Shelley's Poetical Essay: the Bodleian Libraries' 12 millionth book

11 November 2015 23 December 2015


Blackwell Hall, Weston Library (Map)


Come and see the Bodleian Libraries' 12 millionth printed book: a unique copy of a pamphlet entitled Poetical Essay on the Existing State of Things.

Written by ‘a Gentleman of the University of Oxford’ and printed in 1811, this pamphlet was the work of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822), then a student at Oxford University, and now recognised as one of the great English poets of the 19th century. The acquisition in November 2015 is a momentous event for the public, for scholars, the University and the Bodleian Libraries. 

Known to have been published by Shelley in 1811 but lost until recently, Shelley’s Poetical Essay is, thanks to the generosity of a benefactor, now freely available to all in digitized form as well as going on display. 

The poem, written for the support of an Irish journalist imprisoned for libel, shows a young Shelley engaging with the political and social issues that coloured much of his work. The themes Shelley addresses in Poetical Essay (the abuse of press freedom, dysfunctional political institutions and the global impact of war) preoccupied him throughout his career, and are as sharply present today as they were 200 years ago.

Opening times:
Monday to Friday 8.30am-5pm
Saturday 9am-5pm
Sunday 11am-5pm


Admission free.

This event is listed under: Displays; Free events
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