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Auction #67 begins on
07 Jun 2018 16:30 GMT

[John William POLIDORI (1795-1821)]

The Vampyre; A Tale.

Rare in the original wrappers: the first vampire novel in the English language.

Published: for Sherwood, Neely, and Jones, London, 1819

Edition: first in book form

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[John William POLIDORI (1795-1821)].

The Vampyre; A Tale.

London: for Sherwood, Neely, and Jones, 1819.

Octavo. Pp. pp.xxv+[i](blank) + [27] - 84. Half-title. Uncut.

Condition of contents: occasional very light soiling to blank margins, otherwise excellent

Original paper wrappers, modern morocco-backed marbled paper-covered box.

Condition of binding: backstrip lacking, small chips to covers.

First edition in book form of this highly influential work, here in the original wrappers: this is a scarce early issue, most likely the first edition's third issue, based on the presence of the misspelled "lmost" on line 24 of page 36 (instead of "almost"), and the re-setting of the prefatory "Extract of a Letter from Geneva" to 23 lines which allowed for the removal of a passage suggesting improprieties regarding "two sisters as the partakers of his [Byron's] revels".

The Vampyre ' often viewed as the progenitor of the romantic vampire genre of fantasy fiction. The work is described by Christopher Frayling as "the first story successfully to fuse the disparate elements of vampirism into a coherent literary genre. ... "The Vampyre" was first published on 1 April 1819 by Henry Colburn in The New Monthly Magazine with the false attribution "A Tale by Lord Byron". The name of the work's protagonist, "Lord Ruthven", added to this assumption, for that name was originally used in Lady Caroline Lamb's novel Glenarvon (from the same publisher), in which a thinly-disguised Byron figure was also named Lord Ruthven. Despite repeated denials by Byron and Polidori, the authorship often went unclarified.

The tale was first published in book form ... in London ... in 1819 ... as The Vampyre; A Tale in 84 pages. ... The story was an immediate popular success, partly because of the Byron attribution and partly because it exploited the gothic horror predilections of the public. Polidori transformed the vampire from a character in folklore into the form that is recognized today—an aristocratic fiend who preys among high society.

The story has its genesis in the summer of 1816, the Year Without a Summer, when Europe and parts of North America underwent a severe climate abnormality. Lord Byron and his young physician John Polidori were staying at the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva and were visited by Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley and Claire Clairmont. Kept indoors by the "incessant rain" of that "wet, ungenial summer", over three days in June the five turned to telling fantastical tales, and then writing their own. .... Mary Shelley, in collaboration with Percy Bysshe Shelley, produced what would become Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. Polidori was inspired by a fragmentary story of Byron's Fragment of a Novel (1816), also known as "A Fragment" and "The Burial: A Fragment", and in "two or three idle mornings" produced "The Vampyre"' (wikipedia).

  • Binding Condition: acceptable
  • Overall Condition: unsophisticated
  • Size: 9 x 5 1/2ins; 228 x 140mm
  • Sold By: Shadowrock Rare Books
  • Contact Person: Adam Langlands
  • Country: United States
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