The Extremely Rare First Edition
Uncut in the Original Boards
KEATS, John. Poems. London: Printed for C. & J. Ollier, 1817.
First edition of Keats's first book. Small octavo (6 15/16 x 4 3/16 inches; 176 x 106 mm.). [2, blank], , 121, [1, blank] pp. Complete with initial blank leaf and with half-title. Woodcut portrait vignette on title-page.
Uncut, in the original drab gray boards with original printed paper label on spine. Some minor rubbing to joints, a few minor bumps and marks. Light foxing to endpapers. Overall, a remarkably fine example in original condition, totally unsophisticated and untouched, with the spine label complete. This is by far the finest copy that we have ever seen. Chemised in a full green morocco pull-off case.
"Poems" was published on 3 March 1817 by Charles and James Ollier, who were already publishing Shelley. The first of a mere three lifetime publications, it is a work of mainly youthful promise—Keats had appeared for the first time in print less than a year earlier, with a poem in the radical weekly The Examiner on 5 May 1816. The 1817 Poems attracted a few good reviews, but these were followed by the first of several harsh attacks by the influential Blackwood's Magazine, mainly by critics who resented Keats's avowed kinship with the despised Leigh Hunt.
The best-known poem in the book is the sonnet on Chapman's Homer, "by common consent one of its masterpieces in this form, having a close unsurpassed for the combined qualities of serenity and concentration" (Colvin). "The poem is an astonishing achievement, with a confident formal assurance and metaphoric complexity which make it one of the finest English sonnets. As Hunt generously acknowledged, it ‘completely announced the new poet taking possession' (Hunt, Lord Byron, 249)" (D.N.B.).
Ashley II, p. 9. MacGillivray 1. Sterling 521.
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