Introduction to Bodleian MS. Shelley e.2

The only extant reference by either Percy Bysshe or Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley to the notebooks that were later to become Bodleian Manuscripts Shelley e.1, e.2, and e.3 comes in a letter written by MWS to Maria Gisborne in February 1820: "Would you have the kindness to order at your Stationers a dozen plain books like that the Prometheus was copied in. I think the price was three pauls or more, but perhaps you or Beppe will remember--" (LMWS, 1:128).[i] PBS reserved these three "plain books" primarily for copying works that were first drafted elsewhere. Eventually they came to contain the last surviving holograph in PBS's hand not only for Prometheus Unbound, but also for "Ode to Heaven," "Misery--A Fragment," and half of Shelley's translation of Plato's Ion. Their contents are thus positioned at crucial points in the transmission history of works that each--and Prometheus Unbound in particular--pose vexing textual problems. By comparing these intermediate fair copies both with earlier drafts and later printed texts, we gain an invaluable vantage point for understanding how PBS characteristically developed his work from draft to fair copy and how it moved through the press.

Moreover, in examining these works as they appear in the notebooks--intertwined with each other, and interspersed with sketches, numerical calculations, and jottings of all sorts, we have the opportunity to observe the minute particulars of Shelley's mind at work, to learn more about just how and when each of these works was written.

From Mary Shelley's letter, it is clear that the notebooks were purchased in or near Leghorn (Livorno), where Maria Gisborne and her family resided, a fact supported by bibliographical analysis of the paper (see BD). Because MWS believes that Maria Gisborne or her servant Giuseppe might remember the price of the books, we can safely assume that they were purchased sometime after the Shelleys first met the Gisbornes on 9 May 1818, thus establishing a terminus a quo for their contents. Moreover, that the copybooks seem to have been bought for the Shelleys by a servant of the Gisbornes suggests the possibility that the Shelleys were not themselves then in Leghorn and had asked the Gisbornes to purchase some copybooks and ship them by mail, as when MWS makes her later written request. Since the Shelleys resided in Leghorn until 11 June 1818, when they removed to Bagni di Lucca for what was to be a nine-week stay, it is possible that the three books did not come into PBS's possession until at least early in Summer 1818.

Dating PBS's first actual use of the notebooks is problematic. We can be reasonably certain, however, given the relative dates upon which their contents were composed, that e.1 was both the first of the notebooks Shelley used and the last. Among the jottings that appear at the beginning of e.1 is one that might have been written as early as the beginning of June 1818, but none that can be proven to antedate the intermediate fair copy for Act 1 of Prometheus Unbound, which was begun sometime between the end of September 1818 and the beginning of September 1819 (probably mid-to-late April 1819), and which marks PBS's first substantial use of the notebook.[ii] [see Composition of Prometheus Unbound] PBS appears to have used e.2, which contains intermediate fair copy for Prometheus Unbound, 1.499-2.4.74, and a fair copy of "Misery--A Fragment," sometime between Fall 1818 and Summer 1819. Between Spring and December 1819, PBS used e.3, which contains, in addition to an intermediate fair copy of "Ode to Heaven," intermediate fair copy for Prometheus Unbound, 2.4.75-3.4.204, and the second half of the Preface. The last substantial entry in any of the three notebooks is PBS's translation of Plato's Ion in e.1, written late in 1819 or early in 1820. Bodleian Manuscripts Shelley e.1, e.2, and e.3 were thus in use for much or all of what we have come to think of Shelley's annus mirabilis.

Prometheus Unbound is continued from e.2 on f. 1v. Of the 38 leaves, versos 1-36 and parts of rectos 2, 4, 5, 6, 11-13, 15, 16, 21, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, contain the text of Prometheus Unbound, 2.4.75-3.4.204. In Fall 1819, PBS returned to e.3. Moving to the back of the book and turning it reverso, he began writing the second part of the Preface of Prometheus Unbound on the last page, 38v. He continued writing the Preface reverso, from the back of the book towards the front, on 38r and 37v, both of which had not been needed for Act 3. Then skipping pages that were already filled, he finished on the blank rectos 36-35, 32-30. Finally, in December 1819, he wrote the intermediate fair copy of "Ode to Heaven" on rectos 17-20.

Bodleian Shelley Manuscripts e.1, e.2, and e.3 are stored together in a solander box covered with green morocco and lined in dark green silk. The solander, which measures 6.7" x 9" (17 cm. x 22.5 cm.), is hinged with a hook and eye on the side opposite the spine. Inset into its inside lid is a written table of contents, reading "Shelley's MSS / Prometheus / 3 volumes". On the spine of the solander there are five raised bands spaced 1.4" (3.5 cm.) apart, leaving a space of 1.9" (4.8 cm.) between the fifth band and the bottom within which the Bodleian manuscript numbers have been pasted on. Stamped in gilt on the spine between the first and third bands is the designation "Shelley MS. / 3". This solander is one of several constructed for Sir Percy Florence Shelley and Jane, Lady Shelley to house their Boscombe Manor Shelley collection.

The three copybooks are of similar Italian manufacture and were apparently purchased at a stationers in Leghorn (Livorno).[iii] Each of the books is covered in mottled paper of a purple tone on boards, with spine and quarters in green leather (the grain runs in vertical lines along the spine). The covers measure 8.25 x 5.6 inches (21.0 x 14.1 cm.), with the spines embellished by 8 gilt fillets spaced approximately 2.5 cm. apart, the uppermost and lowest fillets being ca., .8 cm. from their respective edges (ca., .5 cm. in e.2). The replacement back cover of e.1 is a redder purple mottle and less stippled than the original covers, but similar to the replacement front cover of e.3, which is, however, a slightly paler purple (see figures ??? below). Financial calculations have been written by PBS in brown ink on the outside front cover of e. 2 (reverso).

Bound copybook, containing intermediate fair copy holograph of Prometheus Unbound and intermediate fair copy holograph of "Ode to Heaven." The copybook contains 38 leaves (not counting the pastedown endpapers) that were numbered in pencil consecutively by the Bodleian staff on the recto side of each leaf. In addition, two extra binding leaves, numbered "i" and "ii (ult.)" but otherwise blank were inserted in 1924, when the missing original front cover of the book was replaced by the Bodleian. [iv] The leaves are gathered in ten quires of four, except for the altered first quire (see diagram in Appendix A). Although most of the book is made of the same laid paper found in e.1 and e.2, quires 7 and 10 are of wove paper (see below).

With the exceptions noted below, each leaf of the three copybooks is of thick, creamy-white laid paper, with chain lines 1.1 inches (2.7 cm.) apart. This paper was manufactured in Italy and bears a watermark displaying a post horn within a crowned shield above the letters "GV", with "LA BRIGLIA" as a countermark (cf. Heawood, #2773, and see figures ??? below). The paper was originally in large sheets, measuring approximately 21 x 16.2 inches. Each sheet was torn twice, with the resulting quarter sheets then folded once to form four bifolia (eight leaves). These were sewn together in quires of four leaves (one bifolium being placed within another). There is a slight variation among the three books in the size of the leaves: the leaves in e.1 measure ca. 8.08 x 5.4 inches (20.5 x 13.6 cm.); in e.2, ca. 8.09 x 5.4 inches (20.5 cm. x 13.7 cm); and in e.3, ca. 8.04 x 5.3 inches (20.4 x 13.4 cm.).[v]    

  1. The two binding leaves inserted into e.1 with the replacement back cover are of thick, creamy-white laid paper that was manufactured in England. They measure 8.08 x 5.2 inches (20.5 x 13.3 cm.), with chain lines approximately 1 inch (2.5 cm.) apart, and display a watermark of Brittania in crowned shield and the countermark "[JOSE]PH COLES 1822" (see figure ???).
  2. The two binding leaves at the front of e.3 are of thick creamy-white laid paper, with chain lines running crosswise and no visible watermark. The paper is not quite as heavy as the original notebook paper and measures 8.1 x 5.3 inches (20.6 x 13.5 cm.).
  3. Quires 7 and 10 in e.3 are of thick, creamy-white wove paper (possibly sketching paper). They measure ca. 8.05 x 5.4 inches (20.4 x 13.7 cm.).

Percy Bysshe Shelley; Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley; Sir Percy Florence Shelley (d. 1889); Lady [Jane Gibson St. John] Shelley; Bodleian Library (13 June 1893, given by Lady Shelley).

Two binding leaves numbered i and ii (ult.), but otherwise blank; folio 1 recto, calculations in pen and pencil, and sketch in pen of tree; ff. 1 verso-2 verso, Prometheus Unbound, 2.4.75-112(part); f. 3r, two sketches in pen, one in pencil, and a jotting of undecipherable word; ff. 3v-7v, Prometheus Unbound, 2.4.112(part)-2.5.19 (with f. 7 recto, blank); f. 8r, pencil sketch of bridge and clocktower, perpendicular to text on 7v; f. 8v, Prometheus Unbound, 2.5.20-39; f. 9r, Prometheus Unbound, calculation of line count; f. 9v, Prometheus Unbound, 2.5.40-55; f. 10r, blank; f. 10v, Prometheus Unbound, 2.5.56-71; rectos 11-13, Prometheus Unbound, 2.5.72-110 (with 10 unused but uncanceled lines on 11r); versos 11-13, 3.1.1-50; f. 14r, Prometheus Unbound, line count; f. 14v, Prometheus Unbound, 3.1.51-66; f. 15r, two words related to 3.1.54; f. 15v, Prometheus Unbound, 3.1.67, 70(part), 75-81, 3.2.1-2(part); f. 16r, Prometheus Unbound, 3.1.68-69, 70(part)-73, 74(part), 82-83, 3.2.2(part); versos 16-19, Prometheus Unbound, 3.2.3-3.3.12; rectos 17-20, "Ode to Heaven," intermediate fair copy; f. 20v, Prometheus Unbound, 3.3.13-30(part), 32-34; f. 21r, Prometheus Unbound, 3.3.30(part), 31(part), and option for 3.3.17; versos 21-24, Prometheus Unbound, 3.3.35-114; rectos 22-24, blank; f. 25r, Prometheus Unbound, 3.3.102(part), line count, and pencil sketch of foliage; f. 25v, Prometheus Unbound, 3.3.115-34; f. 26r, Prometheus Unbound, 3.3.131(part), two line counts; f. 26v, Prometheus Unbound, 3.3.135-54; f. 27r, Prometheus Unbound, parts of 3.3.138, 3.3.145, 3.3.152 and line count; f. 27v, Prometheus Unbound, 3.3.155-72, 175; f. 28r, jotting, "The beginning of Plato's Republic--", Prometheus Unbound, 3.3.173-74; f. 28v, Prometheus Unbound, 3.4.1-17; f. 29r, Prometheus Unbound, 3.4.4, line count; versos 29-31, Prometheus Unbound, 3.4.18-79; rectos 30-32 [reverso], Prometheus Unbound, Preface; f. 32v, Prometheus Unbound, 3.4.80-85, 97-108; f. 33r, Prometheus Unbound, 3.4.86-96, 96/97 (unused line); f. 33v, Prometheus Unbound, 3.4.109-110, 125-43; f. 34r, Prometheus Unbound, 3.4.111-124; versos 34-35, Prometheus Unbound, 3.4.144-84; rectos 35-36 [reverso], Prometheus Unbound, Preface; f. 36v, Prometheus Unbound, 3.4.185-86, 188-201, 202 (draft), 203-204, and calculation of line count; f. 37r, Prometheus Unbound, 3.4.186(part, revised)-87, 202 (revision), 4.251-52, and calculations of line count; ff. 37v-38v [reverso], Prometheus Unbound, Preface; back pastedown, full page sketch in pencil with ink highlights of three boats near an island cliff.


  1. PU was "copied" twice: once into the three Bodleian books and once into a press transcript that is no longer extant. However, it is highly unlikely that the press transcript was copied in notebooks rather than loose sheets, since--as we now know--the Shelleys habitually did all they could to cut down on the weight (and hence the shipping costs) of PBS's press transcripts.   Moreover, as Donald Reiman notes, "There are instances of Shelley or Mary Shelley tearing pages out of a notebook that contain Shelley's poetry and sending them to press, but no known instance of either sending a notebook to press." The Esdaile Notebook: A Facsimile of the Holograph Copybook, ed. Donald H.Reiman (New York: Garland Publishing, 1985), p. xxiv[note 24]. A "paul" was worth sixpence, according to Marion Kingston Stocking (JCC, 98).

  2. REVISE:

    Among the jottings that appear at the beginning of e.1, which may mark the earliest entries into the notebook, is a line and a half in Greek from Sophocles' Philoctotes: "unruly men become so / by the instruction of their betters" (e.1, 1r). PBS read Philoctotes on 2 June 1818, and it is just possible (if the notebook were already in his possession) that he then considered saving this quotation as an ironically fit motto for the lyrical drama he was already conceiving, whose purpose was, as he later phrased it in the Preface, "to familiarise the highly refined imagination of the more select classes of poetical readers with idealisms of moral excellence" (     ).

  3. In a letter written ca. 19 February 1820 to Maria Gisborne, MWS asks: "Would you have the kindness to order at your Stationers a dozen plain books like that the Prometheus was copied in. I think the price was three pauls or more, but perhaps you or Beppe will remember--." The Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, ed. Betty T. Bennett, p. 128.

  4. The date of the replacement is 2 October 1924. As Zillman notes in Variorum, the missing back cover of e.1 and front cover of e.3 led Julius Zupitza to conjecture incorrectly that the two books originally might have been bound together and later separated at the back binding.

  5. These leaves have been previously measured with varying degrees of accuracy and with little agreement among editors. For instance, in Examination Locock states that the leaves in all three books measure 8 1/8 x 5 5/8 inches (p.28). Freeman gives 8 3/8 x 5 3/4 inches in e.1, 8 1/4 x 5 3/4 inches in e.2, and 8 1/8 x 5 5/8 inches in e.3 (pp. 19-21). And, in Variorum, Lawrence Zillman gives the measurements as 5 3/8 x 8 1/8 inches in e.1, 5 1/2 x 8 1/8 inches in e.2, 5 1/4 x 8 1/2 inches in e.3 (p. 20). Freeman also mistakenly claims that e.2 consists of 39 (rather than its acutal 38) leaves.