thomas Paine, and the materialism of Baron d’Holbach, Queen Mab is Shelley’s most powerful expression of his youthful radicalism.
Fearing prosecution, Shelley withdrew Queen Mab soon after it was printed. He distributed seventy or so copies privately, and removed from most of those copies his name on the title page and the dedication to his wife Harriet. The original manuscript of Queen Mab has not survived, but Shelley wrote extensive revisions directly on to the pages of two copies of the book (the one exhibited here, and another now in the British Library) for a new version of the poem which he eventually abandoned.
From 1821 Queen Mab was frequently pirated, and so despite the limited circulation of the original edition it was easily the best-known of his poems in the first half of the nineteenth century, and was often quoted by political radicals.
R. Madocks; John Brooks; Thomas Wade; Mrs. Wade; H. Buxton Forman; (The Anderson Galleries, 16 March, 1920, lot 635) Jerome Kern; (The Anderson Galleries, 22 Jan. 1929, lot 1077) Gabriel Wells.