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Shelley’s Ghost: The Afterlife of a Poet


 P. B. Shelley, 1813). Pforzheimer Collection.Percy Bysshe Shelley’s draft of Queen of the Universe, a revision of Queen Mab, ca. 1815, in a published copy of Queen Mab (London: P. B. Shelley, 1813). Pforzheimer Collection.For the first time ever, selections from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein manuscript will be available for public viewing in the United States in this exciting exhibition, which is being shown in collaboration with the Bodleian Library at Oxford University in England and will highlight the literary and cultural legacy of P.B. and Mary Shelley, and that of her parents, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft.

Using manuscripts, books and relics, the exhibition will tell the truly remarkable – and sometimes salacious – tale of this extraordinary circle of people, complete with wild romances, tragic deaths, exile, revolution and landmark literary accomplishments. The artifacts being shown come from both The New York Public Library’s Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle and The Bodleian. The collections of the two institutions encompass close to 90 percent of all known surviving Shelley manuscripts, and much of the material being shown has never been seen by the general public in the United States before. Materials from the Bodleian haven’t traveled to the United States for over 50 years, so this exhibition will truly be a rare opportunity to see collections that embody a history of literary Romanticism in Britain and the United States. The exhibition will offer a lens through which to see that history. 
The show will include: 
  • Selections from the manuscript of Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus.
  • Godwin’s Diary, digitally published with annotations in July 2010
  • Correspondence between William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft
  • The Esdaile Notebook containing P.B. Shelley's youthful work (Pforzheimer)
  • Shelley's gold and coral baby rattle
  • The only known letter from Lord Byron and Claire Clairmont's daughter Allegra, who died at 5.
  • A necklace owned by the Shelley family with locks (lockets) of P.B. and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's hair
  • Shelley’s first wife, Harriet Westbrook’s engagement ring and her last letter before committing suicide
  • Percy Shelley’s copy of his first major poem “Queen Mab,” complete with his notes and annotations. The poem was politically-charged, discussing the evils of eating meat and religion, amongst other things. Shelley actually pulled the poem from distribution after it was published, and it was only widely disseminated after his death. 
The exhibition, curated by Stephen Hebron, was shown in a slightly different form at The Bodleian from December 2010 to March 2011.


Support for this exhibition has been generously provided by the Aronson
and Pforzheimer Families.
Support for The New York Public Library’s Exhibitions Program has been provided by
Celeste Bartos, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos and 
Adam Bartos Exhibitions Fund, and Jonathan Altman.